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Hegemonic struggles or transfer of knowledge? : East and West Germans in job interviews

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Job interviews are an important means for the selection of employees in Western industrialised countries. Thus, they may be decisive with regard to the future of the person seeking work, making the difference between successful social participation or marginalisation. After the German reunification, East Germans had to prove themselves in a communicative genre marked by West German standards hitherto unknown to them.

The article analyses verbal sequences taken from job interviews between West German interviewers and East German job applicants in which genre specific knowledge is negotiated. It is shown that East German concepts of this genre are treated as knowledge deficits by the West German interviewers.

There is a positive outcome in this, since this allows for a transfer of socially relevant knowledge. And from an analytical point of view, these sequences provide us with data showing how institutional agents pass procedural knowledge on to their clients. Nevertheless, these sequences often take an asymmetrical course which is linked with a high risk for the individual’s positive self presentation in the job interview. The fact that West German agents set their genre knowledge as being universally valid is based on their hegemonic claim.
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Keywords: East/West German; hegemony; job interviews; knowledge

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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