”Don’t mention you’re an anthropologist”
Ten years ago I founded my company Inculture, enthusiastic but still in doubt about the possibility to make a living as an anthropologist outside academia – especially without compromising anthropological theory and method and thus enter into ordinary market research, even if disguised! A professor in anthropology told me, I had better not to mention that I was an anthropologist: ”it will most likely be easier for you to thrive in business by labeling your work as expertise in media and consumer studies”. When asking why, I learned that ”out there”, meaning the world outside academia, the notion of culture is poorly defined and thus regarded as fuzzy: ”they want facts and figures”.
The advice made me defiant: would the notion of anthropology, my choice of priority subject area, really be more repelling than inviting “out there”? Consequently, instead of being deterred, I became more determined to emphasis the fact that I am a cultural anthropologist and that the company Inculture is an anthropological consultancy firm, which would always pursue anthropological skill and expertise and defend the importance of these, regardless of client or project.
What is business anthropology anyway? It is not more complicated than: anthropology, both as a theory and as a method, offers a holistic understanding of human action in a society increasingly dominated by marketing and branding, or as the anthropologist Ulf Hannerz so sharply has described it: ”I see anthropology as a study of all human life in which business these days plays a very a central role.”