Anthropological Approaches to Business - SE997

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
7 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.


Contact hours



Spring Term

Method of assessment

Assessment is by 100% coursework and set forth as follows: 20% class presentation (20 minutes); 80% for an essay (2000 words) which will engage theoretical work from the lectures and readings in conjunction with the ethnographic works of their choice. The essay tests the achievement of critical thinking and ability in researching and writing on salient issues about how businesses are embedding in social relations as well as the students knowledge of the key recommended texts; the class presentation tests critical oral, study and communication skills and the knowledge of required information. Both assessments further test data retrieval and the synthesis and presentation of various information sources and their application to the emerging sub-discipline of the anthropology of business.

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

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module MA/MSc students will be able to:
1) understand the cultural diversity of business formations and communities
2) demonstrate a clear comparative perspective of business organisations
3) recognise the pertinence of an anthropological perspective to understanding major national and international events
4) appreciate how ethnography contributes to theory
5) discuss key issues and debates in the anthropology of business literature
6) critically discuss these business communities in terms of social changes in the region
7) rethink some of their own cultural assumptions about business communities
understand how anthropologists form questions about ethnographic material

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