On the borders of corporations

Adam Drazin (University College London)
Pauline Garvey (National University of Ireland)
Start time:
12 July, 2012 at 11:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Powerful and opaque corporate boundaries now constitute many aspects of everyday life, identity, biography, and the material world. We interrogate the anthropological encounter with these patrolled but slippery boundaries, and their implications for anthropological knowledge.

Long abstract:

In market economies the idea of the corporation constitutes one of the primary manifestations of certainty in contemporary life. At the same time they are one of the most opaque, evasive and resistant objects for anthropologists to study. Considered in terms of brands, products, designs, finances, or expertise, the boundaries of corporations appear as fixed, enduring and stable, whose distributed productions are actively monitored. Anthropologists working from within by contrast are aware that the 'web of relations' (Cassells 1993: 28) spun by corporations are frequently ambiguous and have material manifestations that create unintended hybrids. Anthropologists often need to negotiate the compartmentalisation of knowledge, experiences, skills and intellectual property on entering or exiting their thresholds. We propose to explore how and where opaque corporate boundaries are constituted. We invite contributions that are either ethnographic accounts by anthropologists who engage with companies, or those who are interested in following merchandise that either fixes or destabilises the corporate boundary. Possible topics include: • Organisational boundaries as a resource or hindrance for anthropological analysis and interpretation. • The implications of entering and exiting corporations. • Notions of keeping, bringing, and giving while traversing boundaries. • The materialisation of corporate boundaries in objects, and the role of merchandise in creating new categories, hybrid social forms or practices.