ritual

Performing Magical Capitalism

by BRIAN MOERAN (University of Hong Kong) and TIMOTHY DE WAAL MALEFYT (Fordham University) Systems of Magic at Work Today Central Bank capitalism, Islamic finance, World Economic Forum meetings, contracts, profit ⎼ these are not the themes that generally come to mind when we think about magic. In industrialized societies we tend to believe that we’ve “outgrown” it; in 1929 anthropologist E.B. Tyler called magic “one of the most pernicious delusions that ever vexed mankind” (11). In fact, it is alive and well in contemporary societies. Magic is at work in all sorts of modern practices from central banking to architecture, by way of economic forums, profit making, legal contracts, and various forms of cultural production such as advertising, architecture, luxury goods, fashion, fashion magazines, and science fiction. These magical practices form a system, or systems, of magic and are performed in various societies and contexts around the globe. As several authors will demonstrate in our special issue of Anthropology Today...

How to Create Value via Object Circulation in Gift-Systems

DAIANE SCARABOTO Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile BERNARDO FIGUEIREDO RMIT University Gift-systems build relationships and create various types of value for the individuals who participate in them. Organizations may also reap the benefits of gift-systems when they understand, support, and foster practices of object circulation within these systems. We adopt a theoretical framework based on anthropological approaches to value-in-action to explain value creation for individuals in contemporary gift systems. We mobilize ethnographic and netnographic data on the circulation of small wooden chapels containing a statue of the Virgin Mary among Catholic households to develop a conceptual framework that illuminates value creation in gift systems and demonstrates how practices of circulation (setting, protecting, registering, retrieving, keeping, passing on, monitoring, interacting, and storytelling) can be used to generate value for organizations....

i remember you NOW. i remember you HOW:

SARA JO JOHNSONSavannah College of Art and Design My mom’s recent death left behind a heartbroken daughter who could not fathom the huge vacancy in her life—amidst a societal expectation that one can rapidly move on. Instead of my grieving process tidily expiring shortly after the funeral, I was saturating myself in her: wearing her clothing, jewelry, boots, purses, scent; driving her car; and embarking on multiple related research projects. My actions seemed intuitive and natural, yet I felt overwhelmed in an autobiographical silo. I decided to explore what other people actually do and “why”. I developed a cultural probe—sending it through social media, receiving myriad responses that spanned generations, cultures, circumstances of death and time-elapsed since death. This study captures the rituals, activities, artifacts and interactions that people create to keep their loved one’s memory alive. These stories are especially poignant since no one is left untouched....

The Ritual of Lean

Three forms of cultural capital from Bordieu 1986
by JULIA KATHERINE HAINES There are many ways to view Lean. Lean is a business science. It is a product development method. And in many ways, it is a communication medium. In my research with startups, I’ve also heard Lean referred to as a religion. If Lean is a “religion” in the new startup era, I’d like to propose another way to view Lean in practice. In this piece, I will show how Lean as a practice within startups fits the mold of a ritual—and how impactful such rituals can be. But I also want to suggest how Lean as a ritualized, or routine, practice can be problematic. But first, a little background on Lean. On Lean I have been studying startups that are participating in accelerator programs globally. Through my experience and close examination of startups and innovation, I found an underlying thread that connects them—it is, invariably, Lean. Lean Startup helped spur a startup mania around the globe. It was the first model to really describe startup creation as a science. The concept of Lean traces its roots...

Business, Anthropology, and Magical Systems: The Case of Advertising

BRIAN MOERAN Magic is one of the oldest subjects of discussion and theorizing in anthropology. From time to time, anthropologists, as well as other scholars from other disciplines, have suggested that magic is not specific to “primitive” societies, but is alive and well in contemporary industrialised societies—witness advertising. Such discussions have been more general than specific. This paper applies Mauss’ theory of magic more precisely to particular examples of advertising—in particular, his distinction between magicians, magical rites, and magical representations. It also argues that advertising’s system of magic—encompassing related concepts of alchemy, animism, and enchantmen—is reflected in other business practices, which have developed their own parallel and interlocking systems of magic. Certain forms of capitalism, the—fashion, for example, or finance—may be analysed as a field of magical systems.  ...

Quotidian Ritual and Work-Life Balance: An Ethnography of Not Being There

, , and This paper reports on current interdisciplinary design research that explores values held by individuals in their performance of everyday or ‘quotidian’ rituals in family life. The work is focused on mobile workers who may be away from home and family for extended and/or regular periods of time. During the course of the…

Role of the Ephemeral in Recovery and Renewal

AKI ISHIDA Installed during the Tohoku earthquake relief fundraising event, CONCERT FOR JAPAN, at Japan Society in New York City on April 2011, the Luminous Washi Lanterns was a meditation and celebration of renewal through light and impermanent materials. The paper examines the role of the ephemeral from the ancient to contemporary Japanese culture, collective experience during an ephemeral performance, and translation of traditional Japanese renewal rituals into a piece that engages a diverse range of people outside of Japan. How can designers instigate a process of renewal following a disaster in manners that engage people of all ages and backgrounds in a collective healing experience?...

