Balancing Acts: Culture as Commodity Among Business Consultants


  • Elias Mellander Department of Cultural Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Anna-Mari Fagerström Corporate Spirit Ltd, Sweden



Applied cultural research, intercultural communication, cross-cultural communication, anthropology, expatriate, consulting, cultural analysis


In this article the authors intend to analyze how the concept of culture is packaged, sold and delivered as a commodity. It is based on an ethnographic study of a Swedish consultancy in the field of cross-cultural communication and the relationship between the company and its clients. The clients were primarily foreign executives working in Sweden or Swedish expatriates, preparing for life abroad. The significance of culture-as-commodity will be explored from the perspective of the company as well as its clients in order to shed light on how the concept of culture can be communicated and what happens to it in the process. The study shows how the company combines theoretical perspectives from anthropology and intercultural communication with the aim to deliver a complex yet accessible understanding of culture to its clients.

The analysis shows that these perspectives both clash and synergize, creating contradictions as well as turning culture into an accessible and useful tool for clients. The authors argue that researchers in the field of applied cultural analysis can learn from the example put forth by the balancing act between these two perspectives on culture performed by the company. The authors conclude that although the commodification process reduces and simplifies the meaning(s) of culture, the company still manages to put culture on the agenda, demonstrating to its clients how, why, and in what ways it matters to them.


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How to Cite

Mellander, E. and Fagerström, A.-M. (2013) “Balancing Acts: Culture as Commodity Among Business Consultants”, Culture Unbound, 5(3), pp. 319–337. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.135319.



Theme: Communicating Culture in Practice