Business and Organizational Anthropology Program

Business and Organizational Anthropology applies the theories and methods of the discipline to the problem-solving activity in organizations in both private and public sectors. Recent research efforts in business and organizational anthropology are concentrated in three broad areas: marketing and consumer behavior, organizational theory and culture, and global business (especially international marketing, intercultural management, and intercultural communication).

Wayne State University’s anthropology department is the oldest business and organizational anthropology program in the US and is the only institution offering both MA and Ph.D. degrees in anthropology with a specialization in business and organizational anthropology. With a rigorous training in anthropological theories and research methods, many of our graduates serve as analysts, researchers, and academics with strong analytical skills who can manage, evaluate, and interpret the large volume of data on human behavior. Detroit’s large industrial base and its revitalization movement with numerous innovative entrepreneurial activities as well as grassroots initiatives make WSU’s anthropology program an exciting place to explore and pursue an increasingly demanding field of expertise in the globalization era.

BOA Program Mission Statement

To prepare students for careers in business, industry, government, and public and private sectors with a focus on the cultural dimensions of complex organizations.
To provide students with strong theoretical, methodological and ethical foundations to tackle current issues in work practices, occupational communities, consumer behavior, and multinational      organizations in the global business context.
To prepare students to be able to explain human behavior in modern organizations and the industrial (large-scale production) domain with a dynamic, systemic, structural processural perspective.


Allen Batteau (Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1978)

Yuson Jung (Ph.D. Harvard, 2007)



Anthropology of Business

Anthropological Perspectives on Business: History and Theory

Technology and Culture

Shop 'Til You Drop: Consumer Culture and Society


Economy and Culture


Current Research Please see the Business and Organizational Anthropology Research Page.

Areas of Expertise

Technology and Culture


Transportation Safety

Business Sustainability

Design Anthropology

Globalization and Consumption

Food Industry

Corporate Social Responsibility

Global/International Business

Corporate Culture


Business Anthropology Careers

Organizational ethnography – understanding formal and informal structures and processes, resolving internal conflict, assessing policy or process effects, implementing programs

Marketing research – product design, social trends, intercultural marketing

Consumer behavior – responses to advertising, purchasing trends, product use

Business and organizational anthropologists work inside some of the leading manufacturing and service companies in the world, including:
  • Accenture
  • Ford Motor Company
  • General Motors
  • Hewlett Packard
  • Motorola
  • Nissan
  • Procter & Gamble
  • Xerox
  • Intel
  • IBM
  • Microsoft 
  • J. Walter Thompson

These firms have discovered that anthropology brings a unique understanding of human and cultural issues to their enterprises at home and abroad. Anthropologists help companies design products and organizational processes that incorporate an understanding of consumers, employees, and external communities. At the same time, anthropologists are discovering that the doors of business and industry open onto many exciting field sites and important research questions, and that the anthropological perspective can make a significant contribution to corporate social responsibility and ethics.

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