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Business Anthropology Matters! Initiative

Business Anthropology Matters! is an exciting initiative planned for the 2017 AAA Meetings. The organizing committee consists of Bob Morais, Timothy Malefyt, Elizabeth Briody, and Allen Batteau. Contact information: rmorais@wsm-inc.com; timothy.malefyt@gmail.com  elizabeth.briody@gmail.com; a.batteau@wayne.edu

We invite you to submit sessions or workshops for the AAA meeting under the Business Anthropology Matters! banner. Please review the information below and inform the organizing committee of plans to submit by the last week of March. Note that AAA submission deadline is 4/14/17. 

Background and Rationale

Business Anthropology is one of the latest chapters and perhaps a leading future direction for anthropology asserting itself on the global stage. Business anthropologists contribute to economic development globally, provide direction for better run organizations, and help companies improve their understanding of consumers, leading to product innovations and brand communications that are responsive to bona fide consumer needs and wants. In addition, business anthropologists work around the world with those in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. On an educational level, business anthropology scholars contribute to an understanding of culture and commerce. Business anthropology teaches students in anthropology departments and business schools about the culture of work, ethics, and exchange, including the values of and respect for actors on a global scale, advancing cross-cultural understanding. Finally, business anthropology is a path for professionals who want to have a career that expresses “what anthropology is and does” in an engaged space.

Scope and Events

The organizing committee is planning a wide-ranging series of events that reflect the 2017 AAA meeting theme Anthropology Matters! The Business Anthropology Matters! program will draw attention to business anthropology as a vital sub-discipline that comprises an engaged anthropology, offers significant career opportunities for anthropologists at all levels, and acts as a “voice” that loudly and effectively conveys the capabilities and potential of the field of anthropology. The agenda is comprehensive in scope, including a planned Executive Session, an Invited Session, other sessions, a large array of workshops and special events, and an online presence. The organizing committee intends for the initiative to continue in several venues long after the 2017 AAA meeting.

Key Program Objectives

  • Enlarge the discussion on the value of business anthropology intellectually and practically to a more expansive AAA audience, specifically bringing about a greater integration among students, academics, and practicing anthropologists
  • Situate business anthropology positively within an applied/engaged anthropology that aims for positive change and improving people’s lives
  • Demystify business anthropology among a large proportion of the AAA’s membership
  • Address ethical issues in the anthropology of business
  • Raise awareness of highly rewarding careers for anthropologists
  • Bring valuable ethnographic accounts of commerce in many societies and theoretical contributions from these accounts
  • Include voices of employers who hire anthropologists and attest to their value -- particularly through the Careers Expo (always held on Friday of the Meetings)
  • Encourage the AAA to look inward at its values and aims, and outward to the business world for intellectual stimulation, contributions to society, and employment opportunities
  • Help mainstream non-applied anthropology departments to become more receptive to teaching business anthropology
  • Lead to a strategic plan for not only improving the supply of business anthropologists but also work with the business world to increase demand 


Among the Business Anthropology Matters! workshops are:

  • Organizational Culture and Change:  Elizabeth Briody, Ken Erickson, Keith Kellersohn, and Jo Aiken
  • Design Anthropology:  Emilie Hitch and Tamara Hale
  • Consumer/Advertising Anthropology:  Maryann McCabe and Timothy Malefyt
  • Work Culture: Jan English-Lueck
  • Anthropological Entrepreneurship: Contradiction or Reality? Terry Redding

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