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Corporate Lives: New Perspectives on the Social Life of the Corporate Form

WGF Int'l Symp. No. 140 Group Photo
Seated: L. Aiello, C. Coumans, G. Vargas-Cetina, S. Merry, M. Welker, D. Partridge, R. Hardin Standing: J. Brooks, L. Obbink, M. Woodard, T. Mokgatlha, R. Monks, J. Conley, K. Gullo, J. Cattelino, S. Cook, S. Bohlin, J. Lynch, B. Burda, J. Guyer, D. Wood Not Pictured: S. L. Jain


August 21-27, 2008
Held in collaboration with the School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, New Mexico

PUBLICATION: Corporate LIves: New Prespectives on the Social Life of the Corporate Form. Guest Edited by Damani J. Partridge (University of Michigan), Marina Welker (Cornell), and Rebecca Hardin (University of Michigan). Current Anthropology, Volume 52, Supplement 3, April 2011.

Corporate Lives Issue of Current AnthropologyPARTICIPANTS:

Leslie C. Aiello (Wenner-Gren Foundation, USA)
Steven J. Bohlin (School for Advanced Research, USA)
James F. Brooks (School for Advanced Research, USA)
Bená Burda (Maggie’s Organics/Clean Clothes, Inc., USA)
Jessica R. Cattelino (U. California-Los Angeles, USA)
John Conley (U. North Carolina, USA)
Susan E. Cook (Office of the King, Royal Bafokeng Nation, South Africa)
Catherine Coumans (Mining Watch Canada)
Krista Gullo (U. Michigan, USA)
Jane Guyer (Johns Hopkins U., USA)
Rebecca D. Hardin, organizer (U. Michigan, USA)
Sarah Lochlann Jain (Stanford U., USA)
Jane Lynch, monitor (U. Michigan, USA))
Sally Engle Merry (New York U., USA)
Thabo Mokgatlha (Office of the King, Royal Bafokeng Nation, South Africa)
Robert A. G. Monks (Lens Governance Advisors, USA)
Damani Partridge, organizer (U. Michigan, USA)
Gabriela Vargas-Cetina (U. Autónoma Yucatan, Mexico)
Marina Welker, organizer (Cornell U., USA)
David Carrico Wood (Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, USA)
Michael Woodard (Jubilee House Community, Nicaragua)

Final Report

This symposium emerged from our interests in how corporations are increasingly taking on roles typically associated with nation-states, shaping governance, and managing daily life. Thanks to the support of a pioneering collaboration between the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the School for Advanced Research, we brought together anthropologists and corporate practitioners from a wide range of institutions and career paths both within and beyond the academy, including corporate leaders, financial planers, shareholder activists, environmental and labor advocates, and NGO consultants. Over six days of intense discussion and informal debate, it became clear that older concepts, such as public sphere, private sector, or state and civil society, are inadequate to understand the nexus of NGO, corporate, nation-state, and community connections that are progressively shaping contemporary lives.

As we convened, the ramifications of real estate and financial market slides were increasingly appearing in media narratives of crisis that ranged from apocalyptic imaginings of global meltdown to intimate personal tales of the hardships and agonizing decisions that come with job loss and evaporating retirement savings. As organizers, we felt that expanding our contributions to social studies of corporations was a relevant and urgent task. We were interested in developing an intellectual toolkit that not only attended to these shifts related to global financial markets and corporate formations, but also to our personal and bodily i