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Maquiladorization on the United States-Mexico border: A cultural studies approach to international management research

Carlos B Gonzalez, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation addresses the problem of culture in international management scholarship. It presents an alternative approach for doing cultural research based on the interdisciplinary field of Cultural Studies, and illustrates this approach through fieldwork conducted in a maquiladora and maquiladora-related institutions in Mexico. The dissertation offers three different but related contributions to international management theorizing and research. First, it develops a genealogical framework to analyze the emergence of the problem of culture and the attempts made over forty years to solve it. The framework identifies a pre-paradigmatic and a paradigmatic phase informed by notions of cultural values, and highlights the recurrence of “culture” as a problem throughout these phases. It suggests the development of a post-paradigmatic phase based on Cultural Studies scholarship and a different ontological positioning towards “culture” as a possibility for resolving this problem. Second, the dissertation illustrates the concrete implications for international management research of conducting cultural analysis based on Cultural Studies. It develops the conceptual and analytical notion of maquiladorization to focus participant observation and interviews performed in maquiladora contexts in Tijuana, Mexico. Processes of maquiladorization are analyzed through Cultural Studies' theoretical frameworks, including Articulation Theory and The Circuit of Culture, to show the strategic functioning of discourses and practices that join around the idea of “maquiladora.” Third, the dissertation forwards an approach for reflexive cultural research, recognizing researchers as inextricably located within the systems of meaning used to conduct research. It explicitly acknowledges that researchers are not just describing processes by which people create culture or discovering cultural structures but, through their research, also continuously changing the very understanding of the concept of culture. Therefore, “culture” is never complete but always emergent alongside the reality under study. The dissertation re-directs the problem of culture to a different ontological space through arguments that engage with the continuous genealogy of “culture,” problematizing taken-for-granted beliefs in its existence. In terms of research, it demonstrates a type of inquiry that employs culture as a heuristic device useful to explain specific human realities but that also reflects on its own implication in creating regimes of cultural knowledge and social organization.

Subject Area

Management|International law|International relations

Recommended Citation

Gonzalez, Carlos B, "Maquiladorization on the United States-Mexico border: A cultural studies approach to international management research" (2004). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3118301.