Institutional voids and organization studies: Towards an epistemological rupture

In this essay, we critique the usage of the term ‘institutional void’ to characterize nonWestern contexts in organizational studies. We explore how ‘conceptual stretching’ of institutional voids – specifically, the theoretical and geographic expansion of the concept – has led not only to poor construct clarity, but also pejorative labeling of non-Western countries. We argue that research using this term perpetuates an ethnocentric bias by deifying market development and overlooking the richness and power of informal and non-market institutions in shaping local economic activity. We call for an ‘epistemological rupture’ to decolonize organizational scholarship in non-Western settings and facilitate contextually grounded research approaches that allow for more indigenous theorization.