Seminar of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology
Rituals in an International Work Environment: An Anthropological Research on Cross-cultural Relations and Interactions
The aim of this cultural anthropological research project is to analyse the work and staff culture within the United Nations, starting from the UN Headquarters in Geneva and Vienna and focusing on specific sampled sub-organisations and affiliated entities. I argue that this umbrella organisation with its many international bodies can be considered, however, as third place with a specific staff culture. Thus, following the agent´s perspectives, this research project ultimately asks for the characteristics of this closed system of the United Nations and how these cross-cultural relations and interactions influence professional careers and biographies.
More precisely, the everyday performances (referred to as ritualised cross-cultural interactions) will be analysed based on how they mould work culture or identity of employees in UN organisations. It is presumed that this particular culture and the cultural practices, in other words the transnational habitus or habitus of transnationalism, shape the careers and biographies of the employees and, to a certain extent, the biographies of their family members.
The research subject includes a multi-site research perspective and applies a multi-method approach such as a combination of qualitative interviews with relevant agents seen as representative case studies and a discursive data analysis of the organisation’s publicity focused on human resources issues. Thus, it is an anthropological research project orientated in the recent research discussion.
My dissertation project will provide a critical analysis of the work culture within the context of the United Nations. Designed as a multi-sited research project it explores the life-world (Lebenswelten) in the UN headquarters in Vienna and Geneva. It aims to reveal the cultural practices (ritualised cross-cultural interactions) within the frame of diplomacy and the effect on actually officially regulated decision-making processes. Moreover, the research study investigates on the habitus of transnationalism in order to better understand the impact of this specifically practiced work culture on the so-called ‘transnational careers’ and on biographies of the agents.
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Walter Leimgruber