MRK 3534 Economic Anthropology

Norwegian version

MRK 3534 Economic Anthropology

Responsible for the course
Steffen Johannessen, Gillian Warner-Søderholm

Department of Communication and Culture

According to study plan

ECTS Credits

Language of instruction
Norwegian and english


The course will offer anthropological and sociological perspectives for the understanding and analysis of culture within the context of international business. It will put focus on how social practices of trade, reciprocity, and consumption contribute to creating identity, meaning, social relations and traditions. Through the use of anthropological tools such as fieldwork, students will gain an insight into how values, norms and traditions in a society impact the way we communicate, trade and how we act as consumers.

Cultural and ethnic diversity have become part of people’s everyday experience in most countries. At the same time, communication between people all over the world is increasing and physical distance is becoming less important. A constantly changing business world, increasingly affected by growing global economies, is bringing about new social, cultural, economic, and political challenges. This demands a heightened sense of understanding anthropological issues of culture and what shapes identity in a global economy.

Geographically, the course will focus on qualitative research within Scandinavia and China. Through examples from these culturally diverse areas, the course will focus on topics such as power, nationalism, globalization, identity, and changing economic practices and understandings.

Learning outcome
Acquired knowledge
On completion of the course the students should:

  • Be familiar with anthropological understandings of culture
  • Be familiar with an anthropological understanding of identity
  • Be familiar with anthropological theories of economic exchange
  • Understand how we are affected by the region in which we live and how our cultural background influences our understanding of other groups and regions
  • Understand central anthropological terms, such as cultural relativism and ethnocentrism.
  • Be familiar with qualitative anthropological research methods
  • Understand business behavior and politics in modern China

Acquired skills
Be able to explain central concepts and theories within anthropology and sociology, and how they relate to the understanding and analysis of cultures and sub-cultures within a consumer context.

Develop awareness of and the ability to reflect upon ethical problems within an anthropological context. Acquire modesty, understanding and respect in the approach of other groups’ cultural ideas and practices.

No particular prerequisites.

Compulsory reading
Eriksen, Thomas Hylland. 2004. What is anthropology?. Pluto Press. 180
Lie, Merete, Ragnhild Lund og Gard Hopsdal Hansen, eds. 2008. Making it in China. Høyskoleforlaget. 255

Collection of articles:
Johannessen, Steffen F. (ed.). 2015. Collection of articles for understanding culture and economic anthropology. BI Norwegian Business School

Recommended reading

Course outline
  • Qualitative research methods and fieldwork
  • Anthropology and ethics
  • Cultural translation and context
  • Globalization
  • Trade and reciprocity
  • Media and visual culture
  • Tourism
  • Identity, ethnicity and nationalism
  • Consumption, shopping and meaning making
  • Introduction to Scandinavian and Chinese cultures

Computer-based tools
No specified computer-based tools are required.

Learning process and workload
The course is comprised of a combination of lectures, group work, and assignments.

During the semester students will work on a term paper. The term paper will be based on qualitative methods and students will conduct one short anthropological field-work. The term paper will be completed in groups of 3-5 students. The students must hand in a project proposal early in the semester and must also be prepared to present parts of their term paper in a plenary session or to the teacher during the course. The term paper will be given at semester start. Feedback and supervision will be given in plenary sessions and/or individually to the groups.

Additionally, students are expected to discuss the various course topics in discussion groups. The discussion groups may be the same as the term paper groups or they may vary.

The course will be taughet in English in Oslo.

Recommended use of hours:
Work on term paper
Self-study and discussion groups
Individual examination
Total recommended workload

    Term paper (10 - 15 pages) in groups of 3-5 students, which makes up 40 % of the grade.
    Four (4) hours individual written exam, which makes up 60 % of the grade.

    Both exams must be passed in order to receive a grade for the course, 7,5 ECTS credits.

    Examination code(s)
    MRK 35341 – Term paper, counts 40 % towards the grade in the course MRK 3534 Economic Anthropology, 7,5 ECTS credits.
    MRK 35342 – Written exam, counts 60 % towards the grade in the course MRK 3534 Economic Anthropology, 7,5 ECTS credits.

    Examination support materials
    Term paper: All examination support materials allowed.
    Written exam: No examination support materials allowed.

    Re-sit examination
    A re-sit examination is held every semester.
    In connection with a re-sit the project paper can be completed in groups with fewer participants or on an individual basis.

    Additional information