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Rethinking the Case Study in International Business and Management Research

Edited by Rebecca Piekkari and Catherine Welch

This important and original book critically evaluates case study practices and calls for a more pluralistic future for case research in international business (IB) and international management (IM).
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Chapter 18: Digging Archaeology: Postpositivist Theory and Archival Research in Case Study Development

Albert J. Mills and Jean Helms Mills


Albert J. Mills and Jean Helms Mills INTRODUCTION In this chapter we take up the recent call of Piekkari et al. (2009, p. 567) ‘for greater methodological pluralism in conducting case studies’ through the development of alternative case study traditions. To that end, we discuss the fun and challenges of linking postpositivist methods (Prasad 2005) and archival research in the development of the case study. Archival research and postpositivist methods are rarely used in case study research, and even more rarely in concert. We explore these foci through our own research on the gendering of organizational culture over time in three airline companies: British Airways (BA), Air Canada (AC) and Pan American Airways (Pan Am).1 We then draw some conclusions for postpositivism and international business research. It is not our intention to replace positivist with postpositivist approaches but rather to encourage the view that knowledge is plural and relies heavily on underlying ontological and epistemological assumptions (Burrell and Morgan 1979; Corman 2000; Piekkari et al. 2009). Indeed, as we shall now make clear, ‘archives’, ‘postpositivism’ and ‘case study’ are themselves contested terms. Turning first to the definition of archives: the materials in archive collections were collected for a variety of reasons, ranging from the filing of documents for marketing, legal, or other business-related requirements through to the establishment of a historical record. In the former cases the collected materials do not formally constitute an archive but the term is often applied by researchers who access them for the purpose...

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