Designing the End

TONY SALVADOR and DEAN M. WHITNEY We consider implications for the active, intentional design of the endings of products, services, institutions and other structures and processes pervading our societies. We suggest psychological reluctance to some kinds of endings even in the context of broader social benefit. We propose direction for and encourage attention of this community to certain kinds of work designed to end some things while creating other things. We introduce the notion of “creative idiosyncratic ritualization for renewal” and propose that the EPIC community is uniquely situated to ask “strange” questions in the most “familiar” of ways to increase our collective general welfare....

Turn and Face the Strange: An Ethnographic Approach to Change Management

MADS HOLME The ability to lead organizational and cultural change has never been a more critical factor for success in business than today. With renewed urgency many executives ask what do with their company culture(s): “Why can’t we build organizations that are more innovative, inspiring, and more agile – and why do our change initiatives typically fail?” Based on project engagements where questions like these have been a focal point, this paper aims to shed light on the conditions and role of business anthropology to take active part in enhancing organizational change programs. Through concrete examples, it discusses central challenges on how we as ethnographers can strengthen our approach when navigating in change programs – not only in terms of how we decompose and diagnose culture (telling companies what they should not do) – but more importantly on how to play an active role in leading the way and tackling complexity through positive enablers of change....

The Martial Ethnographic Arts

SUZANNE L. THOMAS There is longevity to the ethnographic arts: a report referred back to over years, an image that captures a resiliently fresh insight. In crude words, ethnographic analysis has a longer shelf life than traditional market research. The latter requires tending to keep its categories replete with a fresh cast of characters. The former is distinguished by a methodological practice that keeps it fresh and truthful without the necessity of being, for the moment, a truth. There is a mastery of the ethnographic arts. For twenty years, I have practiced as an academic ethnographer, private sector consultant and now corporate practitioner. I now hire ethnographers. (I have become an armchair anthropologist.) To do so, I must discern what makes some ethnographic practitioners better than others. I compare along three practices: documentary finesse, journeying and discipline (the latter more yogic than Foucaultian). I hire for the longevity and truthfulness of their work....

Numbers May Speak Louder than Words, but Is Anyone Listening? The Rhythmscape and Sales Pipeline Management

MELISSA CEFKIN In this paper I explore the often fleeting, seemingly constrained acts of expression performed through participation in everyday, routinized actions and practices. The vehicle I use for this exploration is the tools, processes and practices sales professionals use to manage the list of possible sales opportunities, or sales pipeline. I give particular attention to the meetings in which sales professionals and their managers discuss the pipeline. The element of talk, with its potential for unruliness, plays a central role in this otherwise hyper-rationalized activity focused around numbers, accounting and calculability. I suggest that to understand such signification processes and the forms of meaning that emerge through them we must look beyond the content of enunciated statements to consider the forms they take over time. I propose that participation in the sales pipeline process, particularly the meetings, forms a part of sales-people’s rhythmscape of work. By situating sites of expression in the notion of a rhythmscape,...

Move Me: On Stories, Rituals, and Building Brand Communities

KATE SIECK This paper takes on the challenge of understanding behaviour change through the lens of anthropology. In the field of market research, the goal is to find the leverage points of emotional connection that will inspire a desired behaviour. But traditional approaches to research have relied on methods that neither capture these triggers of change, nor inspire connection. Alternatively, an approach to research based on rituals induces transformational experiences that by their very definition are grounded in emotional connection. This paper details a framework for ritual-based research, and provides case studies of how and when rituals might be used for gathering market insights. We conclude with recommendations for extending the approach into engagement opportunities and creative executions....

Consumer Fetish

ERIC ARNOULD and JULIEN CAYLA Commercial ethnography has become an important activity for accessing the lived experiences of consumers that are constructed as “others” that firms have to discover and manage. In organizational contexts where the necessity to accumulate organizational knowledge about markets have become paramount, the figure of the “consumer” has become a quasi-magical object bestowed with the aura of the real, a fetish that comes to stand for the market, and symbolizes the firm’s effective orientation towards the market. In this paper we demonstrate how the anthropological concept of the fetish may be usefully employed in understanding the nature of this process, whereby the voices and images of consumers are endowed with power within organizational contexts. Consumer fetish is at once a quasi object and a manifestation of analogical knowledge....

Design Rituals and Performative Ethnography

JOACHIM HALSE and BRENDON CLARK This paper proposes a course for ethnography in design that problematizes the implied authenticity of “people out there,” and rather favors a performative worldview where people, things and business opportunities are continuously and reciprocally in the making, and where anthropological analysis is only one competence among others relevant for understanding how this making unfolds. In contrast to perpetuating the “real people” discourse that often masks the analytic work of the anthropologist relegating the role of the ethnographer to that of data collector (Nafus and Anderson 2006), this paper advocates a performative ethnography that relocates the inescapable creative aspects of analysis from the anthropologist’s solitary working office into a collaborative project space. The authors have explored the use of video clips, descriptions and quotes detached from their “real” context, not to claim how it really is out there, but to subject them to a range of diverse competencies, each with...