This academic year, I had the very great privilege of teaching a second year undergraduate module in business anthropology. The module is designed in such a way that it helps students to think both critically and practically about the role of anthropologists in business but also the ways in which an anthropology of business can provide an important interpretive lens on the contemporary consumerist world that we all inhabit.
Shaped thus, by the many complexities of our time, this module considers a range of topics from marketing, consumer culture, sustainability, organisational culture, precarity (through the lens of the shared and gig economy), entrepreneurship and the role of the anthropologist in design and tech worlds.
With a lively, thoroughly engaged class, we asked each other questions about the role of the anthropologist in industry settings thereby interrogating the ways in which the guiding ethics and principles from our discipline inform this kind of anthropological work. The module sits in conversation with other offerings on our anthropology degree programme which engage with the scholarly, public, policy, and creative work of anthropologists in very different kinds of settings.
In moving through this weave of scholarly and applied anthropological work in the context of a ‘business’ anthropology (or an anthropology of business), we moved to a deeper understanding of how increasingly valuable anthropology is in the sense-making and working through of a world shaped by neoliberal regimes.
Part of the assessment for this module came in the form of a series of four blog posts which students posted on an internal class blog-site and received regular feedback on, thus providing a method of ongoing engagement with topics that they found striking on a personal level.
This exercise proved to be an important pedagogical tool but also worked to nurture amongst the students a sense of how public anthropological writing is seen by many anthropologists as a moral responsibility.
This class, of course, like all others was interrupted by the pandemic, but we successfully moved online. Some of the very final blog posts took a new direction, written through concerns with how the pandemic was shaping consumer behaviour, work-place cultures, precarity, and business strategy anew.
Herein, we collectively present a small sample of these blogs from ANT2036. All of these writings keenly express the value of anthropological approaches in both a pre-Covid and Covid world.
Each contribution is framed with a brief introduction to the student-author and a comment on their views on anthropology.
Thank you for reading and thinking with us as a class.
Dr. Fiona Murphy
Over the first few weeks of the module, we attempted to interrogate what an ‘anthropology of business’ or ‘business anthropology’ was really about. Many members of the class conveyed some of the elements of these debates in their first blog posts. We open this collective blog with one such post by Jennifer Roets who grapples with the ethical complexities of being an anthropologist in industry. Our understandings of these ethical complexities were greatly enhanced by bringing in guest anthropology lecturers who work in business settings to describe their everyday working lives. In February, Dr. Robert Power, an anthropologist working for ALLIANZ came to speak to the class, what he had to say really resonated with the students, many of whom wrote blogs about the experience. Later in the semester when classes moved online Professor David Prendergast, a well know business anthropologist( formerly of INTEL) and now based in Maynooth University, kindly did his guest lecture online. Both Charles Finucane and Saoirse Gallen decided to write about how inspiring they found Dr. Robert Power’s lecture and the ways in which it helped them imagine their future careers as anthropologists.
Intro: Hi my name is Jennifer. I’m an undergraduate anthropology student. I enjoy reading, writing, and walking my dog. I love anthropology because of its diversity and because it fosters understanding by challenging you to look at the world from different points of view
Deal with the Devil by Jennifer Roets
As anthropology is increasingly utilised for profitable purposes, questions are raised regarding the ethics of business anthropology. In a chapter of Denny and Sunderland’s Handbook of Anthropology in Business titled “The Good Anthropologist”, Kathi Kitner describes a confrontation – just one of many similar encounters – in which she is accused of ‘selling out’ by working for Intel. The question to be tackled here is: in working for businesses, are anthropologists selling and signing away their souls?
This concern arises from a belief that in applying anthropology to business, the anthropologist may be overly motivated by profit and will come into conflict with the key ethical obligation to do no harm. In other words, data gained in research could be used to manipulate consumers into buying products and using services. Rather than working towards discovery and understanding, business anthropologists may exploit research participants in order to help companies turn a profit.
