A key focus of the cultural anthropology faculty is the study of complex organizations, their institutional logics, and their shaping of everyday experience. The program thus breaks definitively with the regionalist or area studies emphasis in our discipline’s past. It also moves beyond the conventional categories of kinship, mythology, religion, politics, “social change,” etc. Faculty conduct groundbreaking research on such complex organizations as corporations, non-governmental organizations, technology, and the state, among others.
Graduate students are drawn to our program to study how institutional logics circulate in transnational space. These logics are distinctively modern and are cast in rational or technical terms. But they do not erase local knowledge or customary practice, hence ethnographic research remains crucial to graduate training and our students develop, under faculty guidance, innovative methodological strategies specific to their research projects.
Undergraduate students have opportunities to conduct ethnographic research with faculty mentors through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), the Honors Program, and Global Studies, as well as through independent studies. Faculty mentorship of student research thematically integrates the study of local and transnational complex organizations and institutions as they relate to culture and globalization.
The complex organizations studied by faculty concern diverse fields:
- Health care (Applbaum, Brodwin)
- Globalization and development (Bornstein, Heatherington)
- State-level politics (Applbaum, Bornstein, Brodwin, Heatherington, Jordt, Perley)
- Humanitarian assistance (Bornstein, Jordt)
- Food Systems (Applbaum, Heatherington, Jordt)
- Cyber-technology (Malaby, Jordt)
- Corporations (Applbaum, Malaby)
- Biodiversity conservation and sustainability (Heatherington, Wood)
- Education (Perley)
These topics cut across social boundaries (of community, nation, and region) and exert their effects at different scales of social life. The cultural anthropology program thus accommodates students planning international as well as local research that reflects the increasingly multi-sited dimensions of social processes.
Sociocultural faculty are also affiliated with the following programs and centers on the UWM campus: