This thesis is about the ways in which language socialization is intimately tied not only to ways of talking, but also to ways of knowing and being. The empirical material is drawn from a Masters of Business Administration classroom in Oslo, Norway. The analysis presented here draws primarily on anthropological theories of language use, but is also inspired by globalization studies. The coupling of these two approaches is intended to show the ways in which language use, when treated as social activity, can lead to an understanding of social organizational forces as well as the ways in which global processes may impinge on local social organization and structures of power and authority.
I present what I call ”MBA talk” as a discursive activity that privileges words and individual intentionality while simultaneously providing the basis for group identity. MBA talk is further discussed in terms of processes of standardization and translation that link talk with global and expert ways of knowing. While students were taught that MBA talk represented a decontextualized and universally applicable business language, I direct attention to the ways in which language use may both sustain and create context, but also create an acute awareness of context. I do so through an analysis of student conceptions of the symbolic and economic resources two aspects of MBA talk, the use of business terminology known as ”buzzwords” and the fact that MBA talk was synonymous with English, were seen as providing. These understandings are contrasted with student perceptions that MBA competence was undervalued in the Norwegian market. I ultimately argue that student rationalizations of this perception, as well as their understandings of the role of buzzwords as opposed to English in the Norwegian context, served to reinscribe a divide in which Norway, Norwegian and Norwegian social values became opposed to the rest of the world, English and meritocratic values. As such, this thesis illustrates the ways in which global processes may contribute to the production of marginality at a very local level.