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Chapter 8 Anthropological Research Methods in Business Administration: Migration and Translation Within the Social Sciences

Yoshiyuki Takeuchi

Abstract In this chapter, I consider the advantages and reasons for employing anthropological methods within business administration studies. I examine the rationale for using anthropological methods not only for targeted issues but also from social science methodological perspectives. I begin by briefly examining the purposes for which anthropological methods have been employed in previous studies on business. I then demonstrate a progression in the use of anthropological methods for studying globalization issues. Regarding methodological perspectives, I discuss two issues. The first concerns problems related to the use of a (social) science outside of its birthplace or its original context. Questioning the universality of science, I discuss the translation and transposition of science using migration as a metaphor. The second issue concerns the social constructionism perspective that considers science as a social construct. This implies contingency and emphasizes a process-as-construction approach. I suggest that these features of social constructionism are applicable to business studies. Using an illustrative example from the use of numbers, I conclude that science and scientific observation are neither always value neutral nor are they culturally neutral. Anthropological methods are evidently valuable for recovering the context that is stripped away and unavailable for scientific observation.

8.1 Introduction

As we have shown in the preface of this book, anthropological methods have been employed for studies on business administration. An example of early studies on business administration involving anthropological methods can be traced to the 1930s. This series of studies was known as the Hawthorne Experiments (1927–1932). In 1931, an anthropologist, W. Lloyd Warner, was recruited by Elton

Mayo, a psychiatrist, to join the Hawthorne team. One of Warner's contributions at Hawthorne is exploring activities of informal groups by the participant observation method. Subsequently, the Harvard research group, headed by Mayo and Fritz

J. Roethlisberger, and the Chicago group, which included Warner,

[1] contributed to the creation of the human relations school within business organization studies. [2] Although the human relations school has evidenced a decline since this time, anthropological methods have gained a certain foothold within business studies.

In this chapter, I examine the advantages and reasons for employing anthropological methods in business administration studies, not only for targeted issues but also from social science methodological perspectives. In the next section, I will briefly examine the purposes for which anthropological methods have been employed in previous studies on business. In the third section, I will demonstrate the advantage of using anthropological methods for studying globalization issues in relation to business. Methodological perspectives and problems associated with the use of a (social) science outside of its birthplace or its disciplinary context are discussed in the fourth section, followed by a discussion on the perspective that science is socially constructed. Last, I offer concluding remarks in the final section of this chapter.

  • [1] When Warner joined the experiments, he was an instructor at Harvard University. Later, he was appointed professor of anthropology and sociology at the University of Chicago (1935–1959) (Browman and Williams 2013, pp. 444–445).
  • [2] Wren (1987), pp. 241, 279.
 
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