Consulting against Culture: A Politicized Approach to Segmentation

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Because market segmentations are a familiar managerial artifact, it is easy to overlook the assumptions teams make as they construct these representations. Segmentations have become entrenched within companies because they are useful in navigating the complexity of the real world, but this generalizing tendency can also lead to stasis and misguided decision-making. As ethnographers we encounter additional limits in how the language, categories, and beliefs embedded in a segmentation affect our work. Anthropological theory on culture and representation offers a means by which to further assess our engagement with these artifacts. Based on emerging practices in two case studies, this paper argues for a politicized approach to segmentation – a critical stance to how and why they take on power as they are circulated within organizations.

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