Assuming that business anthropology is harmful, whilst placing academic anthropology on a pedestal is a simplistic viewpoint. In reality, both business and academic research have the potential to be harmful or beneficial. While it is vital to keep ethical integrity in mind, the panic regarding the potential of business anthropology to cause harm is overblown. The belief that anthropology aids businesses in somehow manipulating consumers underestimates their agency.
Furthermore, if business anthropologists maintain ethical standards – such as ensuring they gain informed consent from research participants – the risk of causing harm is minimised.
Finally, anthropological methods and knowledge are not the only tools utilised by businesses. With or without the use of anthropology, new goods and services will be designed and marketed. Isn’t it better to make use of anthropology to ensure that these products will be truly useful? In this way, business anthropology can benefit the communities that businesses operate in.
Intro: My names Charlie Finucane, I’m 20 years old and I chose anthropology by accident after being cornered by a lecturer on Queen’s open day circa 2017 and thank god- as it was the best decision that I’ve ever made!! Anthropology in its simplest terms makes the world make sense to me, understanding how and why people do things is intriguing and once you understand the basics it is incredible what you begin to notice in the world around you.
“What’s Anthropology? You’ll never get a job with a degree in that!” by Charles Finucane
This is the question that I’ve been asked incessantly since I announced that anthropology was what I was putting down on my UCAS application form!
The relevance of the humanities has been debated for years. They seem to be constantly under threat, whether from politicians cutting funding, or universities trying to shut us down and whilst I’ve always believed we were relevant in the “modern business world”, it’s great to finally have a concrete example I can throw back to the doubters.
Dr. Power said his job was to “help resolve any issues deemed cultural problems” through the use of ethnography. Speaking with employees from both their Belfast and Dublin offices in order to get a better grasp of why things might be difficult-he then offers potential solutions.
Issues such as communication between different departments have been resolved by using a new structure not dissimilar to Durkheim’s society model, and the introduction of an informal weekly meeting called a ‘kaban’. All novel ideas for business emanating from anthropological premises.
He has also been examining the differences between selling insurance in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and why the existing approach wasn’t working. The quote, attributed to Shaw, that “England and America are two countries divided by a common language” probably has greater relevance when applied to the two states within the island of Ireland.
Bernard Marr, in a Forbes.Com piece two years ago, cited a Boston Consulting Group report that predicted by 2025, a quarter of professional jobs will have been replaced by smart software or robots and those most at risk of replacement come from the supposedly safe ‘respectable’ professions of Law, Accountancy, Financial and Health Analysis. When my local dairy farmer has replaced his milk hands in the parlour with robots, you realise that we are really entering into a ‘Brave New World’ and the key to succeeding is to understand it.
With this in mind, it is interesting to look at who else is employing anthropologists. According to ‘Business Insider’, Microsoft is the second largest employer of anthropologists in the world, second only to the US Government; also looking out for graduates in this field are Reds Associates, a consultancy company with over 70 staff with degrees in anthropology, sociology or philosophy, all working with companies such as Intel, Samsung, Carlsberg and Addidas to deliver a frictionless workplaces internationally, as well as a competitive edge when understanding consumers and marketplaces. This is a hiring trend replicated across many tech companies such as Google, not to mention traditional industries such as Ford Motors.
Wish I’d had these answers 3 years ago when I was filling in my UCAS forms!
Intro: My name is Saoirse Gallen and I’m from Belfast. I am a second year Anthropology student at QUB and really enjoy my anthropology programme. Anthropology is the study of humankind and culture and it has given me great insight into many cultures and beliefs around the world. I love my course as I’ve never had much experience with many of these places and anthropology allows me to learn about the differences in humans and why we all live as we do. I also love travel so anthropology is a great lens into seeing what life is like all around the world without having to physically be present.
The Role of a Business Anthropologist by Saoirse Gallen
‘Business Anthropologists’ have become highly sought after by employers within corporations and large companies. Indeed, many work to reform the ethos of the business in an ethical manner and help it run more smoothly or effectively.
