Original Research

'Hidden messages' emerging from Afrocentric management perspectives

H. Van den Heuvel
Acta Commercii | Vol 8, No 1 | a62 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v8i1.62 | © 2008 H. Van den Heuvel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 December 2008 | Published: 05 December 2008

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H. Van den Heuvel, Vrije Universiteit, Dep. of Culture Organisation en Management, Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Abstract

Purpose: This paper aims to examine how 'African management' discourse has emerged in South Africa. Altogether, it has stimulated debates - sometimes in controversial ways - on 'taboo issues', e.g. relating to 'cultural diversity' and 'ethnicity'. The stimulation of such debates within organisations is probably a more valuable contribution than a static, essentialised 'African identity' that it proclaims.

Design/Methodology/Approach: The paper draws on a qualitative research project conducted in South Africa in 2003-2004. Its relevance lies in gaining in-depth insights into ('non-western') local management discourse. It seeks to contribute to the body of knowledge on political and cultural contexts in which South African organizations operate, and how they impact on local management perspectives, and vice versa. Findings: The research findings make clear how and under what circumstances 'African management' discourse has come about in South Africa, and how it could be interpreted. Implications: 'African management' advocates allegedly attempt to revise dominant management thinking and promote 'humane-ness' and participatory decision-making in South African organisations, in search of a contextualised management approach. Amongst others, it has produced new meanings of 'Africanness' and has opened up space for 'hidden messages', resentments and aspirations to become openly articulated. This throws another light on phenomena such as cultural diversity and ethnicity that usually tend to be 'neutralised'. This may turn out to be far healthier for blooming organisational cultures in South Africa than relentlessly hammering on prescribed 'corporate values'.

Originality/Value: This paper informs the reader in detail about the emergence and evolvement of 'African management' discourse in South Africa. It is a unique attempt to develop an interpretative viewpoint on this intriguing phenomenon that offers a potentially valuable contribution in reading cultural and ethnic identities within organisations.


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