IHRM Webinar Series: Ethnography in International Business: Theorizing from Fieldwork to Theory in Complex Cultural Contexts

This webinar series is a partnership between 5 academic institutions – showcasing experts bringing IHRM research & practice together

About this event

This webinar is for anyone interested in using ethnography either alone or together with other research methods to build theory on the effects of culture in today’s global and multicultural business contexts. Understanding how culture affects international human resource issues such as global teaming, communication across cultures, language management, work culture integration, strategic talent management, and a multitude of other organizational processes is critical to IB scholarship and practice. Yet, armed with only superficial measures of national cultural differences proliferated by easy-to-use, statistically testable, cultural dimensions offered by aggregate values-based models of culture (e.g., Hofstede, Schwartz, and The Globe study) IB scholars find themselves stereotype rich and operationally poor where culture meets IB context. Such quantitative data give few insights into the challenge of understanding the complex cultural phenomena. The term “culture” is often used synonymously with national culture in the field of IB, yet it is in fact a multi-faceted and complex construct involving the coming together of various spheres of culture including national, regional, institutional, organizational, functional, etc. enacted by individuals on an ongoing basis.

Research settings in international business are therefore rife with multilevel cultural interactions due to diverging cultural assumptions brought together in real time by the merging (often virtually) of individuals (often multicultural themselves) across distance and differentiated contexts. Consequently, traditional positivist approaches to understanding culture fall short of adequately capturing the complexity of cultural phenomena in international organizations. Ethnography with its two essential elements—fieldwork, including its central methodological building block of participant observation, and its focus on culture—is the most effective method for gaining insights into such microlevel embedded cultural phenomena. Drawing from work-in-progress on her new book on ethnography in international business (forthcoming from Cambridge University Press), Professor Brannen will address three distinct analytical modes of ethnographic inquiry relative to IB theorizing building with increasing scope from the most micro level of analysis—that of a single organization—building up to the global strategic context of the multinational corporation.


  • Mary Yoko Brannen, Honorary Professor at the Copenhagen Business School, Professor Emerita at San José State University and Fellow of the Academy of International Business having served as Deputy Editor of the Journal of International Business Studies for two consecutive elected terms (2011-2016).
  • This session will be moderated by Elaine Farndale, Professor of Human Resource Management, Penn State University.

Date: 12 April 2022.
Time: 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. CET (Vienna, Berlin, Paris, Zagreb)
More information & free registration here. This event will be hosted virtually on Zoom. Event access links will be provided 24 hours prior to the event start.
Inquiries: beedie-events@sfu.ca

Previous installments of the IHRM Webinar Series are available online at our YouTube Channel.