Accepted paper:

"Selling out" while "selling in": reflections from a marketer cum anthropologist on moving from the university to the corporation and back again

Author:

Cynthia Sear (University of Melbourne )

Paper short abstract:

Anthropological theories and methods are being increasingly used in corporate settings. In this paper, I will draw on my reflections working as a Marketer cum Anthropologist to detail both the tensions and possibilities that arise from moving from the University to the Corporation and back again.

Paper long abstract:

In recent years anthropology has become a buzz word in the business world. Top global companies such as Google and Intel have hired anthropologists for customer research and product design while marketing consultancies such as Red Associates and Flamingo have built their brands around anthropological theories and methods. As a marketer turned Anthropologist, I have been working with research firms in Australia to address this rising desire for anthropological insight and ethnographic methods, whilst also working on my PhD, lecturing and tutoring at the University of Melbourne. In this paper, I will detail the awkward but earnest ways in which ethnographic methods are appropriated for commercial use and the not always successful attempts to translate anthropological theories for use in consumer insight. In addition, I will share how I have incorporated my corporate experience into my teaching and the ways in which this has both endeared and alienated me amongst university staff and students. In so doing, I will reflexively address recurring criticisms of "corporate anthropology" that have come from within academia and that posit a vision for anthropology outside of and in opposition to the capitalist system. Moving between the university and corporation, I will propose, does indeed deserve critique, but also an open mind. While I may be accused of "selling out", I have found the process of "selling in" anthropology to both businesses and students, to be unexpectedly rewarding and hopeful. This movement of knowledge, I will detail, creates moments of tension and misunderstanding but also optimism.

panel P002
The mobility of applied anthropologists: in and out of fields and between jobs [Applied Anthropology Network]