On Monday last week, we received a lecture from the amazing Dr Robert Power, who is an anthropologist working in Allianz Insurance in Dublin. It was a superb lecture and really inspired me to think more deeply about the potential for anthropology in industry settings. Allianz sounds like an interesting place to do anthropological work and is an extremely successful business. The company made profits of over 100 billion euro last year, it is the 9th biggest company in Europe and one of the biggest general insurers in Ireland and the UK providing insurance through their brokers, alongside their partners.
Robert is based in Dublin but often travels around to different offices all over the world. His lecture mainly focused on his role and position within the company.
In an average day, Robert comes into work and speaks to as many people as he can to collect ethnographic data for internal usage. He then goes back and uses his notes to develop an ethnography and codes this material online. He has a lot of freedom in this role as he is able to ask any questions he likes and engages with many different levels of the organisation he works in. He works on dedicated projects thus giving him time and space to come back with a comprehensive analysis of the business and its operations from an anthropological perspective.
Dr. Power creates ideas and business models such as ‘small circles’, a form of symbolism and a concept he derived from Durkheim but which he constructed solely by himself! It was great to see how anthropology can breathe life in the cultural world of a given organisation.
Robert believes in supporting culture through inclusive meritocracy, by supporting shared values. Roberts’ creativity is indeed, powerful and I was particularly struck by the way he engages anthropology in his working space. The way he described his job and his love for what he does seemed to me to be akin to a dream working arrangement!
Thank you again Dr.Power for your inspiring lecture on the value of anthropology in real world settings!
Much of Dr. Robert Power’s lecture focused on the relationship of anthropological understandings of culture to organisational or business culture. The class learnt a great deal from his important reflections and we were able to apply some of these learnings to thinking through the role of anthropology in finance, particularly banking worlds and economic crisis. Aaron Archibald dedicated one of his blog posts to this important topic with a particular focus on the global economic crisis. Given what may be ahead as a result of the pandemic, Aaron’s reflections on the role of anthropology in understanding economic crisis and austerity carry much leverage.
Intro: Hi my name is Aaron. I am an anthropology undergrad student. I became interested in anthropology because after I left school (when I had no real interest in continuing education any further) but as someone who has always been interested in people, their behaviours and the human experience in general, anthropology seemed like the perfect way for me to explore these questions further. I am very happy with this decision.
Anthropology, Money & The World Economy by Aaron Archibald
“Money makes the world go round” as the old saying goes. But without people, the entire financial construction couldn’t exist. People devised the financial systems of which we are all subservient to today, and without people there is really no point.
Anthropology is the study of people, their rituals, systems and culture, but what is often overlooked is the biggest and most encompassing human system of all; the system of finance. “There is a lot of really, really excellent work on finance out there — in geography, political science, sociology — literature that contains insights and evidence from the worlds of finance and fiscality we would do well in anthropology to heed.”
Let’s take a look at the 2008 financial crisis for example. Often called ‘The Great Recession’, the world economy plummeted into chaos after years of over ambitious mortgage loans to people who simply couldn’t pay them back, through subprime mortgages. People rushed to blame lenders, immigrants and welfare recipients, but in reality, it was the system itself that was to blame.
Indeed, it is a pity that the world did not pay closer attention to anthropologists working on the financial system, if they had could the 2008 crash have been avoided? Perhaps, it could be argued. Indeed, anthropologist and editor of the Financial Times, Gillian Tett offered much in this regard. But what is most important is what anthropology can contribute to better human understanding of finance in order to best avoid another similar crisis in the future.
Finance has always been a very internal and self-regulating system, where common people on the outside have a very limited understanding of the machinations of the system (Hart & Ortiz 2008:1-3). Anthropologists have the ability, and arguably the duty to study these institutions on a human level and to inform the public about how they work, and indeed, for whom they work.
