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Centre for Global Workforce Strategy

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

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

About the Presentation

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.

Date: Tuesday, April 12, 2022

  • 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver)
  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. EDT (Boston, New York, Miami)
  • 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. GMT (United Kingdom)
  • 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. CET (Vienna, Berlin, Paris, Zagreb)
  • 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. TRT, MSK (Istanbul, Moscow)
  • 11:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m. CST (Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taipei)
  • 12:30 a.m. – 1:30 a.m. JPT (Tokyo, Kyoto)
  • 01:30 a.m. – 2:30 a.m. AEDT (Melbourne, Sydney)

Use this Time Zone Converter to find your local time

As an international partnership, the IHRM series welcomes speakers from all over the world and multiple time zones. This session will be recorded to share with registrants who are not able to attend the live session.

Event Access:

This event will be hosted virtually on Zoom. Event access links will be provided 24 hours prior to the event start.


Complimentary but registration is required to attend or receive the link to the recording



Mary Yoko Brannen is 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).

An organizational ethnographer, her research seeks to understand the effects of multiple cultural contexts on individuals and organizations in which they are employed. Her work, asks: How do language and culture affect today’s complex cultural organizations and the people they employ? What are the effects of today’s new workplace demographic brought on by unprecedented migration and mobility? Through her understanding of the challenges and skillsets of this new demographic, Professor Brannen sheds light on the many opportunities they bring to organizations.

This session will be moderated by Elaine Farndale, Professor of Human Resource Management, Penn State University.

About This Series

This event is part of an IHRM Webinar Series, organized by the Centre for Global Workforce Strategy at Simon Fraser University (Canada), the Penn State Center for International Human Resource Studies and Clarion University of Pennsylvania (USA), and ESCP Business School and RIT Croatia (Europe).

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

About this Event

Zoom event access information will be provided all registered attendees 24 hours prior to the event start.

For inquires about this event, please contact: