The Anthropology of Business - SE584

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Spring 6 15 (7.5) DR D Peluso checkmark-circle


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 the following module collections.

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

Method of assessment

Assessment is by 100% coursework.
• A 3,500 word Essay (80%)
• In-Course Test (20%) 45mins, based on key points from lectures and seminars. This is a multiple-choice, True/False short answer test.

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

1. Understand the cultural diversity of organizational forms in the economic sphere
2. Understand local, regional and international features of social and organisational structures
3. Understand the diversity of livelihoods, social and kinship organisation, gender relations, and epistemologies in relation to organizational structures
4. Understand how anthropologists form questions about ethnographic material and appreciate how ethnography contributes to theory
5. Critically discuss key issues and debates regarding the culture of capital
6. Critically discuss organisations in terms of social changes
7. Reflect on their own cultural assumptions in terms of the experience of local peoples and their organizational environments,


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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