October 5th, 2013

Teaching Business Anthropology, pt. II

I never thought that teaching was a particularly easy job. Keeping people’s attention, making the discussion something that students can relate to, keeping their attention, getting students to participate… it can be stressful.

Teaching business anthropology doesn’t make this job any easier. A vast majority of my students are not anthropology majors. In fact, I don’t know that any of them are. The number of my students who had taken an anthropology course before is in the single digits. Most, if not all, of my students are in the class because it fulfills a degree requirement.

Anthropology revolves around humans: who they are, what they do, how they interact, the differences and similarities between them. Taking an anthropology class can help students understand why this is important. That is, if they see the benefit.

What I’m teaching, specifically, is the discussion section of a larger class. Each week, the students attend a two hour lecture where their professor discussing topics ranging from economics to inter-personal relationships to education to everything people do. They also attend a one hour discussion, hosted by yours truly. It’s my job to help them understand what’s being talked about in the lecture, what the professor is teaching them.

What does any of this have to do with business?


In a nutshell, learning about the different aspects of culture – including economics, relationships, education, etc. – can influence how a business deal, relationship, start-up, you name it, succeeds or fails. The more a person is able to be aware of and understand cultural differences, the more successful they will be in business – and in life. We’re not out to teach deep understanding of anthropological theory, we’re trying to teach how using anthropology can be a benefit to everyone. We’re trying to teach a way of looking at things, the anthropological point of view. Business is one of those places where it can have an amazing impact.

On many occasions I’ve tried to explain how I, as an anthropologist, use my training in my job. Sometimes I have trouble explaining this outright. It’s not like I can identify when I am and am not using anthropology. It’s a way of thinking about and viewing the world, a way of interacting with it. I use anthropology subconsciously. I am an anthropologist.

Some of the students are seeing this right away. Others are on their way. Some will and do understand it, but feel it’s not for them. What is most important for me is that they do understand it and that, maybe, they’ll look at the world from a different perspective when they leave this class.

In the meantime, I’ll keep teaching and trying to have an impact.

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