Anthropologists such as Keith Hart and Horacio Ortiz have spent time carrying our fieldwork within finance in order to gain a better understanding, but I would argue that more anthropologists need to concern themselves with finance. Maybe then the world will understand how valuable and necessary the discipline of anthropology really is !
History. 2017. Great recession. Internet document accessed 8.5.19 at https://www.history.com/topics/21st-century/recession.
Maurer, B. 2012. Finance. Internet document accessed 8.5.19 at https://culanth.org/fieldsights/series/finance
Hart, K. and Ortiz, H. 2008. Anthropology in the financial crisis in Anthropology Today, 24(6). pp.1-3.
This module includes a dedicated week on the issue of precarity. Positioned between discussions on what the sharing economy has come to mean and a discussion on new forms of work that have emerged through the gig economy, the class contemplated how precarity is reconfiguring everyday working lives. As an anthropologist, I believe there is an ethical imperative to teaching and learning about precarity, especially given the way it infuses the everyday life of our students, our colleagues and our friends and family. This is why it is a necessary feature of this particular module on business anthropology. Many of the students understood the importance (and urgency) of thinking anthropologically about precarity. Therefore, they decided to dedicate one of their blogs to the issue. Here Rachel Griffin articulates the need for us to think more about the degree to which this form of work has become so normalised.
Intro: My name is Rachel Griffin and I chose anthropology as a last minute gamble after struggling with another subject in my first year at Queen’s. It is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Anthropology allows me to pursue a long held love of writing while studying the complexity of human life, in both a critical and celebratory way.
The 0th Hour by Rachel Griffin
Precarious. Uncertain. Insecure. Such is the nature of much of the work available in today’s world. Most starkly in the UK, as depicted here, is the rise of the notorious Zero-Hour Contract. The ZHC appears across many sectors, and is definitive of the work available for low-level workers in many companies, including most UK cinema chains (including my own employer), Sports Direct and of course, the Golden Arches.
A zero-hour contract is defined, essentially, by “flexibility”. Your employer chooses when to give you shifts, and you choose when to take them. Getting the time off you need reads as a pretty sweet deal, particularly for students.
Yet, flexibility on a zero-hour contract is seldom reciprocated. Instead, it means accepting shifts cut half-way through, often taking your initial 15-hour week quickly down to 10, or even 5 hours. That’s less than £50 a week, since you’ll rarely get more than minimum wage on a ZHC.
Oh, and expect to give a “valid” reason for every day you’re not available (even though you won’t get more than two shifts a week anyway).
Yes, perhaps for students, getting work on evenings and weekends, while getting the occasional Saturday off when you need it is quite appealing. But it falls apart quickly when your time and effort are undervalued and your income becomes contingent upon your boss’s personal opinion of you.
Some of my workmates, and many others across the UK, don’t have parents or student loans to fall back on. As Ken Loach harrowingly depicted in Sorry We Missed You, some even have families to feed.
It’s about time a change was made, and perhaps a more realised anthropology of these businesses can contribute!
Anthropologists have become very sought after in design and technology sectors. The final part of this module is dedicated to thinking about the role of the anthropologist working in these very diverse spaces, in particular with respect to the part they play in translating values and beliefs into design and technology concepts. This act of translation is of course undergirded by the ideals of collaboration and decolonisation. Adam Farhan Bin Salmaan Hussain took the opportunity to speak about the role of decolonisation in a design anthropology project in one of his blogs.
Intro: I’m Adam and I’m a second year anthropology student from Malaysia with an interest in Indigenous rights. Anthropology is a discipline which offers a unique perspective of understanding the structures and processes present in any society, and is applicable to a wide range of different contexts, which makes anthropology a useful tool in my academic and extracurricular activities.
Decolonisation Through Data by Adam Farhan Bin Salmaan Hussain
As a discipline, anthropology has its roots in the practices and missions of colonial actors. The narrative of wealthy anthropologists from prestigious western universities undertaking fieldwork in “primitive” societies and then using this data to take power of the lives of these societies is one that will forever tarnish the image of the discipline.
