I argue that management and organization research into marginalized groups in developing countries can generate two types of misinterpretation: first- and second-order misinterpretation. First-order misinterpretation occurs before the actual fieldwork due to preconceived and neocolonial cognitive frames. While first-order misinterpretation can produce problematic research questions and lead to flawed research design, it also activates second-order misinterpretation during fieldwork. Second-order misinterpretation is the process of misinterpreting marginalized groups during fieldwork because of cognitive and linguistic bias and ignorance of the local culture, norms, and values and contested historiographies associated with marginalized groups. I argue that first- and second-order misinterpretation become intertwined as a form of what I call cognitive violence, contributing to long-lasting negative consequences for marginalized groups. I develop a nuanced conceptualization of radical cognitive frames as a way of dealing with misinterpretation, so that cognitive violence and other negative consequences can be avoided.
Rashedur Chowdhury is an assistant professor of management at Michael Smurfit Business School, University College Dublin, and a Batten Fellow at Darden School of Business, University of Virginia. Rashedur earned his Ph.D. at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, and his thesis “Reconceptualizing the Dynamics of the Relationship between Marginalized Stakeholders and Multinational Firms,” received the Society for Business Ethics Best Dissertation Award in 2014. He has been invited as a Visiting Scholar by INSEAD Business School; Darden, University of Virginia; Faculty of Business and Economics, HEC Lausanne, Switzerland; School of Business and Economics, University of Jyväskylä; Department of Anthropology and Sociology, University of the Western Cape; School of Government, Peking University; School of Social Sciences, University of California, Irvine; and Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley. His most recent projects examine the Rana Plaza collapse and Phulbari movement in Bangladesh.