The Growth and Future of Business Anthropology

The Growth and Future of Business Anthropology

 

     Varieties of surveys have indicated that employers look for the skills that undergraduate training in anthropology provides. The subject matter of anthropology is intrinsically fascinating; as such, it offers valuable preparation for careers in journalism, politics, public relations, or public administration, fields that involve investigative skills and working with diverse groups. Today, many students use anthropology as the liberal arts foundation for professions such as law, education, medicine, social work, and counseling.

     The ever-fast advanced technologies along with the globalization of the world’s economic systems in particular have changed the world we are living.  The new trends of technology advance and globalization have been deeply influenced everything in the world b.  Anthropology as a social science field of study by no means can get rid of the influence of these new trends.  In such a background, when we discuss the future of anthropology in general, and the future of business anthropology in particular, we must think in broader terms of global political economy, local demographic trends, prevailing cultural preferences, and the social and ethnic backgrounds of consumers. After this complex series of considerations we have to rethink, how we might fit if we want this discipline to continue as a practice oriented entity. 

     John Gordon, an Australian applied anthropologist, presents a brief history of early, industrial, private practice anthropology in the United States and argues that the development of applied anthropology can be linked to the opportunities of the day for student anthropologists to do real fieldwork.  According to Gordon, applied anthropology has flourished in the past decades and created many job opportunities for the graduates with anthropology degrees. We will argue that applied anthropology will further flourish in the future with the more applications of anthropological methods in the business world. 

     Gordon suggests that the future of Australian anthropology may well lie in its reinvention of the work in a form suitable for the global economy of the twenty-first century.  According to him, by the end of the twentieth century, one of the fastest growing areas within Australian social science is applied anthropology.  In Australia the recent demand for applied anthropologists is, in part, due to the consequences of the Native Title Act and the need for anthropological advice to support land claim submissions. It is also a consequence of Australia’s geographic location in Asia and the substantial demand for consultant social scientists in this rapidly developing region of the world. In considering applied anthropology and its future, however, it is important neither to focus exclusively on the present nor to lose sight of a global perspective (Gordon, 2008).

     Currently, corporate anthropology as well as the anthropology of business is increasingly in the news, and the collapse of financial institutions in the fall of 2008 boosted business anthropology in a higher point to draw attentions forms the business world. The simple idea that managers do not always behave rationally suddenly becomes an easy acceptable concept.  For instance, British anthropologist Gillian Tett, an assistant editor of the Financial Times and oversees the global coverage of the financial markets, identified danger of the over abused financial system in the West and was warning about the looming credit crisis over two years before it happened.  There is no doubt that her background as a social anthropologist having alerted her to the danger in ahead of the tragedy. 

     In March 2009, Gillian Tett was named Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards. In 2007, she was awarded the Wincott prize, the premier British award for financial journalism, for her capital markets coverage. She was named British Business Journalist of the Year in 2008. We are very proud of our colleague Gillian Tett, who, as an anthropologist, first identified the serious financial crisis and warned the world to prepare for it. Her outstanding performance demonstrates that anthropologists, due to their unique training, are able to make great contributions to the business world. It is easy for us to predict that, in the near future, the business anthropology as a field of study will become a good career for young professionals and will keep growing to be hot. 

     It is our suggestion that today business schools and anthropology departments should work together to prepare more qualified business anthropologists for the future to meet the needs from firms for business anthropologists.  The future of business anthropology should be very bright and promising as anthropological approach is applicable in all business functions.  We expect that in the near future a new job title, chief anthropologist, at senior levels in large corporations will be widely appeared in the classified advertising job section, we also expect that a new MBA (Master of Business Anthropology) programs will be widely hosted by both business schools and anthropology departments.  This new MBA program will distinguish itself from the traditional MBA program by offering more practice-oriented courses, which in turn will enable the students gain more hands-on skills to be job ready (Tian, Lillis, and van Marrewijk, 2010).  

     In this new issue, we include seven articles selected from large submissions. We feel very sorry that some good articles could not be included in this issue due to the space limitation. In his article, Dr. Alfons van Marrewijk argues that business anthropologists can play an important role in the debate on cross-cultural management. He studies the cross-cultural management issues through a case analysis about projects that involve Dutch and Indian teams. His findings suggest that all companies formally strive for synergy but in the daily cooperation between the project teams, power struggles and ethnocentric strategies dominate. The new cultural practices that emerge are a reflection of these power struggles between the different ethnic groups involved in the project teams.

     Dr. Allen Batteau in his article describes the fundamental dimensions of a security culture on the experience of “safety culture” in several high-hazard industries. His discussion focuses on issues of trust, identification and authentication in complex environments, as they become more challenging in virtual environments. Dr. Xiaohua Lin, Dr. Jian Guan, and Dr. J. David Knottnerus in their article focus on direct selling organizations led by ethnic entrepreneurs of Chinese immigrants, explore the time-honored issues of immigrant economic adaptation in a contemporary, multicultural context. Their findings are widely applicable in industry and public policy decision processes. 

