The Anthropology of Business - ANTS5840

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


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.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 34
Private Study Hours: 116
Total Study Time: 150 hours


BA Social Anthropology and associated programmes; BSc Anthropology and associated programmes

Available as an elective module.

Method of assessment

Essay, 3500 words (80%)
In-Course Test (20%) 45mins, based on key points from lectures and seminars. This is a multiple-choice, True/False short answer test.

Reassessment instrument 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Bestor, Ted 2004. Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World. University of California Press

Comaroff , John and Jean Comoroff (in press, 2008) "Ethnicity, Inc.

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.

Zaloom, Caitlin 2006. Out of the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago to London. University of Chicago Press

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

8.1 Demonstrate critical understanding of the cultural diversity of organizational forms in the economic sphere

8.2 Demonstrate critical understanding of local, regional and international features of social and organisational structures

8.3 Critically evaluate the diversity of livelihoods, social and kinship organisation, gender relations, and epistemologies in relation to organizational structures

8.4 Acquire a detailed knowledge of how anthropologists form questions about ethnographic material and appreciate how ethnography contributes to theory

8.5 Discuss and develop sustained arguments regarding the culture of capital

8.6 Critically discuss organisations in terms of social changes

8.7 Synthesize and reflect upon personal cultural assumptions in terms of the experience of local peoples and their organizational environments,


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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