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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com (Robert G. Tian, Daming Zhou, and Alfons H. van Marrewijk)
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Dr. Robert Guang Tian
Editor, International Journal of Business Anthropology
Editor, International Journal of China Marketing
Editor, Modern China Series
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Associate Editor, The Applied Anthropologist