As an academic …
I am an anthropologist who studies workplaces and how people work (the Anthropology of Work), and the role of technologies (Science and Technology Studies) in that context. I have a special interest in how institutions respond to macro-economic, industry, and regional trends, and how the organizational response to those changes affects the lives of employees.
My dissertation focused on traditional management practices like Human Resources (HR), Finance, Marketing, and organizational restructuring. Those areas are still a focus of my writing today.
Late in my doctoral work, I was exposed to the work of Michel Foucault. His work was transformative for me, because at the time I had documented many of the ways that the corporate context was explicitly shaping the lives of employees – through HR practices, for example. But I lacked a theoretical framework to explain how employees were responding to those practices – the idea of power and resistance to that power seemed oversimplified.
I also felt that most of what I read about control in the workplace assumed employees were physically present (on a shop floor or in a call center, for example) where they could be monitored, and whose work was measurable in some way. At the time, little had been written about how remote workers (mostly knowledge workers) were being measured and managed. It became clear to be that self-management would play a critical role as corporations sought to control their increasingly mobile and remote workforce.
Foucault’s ideas about power opened up a whole new way of thinking for me, especially the idea of technologies of the self, which is the way that Foucault described the way that individuals internalized forms of power, thereby managing themselves.
… technologies of the self … permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immortality. 1988
Following my exposure to Foucault, I cam across a body of management literature called Critical Management Studies (check out the Resources page to read about it and download a bibliography). This body of literature uses the work of Foucault to explain the changes taking place in a wide variety of industries and business practices. Those two bodies of literature – the work of Foucault and the work of critical management theorists – continue to influence my research and writing interests today.
Prior to my Masters and PhD in Anthropology (which I earned in 2004), I earned a Masters degree in Whole Systems Design. Through those studies I had the opportunity to travel to mainland China in 1991. I also lived briefly in a weaving factory in Bali Indonesia, where I explored weaving practices as an expression of local religion and culture. You can see some of the photographs from those trips in the Photography area of this site.
I have taught several undergraduate anthropology courses at Temple, and guest lectured at a variety of colleges and universities, including:
- Cyborg Anthropology. Department of Anthropology, Temple University
- User Research Methods to Inform Product Design & Development. School of Engineering, University of Pennsylvania.
- Ethnographic Methods in Business Context. University of Dundee, Scotland. Conducted remotely.
- User Research Methods and Project Management. Systems Analysis and Design. Management Information Systems Program at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.
- Ethnographic Methods in Business Context. Applied Anthropology course at Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr PA.
Please contact me using the form at the bottom of this page if you’re interested in having me speak to one of your classes!