Collective identity construction in international collaborations

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This article explores the dynamic processes of collective identity formation among the participating organizational members in interorganizational collaborations that cross national boundaries. A longitudinal, qualitative multi-case study research approach was adopted in the empirical investigation of collective identity in three international business collaborations that involve a Sino-British strategic partnership, a Sino-Australian, and a Sino-Polish joint venture. Based on the analyses of the data collected from in-depth interviews, participant observation, and archival materials, a theoretical framework of collective identity (re)formation is developed. It suggests that two inseparable elements (states and processes) constitute a cyclic and enduring process of collective identity formation through partners’ orchestrating discursive resources involving a common sense of ‘we-ness’. The shifts between various states are driven by partners’ processes of negotiation, integration, solidification, and reformation of collective identity. A deconstruction process may also emerge, giving rise to the termination of the collaborative relationship. The research presented in this article advances the understanding of collective identity formation in the field of organizational identity by extending the discursive perspective of collective identity into the context of interorganizational collaborations that cross national borders. This research also provides further empirical evidence on the active role played by organizational members in the use of cultural narratives as strategic resources to express their identity beliefs, which differs from the deterministic view of culture in shaping organizational members’ behaviors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-140
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of General Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • collaborative advantage
  • collective identity
  • identity work
  • interorganizational relationships
  • international collaboration


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