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Ethnography and the corporate encounter - Melissa Cefkin

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Ethnography and the corporate encounter - reflections on research in and of corporations
Melissa Cefkin
Paperback / softback
Berghahn Books
UK Publication Date

Businesses and other organizations are increasingly hiring anthropologists and other ethnographically-oriented social scientists as employees, consultants, and advisors. The nature of such work, as described in this volume, raises crucial questions about potential implications to disciplines of critical inquiry such as anthropology. In addressing these issues, the contributors explore how researchers encounter and engage sites of organizational practice in such roles as suppliers of consumer-insight for product design or marketing, or as advisors on work design or business and organizational strategies. The volume contributes to the emerging canon of corporate ethnography, appealing to practitioners who wish to advance their understanding of the practice of corporate ethnography and providing rich material to those interested in new applications of ethnographic work and the ongoing rethinking of the nature of ethnographic praxis.

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Melissa Cefkin is a cultural anthropologist with experience in research, management, teaching, and consulting for business and government. Currently based at IBM Research in the area of services research, she earned her PhD from Rice University and remains dedicated to pursuing a critical understanding of the intersections of anthropological practice within business and organizational settings.

"This book will, I am sure, be regarded as a vital contribution to the process of ongoing re-orientation by academia towards a not-so-new breed of practitioners within corporations. But it will also help inform the practice of corporate ethnographers already plying their trade in corporate jungles."
Anthropology in Action

"For anyone interested in ethnography and its corporate application…Highly recommended."

"It is amazing to see how and what anthropologists see when they look at the complex, broadly cast problems (and opportunities) of such mammoth organizations… Cefkin's work is a delightful contribution to the field of ethnography for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it is a scholarly work that bridges the field of applied anthropology and the business sector, demonstrating the theoretical and practical connections between them. Second, with contributions from anthropologists and business practitioners, Cefkin persuades the reader that corporate ethnography is a legitimate form of ethnography for unearthing and answering complex business problems. In turn, these answers can be used in the process of building and advancing business theory."
The Qualitative Report

"This is a deeply thoughtful and nuanced account of the most celebrated and contested of our contemporary field sites. The authors touch all of the relevant bases - the articulation of theory and practice, the ethical dimension of methodological commitment, the role demands of researchers in a commercial context - that a cultural construal of ethnographic work requires. The volume appeals to readers of 'pure' and 'applied' persuasions alike, and offers timely insight into ethnography as a vocation."
John F. Sherry, Jr
, University of Notre Dame

"In an increasingly vibrant arena of corporate anthropology - or the anthropology of corporations - this is the first volume that successfully closes the gap between practicing/applied anthropologists working as consultants, corporate employees, or within applied programs, and anthropologists working within university departments, who increasingly define their research in the same corporate domains. Each essay offers conceptual resources that will define terms for active collaborations among all ethnographers who enter this arena." George Marcus, University of California-Irvine

Keyword Index
Business anthropology.|Corporate culture.
Country of Publication
New York (State)
Number of Pages
viii, 253

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