Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration

First Advisor

Maureen A. Scully

Second Advisor

Edward J. Carberry

Third Advisor

Gabrielle Durepos


The growth and spread of business education worldwide is a phenomenon of contemporary interest, because it has enabled the expansion of a global managerial class that operates as social and economic elites worldwide in a time of growing inequality. I take a historic approach to this contemporary phenomenon by examining the role that Harvard Business School (HBS) played in the 1950s and 1960s in the conceptualization and launch of the now very prominent Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Ahmedabad. Using the archival materials at the Special Collections of the Baker Library at Harvard Business School, my research uncovers which players were involved, how they communicated, their concerns, the context in which they were operating, and how they constructed themselves as influential and advanced institutional interests.

In my first paper, I examine whether and how meritocracy is invoked or implied as a legitimating aim for elite business education. I use actor-network theory, which I show is well suited for tracing the flows of people and ideas, to track meritocracy, arguing that it is a “non-corporeal actant” that itself moves and changes across international players, settings, and moments.

In my second paper, I bring a critical perspective to archives and how they are populated, considering the self-legitimation project as HBS steps into a global role in the spread of graduate management education. I examine the signaling moves in the saved correspondence, in terms of personal connections, decision points, explicitly stated interests, status markers or judgments of others, and reference to competitor institutions. I find that the web of connections among elites is intertwined with Cold War political considerations of HBS administrators.

My third paper is an ethnographic case study of the physical spaces, rituals, and processes of the archive at Baker Library and how these serve to legitimate HBS to itself, while using the experience of visiting the archives at MIT containing records of the role of the MIT Sloan School in the formation of the IIM in Calcutta as a comparison. Overall, my dissertation explores an important historic moment when HBS helped set the stage for a global managerial elite.