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2012/2013  BA-BLC_3ETH  Introduction to Business Ethnography

English Title
Introduction to Business Ethnography

Course information

Language English
Exam ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Bachelor
Duration One Semester
Course period Autumn
12 weeks of 2 hours/week

Tuesday – Thursday, 10-15
Time Table Please see course schedule at e-Campus
Min. participants 40
Max. participants 60
Study board
Study Board for BSc og MSc in Business, Language and Culture, BSc
Course coordinator
  • Brian Moeran - Department of Intercultural Communication and Management
Main Category of the Course
  • Philosophy and philosophy of science
  • Language and Intercultural Studies
  • Economic and organizational sociology
Last updated on 14-02-2012
Learning objectives
At the end of the course, the student must be able
  • To be able to describe, what is meant by an ethnographic perspective in anthropology in terms of its historical development and methods and practices (e.g. participant observation). It also requires knowledge of how these have been applied to business situations as well as reflection on the relative merits and demerits of particular examples.
  • To make use of anthropological and ethnographic studies throw light on how social and cultural practices influence different forms of business. This invites reflection upon the strengths and weaknesses of the comparative method used in ethnographic studies.
  • To carry out ethnographic observations and analysis, thereby inviting reflection upon the relation between theory and practice in research.
  • To use these analytical insights and competences in ethnographic methods to conduct an ethnographic analysis of a self-determined field.
Business Ethnography
Ethnographic case report:
Type of test Home Assignment
Marking scale 7-step scale
Second examiner Second internal examiner
Exam period December/January, The report is a product of the insights gained from doing anthropological fieldwork during the semester.
Aids Open Book, Written and Electronic Aid is permitted
Duration Please, see the detailed regulations below
Individual 10 pages assignment of an ethnographic case
Course content

Business Ethnographyis an introductory course for 3rd Year Undergraduate students to the theory and practice of ethnography in a variety of business situations. Ethnography itself refers both to the method used to study how people understand and organize their daily lives in a variety of social settings and to the writing up of such material. In other words, it covers the content of research (what is studied), analysis (how the research material is analysed) and representation (how it is written about),  As such, ethnography offers an intellectual perspective that is more than mere methodology.
             Business Ethnography focuses on how people working in different kinds of business situations interact with one another, and on how the ways in which they perceive things and communicate with one another are influenced by social and cultural elements. Such elements are contextual and develop  within the environment of their business organizations, as well as externally in society as a whole.
              In the first part of the course, students are introduced to the classical anthropological approach to fieldwork, before moving on to the more recent development of multi-sited fieldwork. They then consider the topic of how to write up the results of ethnographic research, before looking at general examples of ethnographers at work.
In the second part of the course, students are introduced to different aspects of ethnographic research: meetings, management, work and careers, advertising and marketing, shopping and consumption, finance, and government (law and bureaucracies). They will find themselves reflecting upon such questions as: What can a researcher learn about formal organizational structures and informal networks, by focusing on managers and employees of various kinds as they go about their everyday working lives? What do ethnographic methods reveal about advertising, or consumer practices, or the world of finance? How rational is legal and bureaucratic behaviour?
              The course will be taught by means of lectures and class discussion. It is designed to provide a basic methodological framework for students wishing to write a project or thesis on the basis of internship, or formal fieldwork, in a company or other kind of business organization. It also provides the foundation for a graduate course in Business Anthropology.

