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NAPA Mentoring FAQs

Understanding Business Anthropology
Section compiled by Robert J. Morais
Weinman Schnee Morais, Inc. and Columbia Business School

1.  What is Business Anthropology?

Business Anthropology is one of the latest ways that anthropology has asserted itself on the global stage. Business anthropologists contribute to economic development worldwide, provide direction for better run organizations, and help companies improve their understanding of consumers, leading to product innovations and brand communications that are responsive to bona fide consumer needs and wants. Business anthropologists typically work with or within public, private, and non-profit organizations. On an educational level, business anthropology scholars contribute to an understanding of culture and commerce. Business anthropology teaches students in anthropology departments and business schools about the culture of work, ethics, and exchange, including the values of and respect for actors on a global scale, advancing cross-cultural understanding. 

Businesses are drawn especially to anthropology’s principal research method, ethnography, because it enables firms to understand their customers, partners, suppliers, and their own organizations better. Major corporations such as Google, Intel, and IBM recognize the contributions of staff anthropologists; companies like Procter & Gamble, Campbell Soup, Nissan, Mars, and Coca Cola, among others, hire anthropologists as consultants; numerous advertising agencies and design firms employ anthropologists; and many marketing research firms specialize in business anthropology. Business opportunities for recent graduates and others with an anthropological sensibility and toolkit have never been better.

2. How can I find out more about business anthropology?

There are two peer-reviewed business anthropology journals, Journal of Business Anthropology  (USA-based) and International Journal of Business Anthropology (China-based). Over a dozen LinkedIn groups focus on business anthropology.  The Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC) is devoted to business anthropology, and EPIC posts original articles and profiles of practitioners in its Perspectives section.  The Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) and the American Anthropological Association (AAA) offer sessions and panels on business anthropology. Numerous books on business anthropology have been published in recent years (see below).

3. Are there additional resources?

Along with the two dedicated business anthropology journals and EPIC Perspectives, Human Organization, Practicing Anthropology, Culture and Organization, and American Anthropologist contain articles on business anthropology from time to time. Of the many extended essays/books, below is a representative sample:


  • Mats Alvesson and Stefan Sveningsson. 2016. Changing Organizational Culture: Cultural Change Work in Progress. 2nd Edition, Routledge.
  • Marietta Baba. 2006. Anthropology and Business. In H. J. Birx, Ed. Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Sage.
  • Elizabeth K. Briody, Robert T. Trotter and Tracy L. Meerwarth. 2010; 2014. Transforming Culture: Creating and Sustaining Effective Organizations. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Douglas Caulkins and Ann T. Jordan, Eds.  2013.  A Companion to Organizational Anthropology.  Blackwell Publishing, Ltd.
  • Melissa Cefkin, Ed. 2009. Ethnography and the Corporate Encounter: Reflections on Research in and of Corporations. Berghahn.
  • Rita M. Denny and Patricia L. Sunderland, Eds.   Handbook of Business Anthropology. Left Coast Press.
  • Gary P. Ferraro and Elizabeth K. Briody. 2017. The Cultural Dimension of Global Business. 8th Edition. Pearson.
  • Christina Garsten and Anette Nyqvist, Eds.  2013.  Organisational Anthropology:  Doing Ethnography in and among Complex Organisations. Pluto Press.
  • Michael B. Griffiths. 2013. Consumers and Individuals in China: Standing Out, Fitting In. Routledge.
  • Wendy Gun, Ton Otto, and Rachel Charlotte Smith, Eds. 2013. Design Anthropology: Theory and Practice.
  • Jay Hasbrouck. In Press. From Method to Mindset: The Origins and Strategic Advantages of Ethnographic Thinking. Routledge.
  • Karen Ho. Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street. Duke.
  • Ann Jordan. 2013. Business Anthropology. Second Edition. Waveland Press.
  • Brigitte Jordan, Ed. 2013. Advancing Ethnography in Corporate Environments: Challenges and Emerging Opportunities. Left Coast Press.
  • Sam Ladner. 2014. Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Private Sector. Left Coast Press.
  • Robert V. Kozinets. 2016. Netnography: Redefined Online. 2nd Edition. Sage.
  • Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel B. Rasmussen.  2014. The Moment of Clarity:  Using the Human Sciences to Solve Your Toughest Business Problems.  Harvard Business Review Press.
  • Timothy de Waal Malefyt and Brian Moeran, Eds. 2003. Advertising Cultures. Berg.
  • Timothy de Waal Malefyt and Robert J. Morais. 2012. Advertising and Anthropology: Ethnographic Practice and Cultural Perspectives. Berg/Bloomsbury.
  • Timothy de Waal Malefyt and Robert J. Morais, Eds. 2017. Ethics in the Anthropology of Business: Explorations in Theory, Practice, and Pedagogy. Routledge.
  • Hy Mariampolski. 2006. Ethnography for Marketers. Sage.
  • Maryann McCabe, Ed., 2016. Collaborative Ethnography in Business Environments. Routledge.
  • Grant McCracken. Chief Culture Officer. 2009. Basic Books. (McCracken has written many books pertinent to business anthropology)
  • Grant McCracken. Dark Value. 2016.  Only available as e-book: https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Value-hidden-digital-economy-ebook/dp/B01F6BBIVW  
  • Christine Miller. 2017. Converging Pathways in Anthropology and Design. Routledge.
  • Brian Moeran. A Japanese Advertising Agency. University of Hawaii Press.
  • Brian Moeran. 2014. The Business of Creativity. Left Coast Press.
  • Brian Moeran. 2015. The Magic of Fashion. Routledge. (Moeran has written many books pertinent to business anthropology)
  • Riall Nolan, Ed.  2013. A Handbook of Practicing Anthropology. Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Riall Nolan. 2017. Anthropology in the World: A Guide to Becoming an Anthropologist Practitioner. Routledge.
  • John F. Sherry, Jr., Ed. 1995. Contemporary Marketing and Consumer Behavior: An Anthropological Sourcebook. Sage.
  • Patricia L. Sunderland and Rita M. Denny. 2007. Doing Anthropology in Consumer Research. Left Coast Press.
  • Susan Squires and Bryan Byrne, Eds. Creating Breakthrough Ideas: The Collaboration of Anthropologists and Designers in the Product Development Industry. Bergin and Garvey.
  • Alex Stewart. 1989.  Team Entrepreneurship. Sage Publications.
  • Lucy A. Suchman. 2007.  Human-Machine Reconfigurations:  Plans and Situated Actions. 2nd ed.  Cambridge University Press.
  • Gillian Tett. 2015.  The Silo Effect:  The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers.  Simon and Schuster.
  • Gillian Tett.  2009.  Fool’s Gold:  How the Bold Dream of a Small Tribe at J.P. Morgan Was Corrupted by Wall Street Greed and Unleashed a Catastrophe.  Free Press.
  • Alf H. Walle.  2013.  Rethinking Business Anthropology:  Cultural Strategies in Marketing and Management. Greenleaf Publishing Ltd.
  • Christina Wasson, Mary Odell-Butler and Jacqueline Copeland-Carson, Eds. 2012. Applying Anthropology in the Global Village. Routledge.
  • Susan Wright, Ed.  1994.  Anthropology of Organizations. Routledge.
  • Detiev Zwick and Julien Cayla, Eds. 2011. Inside Marketing: Practices, Ideologies, Devices. Oxford University Press.



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One Response to Mentoring_FAQ4c

  • NIZAM RASEL says:

    Hi,I am Nizam Rasel from Bangladesh,i completed my gradution department of anthropology under university of Chittagong Bangladesh.i read your articales also thanks for your good information.

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