It is within this context that Bryce Peake, a media anthropologist, designed Tinn, an app for people with tinnitus that is designed to track, quantify and visualise the everyday factors that cause flare-ups in their condition. Tinn, through its application in communities of colour in Oregon, was implemented specifically for use by those who experience inequality due to gender, race and access, and was meant to decolonise data tracking.
Bryce sought to practice decolonisation by approaching the research project from an ethical perspective. Therefore, the Tinn app allowed the database to erase the data of the researcher, thereby placing an emphasis on those being studied rather than the researcher, and users could delete all their data at will, with the intended result of empowering the users.
Tinn was successful as an ethnographic device. It served to engage the participants in a context where long periods of participant-observation fieldwork was not possible, and through its design it attracted much engagement from participants.
As an ethnographic method, Tinn is an example of how digital developments can increase the depth of data collection with the consent of the participant and without the presence of the researcher.
However, as evidenced in the concerns of the participants as above, it is difficult to make the claim that this research design was successful in its decolonisation goals.
Regardless of its success in engaging participants, this research project was just another example of a privileged individual gathering data from the less privileged within a context that stretches beyond the concerns of just that community. As acknowledged by Bryce, he only served to mitigate structural violence rather than replace it. Despite not serving the full force of decolonisation, an acknowledgement of violent histories and a research design of this type is a step in the right direction on the path towards decolonising a discipline borne out of colonisation.
As our module moved online because of the pandemic and all of our lives changed dramatically, a number of the students decided to apply their learnings and interests to what was unfolding before their eyes. Their blogs show the importance of anthropology in understanding how our social and cultural worlds are being reshaped by the pandemic. Such insights will no doubt be even more important into the future given the many ways in which the pandemic has altered how we live in our homes, how we work, how we shop, the ways in which children are educated or play and the modes in which we relate and connect to one another in a world of physical distancing.
In this section, we begin with Hannah Murphy who situates the wearing of facemasks into a broader conceptualisation of solidarity and collective responsibility. Hannah hopes that anthropology will further open our understandings in a post-covid world. Next, we hear from Lucy McMullan who describes how working cultures have been radically altered by the pandemic. Lucy hopes for the end of corporate culture as we know it. Annie Fry reflects on the impact of the pandemic on the economy and the role of social distancing in diminishing our everyday lives within this. Annie reminds us to hug our friends and family when this is all over, to seize the day and our lives. Finally, we hear from Nathalie de Leeuw who describes the ways in which consumer behaviour has been foregrounded through panic-buying and stockpiling, Natalie hopes for more awareness of sustainable consumption post-covid.
Intro: I’m Hannah Murphy. I have studied language and linguistics for quite some time and over the past two years, I’ve found that studying anthropology alongside these has greatly enhanced my understanding of the ‘other’- both within and outside of my own society and culture. The ability to use an anthropological perspective can completely alter previously-held beliefs and opinions, and I think that’s why I have enjoyed studying anthropology so much- it has challenged me to acknowledge the systems behind my thought processes and step outside of them.
Face masks: Protection, representation and solidarity by Hannah Murphy
For this blog, I decided to focus on an issue which has rapidly started to affect all our lives: COVID-19. The unprecedented virus has spread at an immense rate across the world and has really put into question our daily practices and rituals. We are now living in a situation which is new and uncertain.
The situation surrounding coronavirus is constantly changing and evolving and with this, social attitudes are adapting, and new social phenomena are emerging. The phenomenon of “Mask culture” is something which is particularly striking in all of this and the significations that it carries with it.
Face masks have been an important aspect of Asian culture since the beginning of the 20th century, but unfortunately in the Western world their use has been negatively stigmatised and seen as visual representation of ‘otherness’- at least until very recently. When looking at the historical context behind the use of face masks in China, it is apparent that their use is not solely medical, but also an indicator of “medical modernity” and citizen cooperation in helping society to remain afloat during epidemics.