Teaching methods
Lectures and class discussions
Student workload
Preparation 120 hours
Teaching 24 hours
Examination 80 hours
Expected literature

To be announced on Learn, but most likely:

  1. Fieldwork 1.0: What is fieldwork?
    1. Bronislaw Malinowski  1922 ‘The method and scope of anthropological fieldwork’, pp. 4-25 in his Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
    2. Harry F. Wolcott 2005 ‘Fieldwork: the basic arts,’ Chapter 5 (pp. 79-114) in his The Art of Fieldwork. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press
  2. Fieldwork 2.0: Multi-sited ethnography
    1. George Marcus 1995: “Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-sited Ethnography”, originally in Annual Review of Anthropology 24 (1995): 95-117; re-printed in “Ethnography Through Thick and Thin” (1998)
    2. Ulf Hannerz 2003 ‘Being there… and there… and there! Reflections on multi-site ethnography,’ Ethnography 4 (2): 201-16.
  3. Writing ethnography
    1. Robert M. Emerson, Rachel I. Fretz and Linda L. Shaw 1995 ‘Fieldnotes in ethnographic research,’ Chapter 1 (pp. 1-16) in their Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
    2. James Clifford 1986: “Introduction: Partial Truths”, In Clifford & Marcus (eds.): “Writing Culture. The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography”, University of California Press
    3. John van Maanen 1998 Tales of the Field. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  4. Ethnographers at Work
    1. Marianne Elisabeth Lien 1997 ‘Setting the scene,’ Chapter 2 (pp. 27-38) in her Marketing and Modernity. Oxford: Berg.
    2. Hortense Powdermaker 1967 ‘Hollywood,’ Part IV (pp. 209-231) in her Stranger & Friend: the way of an anthropologist. London: Secker & Warburg.
    3. Brian Moeran 2006 ‘It’s in the name,’ Chapter 1 (pp. 3-17) in his Ethnography at Work. Oxford: Berg.
  5. Ethnography of meetings and talk
    1. Helen B. Schwartzman 1993 Ethnography in Organizations. Qualitative Research Methods Series No 27. Newbury Park: Sage.
    2. Gideon Kunda 2006 ‘Presentation rituals: talking ideology,’ Chapter 4 (pp. 92-159) in his Engineering Culture. Philadelphia, PA: Temple UP.
  6. Ethnography of management
    1. Christina Garsten 1994 ‘Viewing Apple: method and theory,’ Chapter 2 (pp. 33-50) in her Apple Worlds. Stockholm Studies in Social Anthropology, 33.
    2. Hortense Powdermaker 1967 ‘Hollywood,’ Part IV (pp. 209-231) in her Stranger & Friend: the way of an anthropologist. London: Secker & Warburg.
    3. Melissa Cefkin (ed.) 2009 Ethnography and the Corporate Encounter. Oxford: Berghahn.
  7. Ethnography of work and careers
    1. Paul Willis 1977: Learning to Labour. Ashgate
    2. (Mayfair Mei-hui Yang: ““The scope and use-contexts of guanxi,” in Gifts, Favors and Banquets: the art of social relationships in Chin, pp. 75-108 (Cornell UP, 1994))
  8. Ethnography of advertising
    1. Brian Moeran 2007 ‘A dedicated storytelling organization: advertising talk in Japan,” Human Organization 66 (2): 160-170.
    2. Morais, Robert 2007: “Conflict and confluence in advertising meetings”, Human Organization66 (2): 150
    3. Timothy de Waal Malefyt and Brian Moeran 2003 ‘Introduction: Advertising Cultures – advertising, ethnography and anthropology,’ pp. 1-33 in their edited Advertising Cultures. Oxford: Berg.
  9. Ethnography of shopping and consumption
    1. Daniel Miller 1998: A Theory of Shopping. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY
    2. Wong, H.W. 1996: An anthropological study of a Japanese supermarket in Hong Kong, Oxford University
  10. Ethnography of finance
    1. Douglas R. Holmes 2009: “Economy of words”, Cultural Anthropology24  (3): 381-419.
    2. Ho, Karen 2009: “Liquidated. An ethnography of Wall Street”, Duke UniversityPress.
  11. Ethnography of law and bureacracy
    1. Chris Shore & Susan Wright 1997: “Policy: a new field of anthropology”, chap. 1 (pp 3-39) in Anthropology of Policy. Critical Perspectives on Governance and Power, London and New York, Routledge
Last updated on 14-02-2012