Books on business anthropology

Reading Business Anthropology

This is an overview of some of the articles and books on business anthropology that we found of interest.


The Business of Ethnography: Strategic Exchanges, People and Organizations Based on his research in Japan, Brian Moeran describes his approach on writing ethnographies in business environments.

He identifies social phenomena. Frames, Networks and Fields.

Frames consist of physical settings like an office, a gallery, a lecture hall or a guest room in which certain kinds of activity – work of some kind, an art or craft display, the dissemination, reception and discussion of ideas, or drinking exchanges and inebriation – take place.

On networks he shares these thoughts:

We see how people create, flaunt, exchange and transform different kinds of – in particular, economic, social and symbolic – capital in order to take advantage of their networks and their positions in the field as a whole.

Fields are more abstract. If frames are most appropriate
for a micro-level of sociological analysis, and networks for an intermediate level, fields are very much at the macro-end of the theoretical continuum.

This is a great analogy with the idea that an anthropologist is holistic. She works on micro, meso and macro level and is able to see the connection between these levels.

Organisational Anthropology

The field has been growing in the last decades. Here are some of the books that can help you get a better understanding of the field.

Organizational Culture and Identity

I remember we had to read this book for our introduction on organisational anthropology, back in 2000. For students it was so difficult to understand that in the end we were able to keep our books open during the test. After all these years I do appreciate better what this book brings to table.

I like the comparison of organisational subcultures with dialects

… a conceptualization of culture generated from an analogy with language suggests that organizations are unitary and divided at the same time. [This would mean there are] multiple cross-cutting dialects and hence many possible “cultures of” within an organization.

[Since the] actors are heterogeneous it involves not assuming that an organizational culture is necessarily reflective of the mission statement or fromalized accounts of the organization’s structure.

Martin Parker, 2000

So, Martin Parker argues that organizations consist of actors who don’t naturally abide by the boundaries of structure or a mission statement and multiple subcultures in doing so.

Parker, Martin. 2000 Organizational Culture and Identity Sage Publications, London

Jordan, Brigitte. 2013. Advancing Ethnography in Corporate Environments : Challenges and Emerging Opportunities. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Garsten, Christina, and Anette Nyqvist. 2013. Organisational Anthropology : Doing Ethnography in and among Complex Organisations. Anthropology, Culture and Society. London: Pluto Press.

Caulkins, Douglas D, and Ann Jordan. 2013. A Companion to Organizational Anthropology. Blackwell Companions to Anthropology.

Corporate Anthropology

Corporate Tribes by Jitske Kramer and Danielle Braun is a book that explores the field of the anthropologist. It brings the knowledge that was created over the years to the space of businesses and organisations.

See also

About books on business anthropology

This list is compiled by Guido Verboom, Business Anthropologist in the Netherlands. I received my training from Utrecht University. We welcome any recommendations.

Made with the help of my remarkable tablet.

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