Friday, June 4, 2004

The Corporate Anthropologist (and ethics)

Christian Science Monitor - Anthropologists on the job

Katie Hafner - Coming Of Age In Palo Alto

CNN - Corporate anthropology: Dirt-free research

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Anthropology as ‘Brand’: Reflections on corporate anthropology (pdf) by Lucy Suchman

Our work as anthropologists sits uncomfortably inside the close-knit interweaving of consumer experience understood as something prior, discovered through anthropological investigation and then addressed by design and marketing, and consumer experience understood as constituted through activities of design and marketing, in their contributions to the creation of desire and the crafting of cultural imaginaries. I don’t believe that we can resolve this tension.

[Daniel Miller] cautions against the danger that, in taking up the cultural analysis of consumable things, we find ourselves contributing to, rather than refiguring, dominant forms of commodity fetishism. As antidote he proposes that we attend to the "mundane sensual and material qualities" of the object, and through those qualities find the connections to lives and the cultural imaginaries that animate them.

Along with the increasing virtuality of consumer capitalism, in other words, are the persistent threads of materiality and desire that comprise our everyday lives, as consumers and as participants in a multiplicity of other life projects. Image and substance, marketing and design are inextricably interwoven in these places and in the things they offer us, which is part of what makes them both insidious, and powerfully seductive. Unless our stories of consumption can come to grips with these specific materialities we’ll have missed something substantial about the place of stuff and its power to enroll us, however unwittingly, in the increasingly asymmetrical and inequitable flows of labor, goods and capital around the globe. As anthropologists and as consumers, our problem is to find the spaces that allow us to refigure the projects of those who purchase our services and from whom we buy, rather than merely to be incorporated passively into them.

Now that's something to think about.

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Society for Applied Anthropology - Ethical and Professional Responsibilities

American Anthropological Association Ethics

Association of Social Anthropologists - Ethical guidelines

American Sociological Association Code of Ethics

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