Hybrid accounts: Shell's letter to Mr and Mrs shareholder



Publication Details

Pupovac, S. & Moerman, L. (2017). Hybrid accounts: Shell's letter to Mr and Mrs shareholder. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 30 (5), 1184-1201.


Purpose: This paper uses a hybrid account of oil spills in Nigeria to explore the recursive relationship between a multinational company, specific shareholders and the public. A response to Mr and Mrs Shareholders' concerns is considered an exercise in corporate discursive hegemony and enacts rhetorical accountability.

Design/methodology/approach: We adopt Debord's (1967;1988) concept of the spectacle with Boje's (2001) antenarrative approach as a critical postmodern framing of Shell's narrative of oil spills in both local and global contexts. An antenarrative approach considers how stories are woven to produce a unified and omnipotent narrative or image.

Findings: MNCs face considerable uncertainties arising from the operational conditions in developing countries and produce a range of accounts for spectators. As theatrical events they contribute to the spectacle of power that rationalises controversy and suppresses resistance.

Research limitations/implications: To overcome the limitations of using a single document as empirical material we consider the response letter as an example of an institutional framing of oil spill phenomena in general.

Originality/value: The paper adds to our understanding of hybrid forms of resistance in an era of increasing MNC power and reach. It demonstrates how the actual production and distribution has persuasive power as a form of rhetorical accountability.

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