Indigenous Theory Uses, Abuses, and Future

Garry D. Bruton, Shaker A. Zahra, Andrew H. Van de Ven, Michael A. Hitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Management theories developed in the United States and Europe have dominated management and organizational studies. As a result, scholars often overlook subtle cultural and ideological differences in other settings as they treat the theories from the United States and Europe as universal. All too often, as they attempt to apply these theories, scholars ignore critical research questions relevant to groups of people outside the United States and Europe. To overcome this shortcoming, Filatotchev, Ireland, and Stahl (in this issue) propose an open systems perspective that draws on multiple universal theories. Instead, we argue that such a solution does not address the fundamental problem of theories framed within the United States and European perspective. Using more of these theories does not solve this problem and may even exacerbate it. We argue, rather than simply placing bandages on existing theories, scholars should develop indigenous theory based on the distinctiveness of local contexts. The use of indigenous theory can also spur innovations in research methods, enhancing the rigor and relevance of findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1057-1073
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We express our appreciation to Anne Tsui, Eric Tsang, Yadong Luo, Peter Ping Li and Daniel Muzio for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. The first author acknowledges support of the National Science Foundation of China grants 72091310 and 72091315 in this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Society for the Advancement of Management Studies and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • contextualization
  • indigenous theory
  • theory building


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