"When are the Japanese Japanese?" Negotiating Japanese Cultural Identity in a Japan-US Binational Organization

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Japan Academy of International Business Studies

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Based on a seven-month ethnographic study in a Japanese subsidiary in the US located in Southern California, this research describes when the organization members categorized as the Japanese are Japanese. One of the purposes of the research is to challenge the widely held assumption in the body of international business research that every organization member from a certain nation is under the influence of the national culture all the time in terms of its impact on their behavior, cognition and emotive expressions. This research brings the assumption that an individual could have multiple cultural identities into the analysis. Under this assumption, it examines the manner in which an individual interprets the multiple cultural norms and value standards, and in turn, reflects them to their role performance. The research has two major contributions to the international business studies. First, it reveals the process by which an individual understands, accepts, or rejects the multiple cultures that an individual could encounter in the context of multicultural and multinational organization. Its implication is that cultural identity plays a role of lens through which an individual interprets the meaning of the role performance around which one's behaviors are built. Second, it makes clear that examining the cultural identity negotiation helps better understand the literature of diversity, which is inseparable from the management of multicultural and multinational organization. It suggests that the cultural identity construct promotes understanding the situation in which multi layered attributes of diversity, such as race, educational backgrounds, and what one thinks the organization's goal should be, give an impact on the management of organization.


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