Organizational Anthropology

Course content

One of the key components of anthropology is analyzing ways of organizing society. Organizations of various kinds, such as transnational corporations, international institutions, states, as well as local and global NGOS play a vital role in shaping people’s lives and communities around the world. This course focuses on anthropological perspectives on organizations in their various forms. The aim is to investigate concepts of organizations from anthropological perspectives to understand: how these organizational forms are manifest in different social, cultural and historical contexts; how they are (or are not) connected via material, social, and cultural patterns and flows; and the impact of globalization on their missions, strategies and practices. We will begin with a historical overview of the role of anthropologists in studying organizations, including business in the early 20thCentury; we also pay attention to their counterparts in sociology and management in studying organizations. We will then review both applied and academic research on organizations throughout the 20th century; we will focus on the ways increasing numbers of anthropologists were hired by transnational corporations, NGOS, the state, and international institutions.

We will conclude by reviewing contemporary ethnographic works on organizations in subfields within the discipline including: the anthropology of business and organizations, particularly in Europe including Denmark, and the US; the anthropology of global governance; the anthropology of finance; and the emerging field of the anthropology of global foresight. Particular issues to be address include: the anthropology of vs for business; and the business case for gender equality; applying theory to business and organizational practice.

Learning outcome

After having passed the course satisfactory the student should:


  • Be able to given an account of central anthropological concepts for organizations.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of a selected ethnographic field relevant to the class subject matter.



  • Be able to plan and engage in an ethnographic inquiry into an organization based on central concepts and themes presented throughout the course.



  • Be able to independently initiate and carry out anthropological work on organizations in both applied and academic settings.
  • Be able to apply anthropological theory and methods to the study of organizations.

A combination of lectures and seminars, plus possible excursion and supervised exercises

BSc students: 500 pages obligatory literature.

MSc students: 500 pages obligatory literature + 200 pages of literature chosen by students. Literature chosen by students must be relevant to the course’s subject matter.

Course literature will be available via Absalon

The course also serves as a part of the specialised track in Business and Organisational Anthropology.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Length: The portfolio exam can be taken individually or in groups of maximum four students. The portfolio exam consists of 3-7 submissions. The number of submissions is set by the lecturer. The total length of all of the submissions must not exceed 30,000 keystrokes for a single student. For groups of two students the maximum is 40,000 keystrokes. For groups of three students the maximum is 45,000 keystrokes and for groups of four students the maximum is 50,000 keystrokes.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

See description of learning outcome.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 42
  • Preparation
  • 81
  • Exam
  • 84
  • English
  • 207