Szkudlarek, B., Nardon, L. Osland, J., Adler, N. J., & Lee, E.S. When context matters: what happens to international business theory when researchers study refugees, Academy of Management Perspective


The overwhelming number of refugees in the world today constitutes a major socio-economic and political challenge. With more than 50 years of scholarship on global mobility, International Business (IB) should be well positioned to address this challenge. Yet the field’s historic emphasis on expatriates has resulted in dominant assumptions and perspectives that are not relevant for other groups moving across borders. Empirical path dependence has caused significant conceptual blindness. Focusing primarily on expatriates who, in fact, represent an extreme case of international transitions, has resulted in conceptualizations of international adjustment that are partial and incomplete. These conceptualizations overly rely on individual- and organizational-level factors at the expense of critical macro-level factors. Extending the domain of IB scholarship by examining the contrasting extreme case of refugees opens up the field to new theorizing and a broader, more accurate conceptualization of international adjustment. Studying the international adjustment of refugees exposes previously taken-for-granted assumptions and generates insights that will allow IB as well as general management scholars to develop more robust theories and urgently needed practical interventions.

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