When I am talking with lay individuals who have not studied anthropology, or even some who have, I am often asked what is business anthropology.  In case you have ever encountered the same question, here are two definitions which summarize business anthropology.

Global Business Anthropology Summit Definition

Business Anthropology is defined by the use of anthropological concepts and tools to solve practical problems in contemporary enterprises, including business, public entities, and civil society organizations.  As an academic specialty, it additionally interrogates the place of business in the larger society and surrounding institutions of government and civil society.  As Business Anthropology engages with these sectors not only to solve problems, but also to discover new opportunities and to develop new theoretical insights, it is perhaps the most rapidly growing branch of the discipline of anthropology today, as evidenced by employment growth and new publication venues.

Business Anthropology embraces concerns with product development, marketing and consumer behavior, organizational performance, international business, user experience (UX), design, innovative financial instruments, sustainability, and new forms of business in emerging economies. Several hundred applied anthropologists on all continents around the world are working in domains such as these. We propose to bring their experience and insights to the greater attention of academic anthropologists, with the goal to help inform the future of academic business anthropology programming.

Source: Wayne State Global Business Anthropology Summit

Wayne State University Definition

Business anthropology professors at Wayne State University define business anthropology as applying anthropological theories and practices to the needs of private sector organizations, especially industrial firms. Current research initiatives in the field tend to be concentrated in (1) marketing and consumer behavior, (2) organizational theory and culture, and (3) international business, especially international marketing, intercultural management, and intercultural communication. In short, business anthropology is a practice-oriented scholastic field in which anthropologists apply anthropological theories and methods to identify and solve real business problems in everyday life.

Source: SfAA Community Blog

Learn More About Business Anthropology

If you want to learn more about business anthropology, check out this post on Dr. Alexandra Mack who uses her business anthropology toolkit to lead innovative problem solving and strategy development based on a deep understanding of the surrounding culture and activities.

You may also want to check out this post on Dr. Natalie Hanson to learn how she has been working and researching at the intersection of business strategy, technology, social sciences, and design for nearly fifteen years.

If you wish to formally study business anthropology, there are some business anthropology master’s degrees offered in the United States.

Finally, make sure to check out the 2019 Global Business Anthropology Summit at Fordham University.