Perhaps, as the purchase of face masks rises globally, COVID-19 has formed a global link between cultures, allowing them to overlap. It appears that once we look beyond the assumption that the purchase of masks is a form of unnecessary panic-buying and materialism (at least in Western societies), we can see how the masks are now being used as a universal form of communication, symbolising solidarity. There is a sense of calm and togetherness that comes from being able to see a visual representation of people taking precautions to combat coronavirus.
Living in the knowledge that everyone is performing the same rituals and practices every day creates some solace amongst the fear and uncertainty. I hope that out of this small act of global understanding comes a better understanding and acceptance of the ‘Other’ in Western societies.
Intro: I’m Lucy McMullan. I enjoy reading, rollerskating, fashion and video games! I enrolled in a degree in Anthropology as I was always that ‘but why? Why? WHY?’ child, hellbent on gaining a deep understanding of the world. That drive to understand and explore the world really stuck and now I am a ‘but why?’ adult, thoroughly enjoying the in depth anthropological examinations of various cultures and social phenomena.
Covid-19 Killed Corporate Culture by Lucy McMullan
The Coronavirus pandemic has barely even begun and has already shaken the globe in an unprecedented way. With the world around us changing daily, it is naïve to think that COVID-19 won’t have a long-lasting effect on our everyday lives. Already we see a huge spike in streaming services, food delivery services and online shopping as virtual consumption changes from a matter of convenience to a government advised safety precaution.
But what does the Covid-19 crisis mean for how we conduct business? Already there are people criticizing the corporate culture they adhered to just weeks ago before armies of employees were advised to work from home in the name of social distancing.
This statement is one of the most widely reported criticisms from office workers as they lightly poke fun at their workplace’s wastefulness and poor time management. However, more serious criticisms of the corporate system have been made in the same vein as this passive comment.
From my own experience as a university student, in the last few days, I have been attending online video lectures from remote areas, joining group video chats to discuss work, emailing rather than meeting with my supervisor and have found virtual teaching more convenient than my regular pre-pandemic education. This is not to diminish the struggles that come with our swift move to virtual learning, as many students are struggling to gain access to laptops, books and a decent internet connection from home.
What I want to focus on is the relative ease that the universities and wider corporate world moved from office based employment to remote employment, and the fact that full time telecommuting was seemingly viable this entire time and just wasn’t being utilized due to the apparent lack of need for it. However, several students and employees have been outraged at this sudden jump into the 21st century while their disabilities and changing circumstances in the past have excluded them from university and work in which telecommuting or virtual participation was never an option.
The Covid-19 outbreak has brought to light some of the flawed ways in which we visualize work, productivity and the corporate community. The harsh truth is that most digitally based companies do not need employers to work in an office space 5 days a week in order to be a productive team player. Telecommuting should always be an option in order to accommodate disabled, ill or immobilized employees.
Companies do not need to spend thousands of pounds flying colleagues to meet with international buyers or associates, a phone call or skype meeting is sufficient and will save money, time and carbon emissions. The Coronavirus has been detrimental to so many lives and businesses, but at least when we come out the other side of it perhaps the outdated, wasteful and ableist corporate culture we once knew will be forced to raise its standards and become a more inclusive and sustainable system that benefits everyone.
Intro: My name is Annie Fry, I’m in my second year studying Anthropology. I’ve just come back from a semester abroad in Canada which has really enhanced my love and interest in the subject. I love learning about people, their cultures, and why people do things, as well as the business side of anthropology.
Impacts of COVID-19 by Annie Fry
COVID-19 is a completely new territory which has seeped through our society, leaving people around the world worried about the health of their families, loss of freedom and a worry to whether they can buy for their basic needs.
The challenge was to delay and stop the spread of the contagious virus at the beginning of the outbreak, but some anthropologists argue that the early warning in December about the new virus were not promptly paid attention to resulting in this now, global pandemic. Not only this, but it has led to an enormous economic and social disruption, which has been described in close relation to the 2008/9 financial crisis, with millions losing their jobs or being furloughed until further notice.
