The Anthropology of Business - SE584

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
6 15 (7.5)







Anthropology has an important role to play in the examination of our own organizational lives as embedded in various forms of capitalism. This module will allow students to gain anthropological perspectives on business formations, structures, practices and ideologies. Businesses – be they individuals, families, corporations, nation-states or multi-lateral corporations - have identities that are invariably distinct from one another and which are forged upon and promote particular social relationships. Ethnographic case-studies, with a strong emphasis on the stock market in the last third of the course will provide the basis for discussing how these social relationships that enact power, are embedded in broader cultural processes such as ethnicity, nationalism, migration, and kinship as well as ideologies of gender, aesthetics and religion among others. Acknowledging the multiple dynamic relationships between businesses, people and marketplaces will allow us to evaluate their roles as reactive producers, consumers and disseminators of cultural processes within our surrounding environments, extending from the local to the global.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

12 lectures, 11 seminars and a one-hour course test


This module contributes:
BA Social Anthropology, BA in Social Anthropology with a Year Abroad programs including all BA in Social Anthropology joint and subsidiary programs
This module is also suitable as an optional module for students of the following degree programmes: BSc Anthropology; BSc Anthropology with a Year Abroad, BSc Medical Anthropology. Also, Kent Business School BBA.

Method of assessment

Assessment is by 100% coursework.

Indicative reading

Bestor, Ted (2004) "Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World" University of California Press
Zaloom, Caitlin (2006) "Out of the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago to London" University of Chicago Press
Comaroff, John L. and Jean Comaroff (2009) "Ethnicity Inc." University of Chicago Press
Frank, Thomas 1997. The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture and the Rise of Hip Consumerism. University of Chicago Press

Hart, Keith, and Horacio Ortiz. 2014. "The Anthropology of Money and Finance: Between Ethnography and World History". Annual Review of Anthropology. 43: 465-482.
Ho, Karen Zouwen. 2009. Liquidated: an ethnography of Wall Street. Durham: Duke University Press.
Hoffer, Lee D. 2006. Junkie business: the evolution and operation of a heroin dealing network. Australia: Thomson/Wadsworth.
Ortiz, Horacio. 2014. "The Limits of Financial Imagination: Free Investors, Efficient Markets, and Crisis". American Anthropologist. 116 (1): 38-50.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

A clear understanding of the cultural diversity of organizational forms in the economic sphere knowledge of local, regional and international features of social and organisational structures.
Knowledge of the diversity of livelihoods, social and kinship organization, gender relations, and epistemologies.
An appreciation of how ethnography contribues o theory the ability to discuss key issues and debates in the culture of capital.
The ability to critically discuss organizations in terms of social changes.
The ability to rethink some of their own cultural assumptions in terms of the experience of local and global peoples, organizations and environments.
An understanding of how anthropologists form questions about ethnographic material.
Knowledge of local, regional and international features of social and organisational structures
The ability to discuss key issues and debates in the culture of capital

University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that module information is accurate for the relevant academic session and to provide educational services as described. However, courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Please read our full disclaimer.