     In their article Catherine Forsman and Daisy Rojas argue that technological devices and information structures change the world we live in, which in turn opens a field of inquiry for anthropologists to study the development of technology and its uses. They probe both the technology industry’s use of anthropological insights and the potential changes to the discipline of anthropology driven by the application of these methods in engineering projects. Dr. Zhijun Liu and Dr. Jiansheng Chen study the competition and conflicts inside specialized villages in rural China. They find traditional measures of reconciliation to be fundamentally divergent from the economic aim of specialized villages, hence the limited effectiveness. They suggest that specialized villages need rules of market competition, government support and updated knowledge.

     Dr. Chong Gao, in his article, looks into why, how and to what extent kinship is involved in concrete and ongoing business processes by summarizing his case study in Guang Zhou city.  He explores how the mobilization of kinship brings competitive advantages for small entrepreneurs. His findings demonstrate that the businesspersons tend to re-conceptualize kinship with reference to economic rationality and to exploit the economic potential of kinship purposefully. Dr. Adelina Milanova studies the interconnections between corporate culture and social capital based on theoretical analysis and hypotheses tested in the Bulgarian economic realities. She argues that there is confirmed main role of the business maturity, exactly in the manifestation of this kind of relationship. Her findings suggest that the successes of business firms depend on the basic elements constituting corporate culture and social capital.

 

Once more, the quality of the articles submitted and the sophistication of theoretical analysis may already indicate overcoming the division between academia and applied anthropology cross culturally. We leave the readers to determine this, for this issue and following issues. We continuously seek articles by anthropologically oriented scholars and practitioners on topics such as general business anthropology theories and methods, marketing, consumer behavior, organization culture, human resources management, cross cultural management etc. Regionally focused contributions are welcome, especially when their findings are generally applicable. We encourage practitioners, professionals, business community leaders, and faculty members to submit theoretical articles, case studies, commentaries, and reviews. Please send manuscripts, news notes, and correspondence to: Dr. Robert Guang Tian, Editor, IJBA, via e-mail to ijba@na-businesspress.com, or rgtian@yahoo.com (Robert G. Tian, Daming Zhou, and Alfons H. van Marrewijk)

 

Please visit business anthropology blog for detailed TOC http://businessanthropology.blogspot.com/

 

 

REFERENCE


 Dr. Robert Guang Tian

Editor, International Journal of Business Anthropology

Editor, International Journal of China Marketing

Editor, Modern China Series

Please visit my blog: http://businessanthropology.blogspot.com/

Toll Free: 1-866-624-2458
Personal Voice/FAX #: (443)495-0013

ijab@na-businesspress.com or ijcm@na-businesspress.com, or rgitna@yahoo.com or rtian@medaille.edu

http://www.na-businesspress.com

Associate Editor, The Applied Anthropologist

http://www.hpsfaa.org/

 

 

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Comment by John McCreery on April 15, 2011 at 5:16am

Ashkuff, allow me to challenge your assumption that a marketing student is obviously better equipped than an anthropology study. If the anthropology student is smarter, more articulate, has more interesting things to say than a run-of-the-mill competitor with a marketing degree, it is the former who has the edge. If, moreover, the anthropology student has had the foresight to read, for example, Dallas Murphy's Fast Forward MBA in Marketing and is, thus, aware of the basic marketing issues and familiar with marketing patter, beating out the marketing student should be a slam dunk—especially if you have given some thought to how they relate to a prospective employer's particular business.

It would also be impressive if you were familiar with the content of the Fast Forward MBA in Finance and the Fast Forward MBA in Project Management. None of these topics involve rocket science, especially at the level required when interviewing for an entry-level position.

Comment by A. Ashkuff on April 15, 2011 at 12:39am

I'm glad you wrote this article.

As an anthropology undergrad, about to graduate, I cannot get enough reading in on business anthropology. I currently work as a "cultural ambassador" for UF's Office of Multicultural & Diversity Affairs. And yes, I agree with you that anthropological education can prep a student for a great many career paths like, in my case, market research. The only problem is that, when competition arises for a MARKET RESEARCH job, between a MARKETING student and an ANTHROPOLOGY student, the marketing student is obviously better equipped and has a competitive advantage. 

 

I'd be interested in hearing how the anthro community could better prepare its students to compete with other majors at their own respective games.

 

I, personally, circumvented the problem by chasing my degree in anthropology with electives in marketing and entrepreneurship. Perhaps anthropology departments could collaborate with other departments to create interdisciplinary minors? That way, we can keep the majors pure anthro, but more effectively prep students to work in other fields.

 

--- Ashkuff | http://www.ashkuff.com | How to venture out of “armchair” scholarship, and into action? One anthropologist tackles occultism, violence, and more! He gets spooked and roughed up a lot.

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