The pandemic has shown the world how unstable our food supply chain can be, with our dependence on imported food being exposed and panic buying becoming a serious issue around the UK and £1billion extra being spent on food in the first three weeks of March. It has left shelves empty, with the basic necessities unavailable to buy, causing immense worry for those who are most vulnerable, the elderly and especially the key workers who are not able to buy their food after long shifts on the front line.
Further, the term ‘social distancing’ has recently emerged in the global imagination and global vocabulary through public discourse. It is broadly used to refer to the practice of avoiding physical contact with other people in order to minimise the risk of transmitting the contagious disease, and has been associated with the ‘2m apart’ in social spaces (Presterudstuen, 2020). Anthropologists have provided a lot of important commentary on this in recent months.
Although dividing the nation geographically, it has brought us together in new forms of community and sought a new sense of social responsibility to which we want our loved ones to be safe.
Finally, although current situation is tough and everyone is waiting for lockdown to end, there are some silver linings which are as a result of this global pandemic. Climate change. Air and water pollution are down as much as 30% around the world, leaving waters in Venice becoming more transparent and less contaminated, the air pollution over the main cities around the world clearer, and wildlife venturing out and re-emerging. Believe it or not, this lockdown is doing the world some good.
Concluding this brief blog on the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 is difficult as there is a lot left to be said. The future is uncertain and life will not go back to the way it has been for a while, businesses will have to use alternative ways to speak to clients and few consumers will be able to go back to their old behaviour anytime soon.
Lastly, take nothing for granted. When the world begins to open up again, hug your friends and families a little tighter, and appreciate shopping and eating out where and when you want, as well as the freedom of movement and socialising without distance.
Intro: Hi my name is Nathalie and I am half Dutch half English. During high school I was always really interested in human Geography and Business, but also the human side of business not the mathematical side. Anthropology as a course seemed to be a kind of a synthesis of the two, which is why I decided to study it. So far I have really enjoyed the course, especially the Business anthropology module I took this past semester. I am working towards becoming a Business Anthropologist and plan to do a masters in either Human Resource Management or Marketing when I have finished my undergrad. As you can tell from my blog I am very interested in fashion and am currently writing my dissertation on how Nike as an iconic brand cultivates and sustains brand loyalty. I would love to someday work in the business side of a fashion company or magazine. I have found that studying Anthropology opens you up to a lot of opportunities and provides you with the flexibility to specialise in other areas like I am planning to do, as well.
Consumer Behaviour and Panic Buying in Response to Covid 19 by Nathalie de Leeuw
Recently, I have been doing a lot of research on consumer behaviour for my dissertation. With everything that is currently going on it is very relevant and interesting to look at that in the context of the current coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic will have a profound impact on consumer behaviour as people have to change every aspect of their life causing lots of disruption. At the start of the pandemic there was a huge issue with consumers panic buying and stockpiling essential items, with supermarkets being stripped bare of product.
This has put immense pressure on production and the supply chain. People in the UK were queuing for hours to get into a supermarket as seen in figure 3, and this was something that hasn’t happened since the war.
It can be said that consumer behaviour in response to COVID 19 varies based on wealth. It is important to note that panic-buying and stockpiling is only possible for people who have the money to buy products in bulk and have a surplus. It is a luxury to be able to buy enough for over a month as some consumers can only afford to buy what they need on a day to day basis. This is especially prevalent as due to the pandemic many people have lost their jobs or have been furloughed and with that reduced income people won’t be able to buy as much.
As a result, there is a focus on buying basic essential goods like food and not goods like clothing or luxury goods like cars for example. This could incentivise people to reuse, repair or upcycle things and could potentially be a challenge to fast fashion with many retailers having to close down shops. It will be interesting to see how large MNCs react to this and the subsequent impact on fast fashion. Anthropologists will surely have much to contribute regarding the reshaping of our consumption driven world post-Covid.