Language in Society


Metadiscursive regimes of diversity in a multinational corporation

Joseph Sung-Yul Park

English Language and Literature, National University of Singapore, AS5, 7 Arts Link, Singapore 117570


Informed by recent work on the commodification of language and identity, this article offers a critique of the neoliberal corporate discourse of “diversity management,” in which the diversity of the workforce is conceived as a resource for maximizing profit. Through a close analysis of the language ideologies deployed in an interaction between three mid-level managers at a multinational corporation and a researcher, this article shows how the discourse of diversity management, constituting a metadiscursive regime, works to rationalize and justify the inequalities of the global workplace through the specific ways in which older and newer discourses of language and identity are juxtaposed. The findings emphasize how sociolinguistic research may contribute to a deeper understanding of the conditions of work in the new economy by identifying language as an indispensable part of the mechanism that sustains processes of control. (Metadiscursive regime, diversity management, neoliberalism, work, language ideology)*

(Received June 05 2012)

(Revised January 03 2013)

(Accepted January 20 2013)

(Reviewed May 07 2013)


*  I express my deepest gratitude to all participants in this study, the three speakers in the data, and everyone I interviewed and interacted with in the course of my research. I thank Barbara Johnstone and two anonymous reviewers for Language in Society for their helpful suggestions, and Adrienne Lo and Lionel Wee for stimulating conversation and support. Early versions of this article were presented at the Mobility Language Literacy Conference (Cape Town, January 2011) and the Workshop on Transnational Engagements (Singapore, February 2011). I thank the participants at these conferences for their constructive comments and feedback. This work was supported by the Academy of Korean Studies Grant (AKS-2012-R-24).