Accepted Paper:

A double play: 'translating' between the discursive practices of anthropology and Chinese media corporation  


Makiko Taniguchi (PARC)

Paper short abstract:

This is an ethnographic account of an anthropologist, who turns into a consultant working for the media research company in China. The paper examines the problem of a double play in terms of ‘translating’ between the discursive practices of anthropology and Chinese media corporation, and discusses the role of anthropologist in modern institutions.

Paper long abstract:

Increasingly, anthropologists are being engaged in consultancy for corporate concerns. This raises important questions regarding the appropriation and disciplining of anthropological knowledge and expertise. What kinds of roles are anthropologists expected to play? What critical insights can we bring to the corporate world as anthropologists?

These questions arose out of my experience as a consultant for China's biggest media research company between 2002 and 2003. I was, at that time, also writing up my PhD thesis. There, I had double roles to play. As an anthropologist conducting research, I was interested in presenting a more complex view of Chinese media and so-called 'audience' beyond state or commercial discourse. Yet, as an 'expert', it was my job to take part in the commercial discourse to create the 'audience' and find ways to extract exchange values out of them. There were also the interests of the state and local academics to contend with, not to mention the contradictory pulls between being a participant observer trying not to interfere with what was going on, and being the consultant actively shaping the situation.

The question is, then, how could I remain true to my project and training as an anthropologist, while serving the interests of my employer who was ultimately the super addressee of the 'expert'? This paper discusses the efficacy and relevance of anthropologist working in the corporate world as an anthropologist, trying to make our ethnographic accounts more accessible and 'useful' for the people in modern institutions.

Panel W081
Modern institutions in a 'cross-cultural' perspective - ethnographies of adaptation and code-switching