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Corporations are among the most influential institutions of our time. Through close readings of ethnographies that focus primarily on single companies (Coca-Cola, Ford, Chrysler, Philip Morris, Dow Chemical, Chevron-Texaco), this subject considers the cultural dynamics internal to multinational corporations as well as the social processes by which corporations and communities seek to mutually influence each other, often in situations of significant power imbalance. With the help of guest speakers from the corporate sector and activists engaged in efforts to regulate and/or contest various aspects of corporate behaviour, we pay particular attention to the methodological and ethical challenges of carrying out research on, for, and within corporations. Case studies are drawn from India, PNG, Ecuador, Indonesia, the United States, Brazil, and South Africa.
Intended learning outcomes
Students that successfully complete the subject should
- Have a thorough understanding of the diverse theoretical perspectives that anthropologists have brought to bear on the study of corporations.
- Understand how to use ethnographic evidence to critically evaluate large-scale claims about corporate rights and responsibilities.
- Develop a historically nuanced awareness of the roles that corporations have played in both creating and responding to socio-cultural change.
- Demonstrate an appreciation of the ethical and methodological challenges of 'studying up,' with a particular focus on the strengths, limitations, and challenges of conducting ethnographic fieldwork in corporate settings.
- Be able to communicate in a variety of written and oral formats and to collaborate effectively in groups with people whose disciplinary and cultural backgrounds may differ from your own.
Last updated: 28 July 2023