Postcolonial perspective on international knowledge transfer and spillover to Indian news media From institutional duality to third space

University dissertation from Jönköping : Jönköping University, Jönköping International Business School

Abstract: This thesis examines the ways in which postcolonial ambivalence – a symptomatic condition of postcolonial societies in which they simultaneously embrace and reject the cultural, political and economic processes and expressions of the “ex-colonizer” – plays out in current globalization. This dialectic may be particularly apparent in the transfer of knowledge from developed-country MNCs to subsidiaries located in formerly colonized, now developing countries. It may also play a prominent role in the spillover of such knowledge onto local industries. Mainstream studies in these two fields, however, converge on the argument that institutional differences between the MNC’s home country and the subsidiary context – institutional duality – plays a key role in explaining knowledge transfer and spillover, in particular the failure of these processes. Such conceptualizations, however, deprive supposed knowledge recipients of agency. The work of postcolonial scholar Homi Bhabha, on the other hand, shows that when meeting the (ex-)colonizer, postcolonial subjects may draw on both cultures to create hybrid expressions. Rather than stressing the negative effects of differences between institutional logics, this conceptualization allows for the potential of innovation in encounters between cultures in what can be referred to as a third space that does not fully represent the MNC or the local context.Drawing on Homi Bhabha, I perform an interview-based study of Reuters’ transfer of knowledge of news gathering practices to its Indian subsidiaries in Mumbai and Bangalore. I also undertake an interview study of knowledge spillover among practitioners in Mumbai’s news media.The study on knowledge transfer shows how, in a process of mimicry, postcolonial subjects aspire to, reinterpret, adopt, reject but are also unable to internalize and implement knowledge in its entirety. The result may be hybridization of MNC knowledge, finding expression in hybrid values, practices and work outcomes. In the study on knowledge spillover, I find that foreign knowledge enters a political space where debates on FDI and existing local practices influence spillover process and outcomes. When mimicking Western practices locals take a reflective stance where local and foreign values and practices are critically examined and applied in discerning fashion – selective spillover. These findings lead me to suggest that, rather than viewing processes of globalization in a celebratory-bleak binary framework, future research should consider the dialectic between the power of MNCs and the agency of local actors to subvert that power. This dialectic may potentially be captured by considering the institutional situatedness of both Western and local knowledge rather than automatically assuming the superiority of the former over the latter.