Professors and Associate Professors – University of Copenhagen

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Melissa Suzanne Fisher

Melissa Suzanne Fisher

Professor with special responsibilities Laurits Andersen

Biography and Primary Research Areas

I am the Laurits Andersen Professor with Special Responsibilities in Business and Organizational Anthropology. My position places special emphasis on research about Danish businesses and organizations. I previously was a faculty member in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. I received my doctorate in Anthropology at Columbia University and my B.A. at Barnard College. I have received grants and fellowships including awards from the Social Science Research Council, the Alfred Sloan Foundation, the Institute for Advance Study at Lancaster University, and the Center for Organizational Research at Stockholm University.

My academic research over the past two and a half decades has brought together the study of professionals, careers, workplaces, markets, technology, and gender as well as how anthropologists are engaging in new ways with businesses and organizations in the United States and Europe. My first co-edited volume, Frontiers of Capital: Ethnographic Reflections on the New Economy (Duke University Press 2006) brought together ethnographies exploring how cultural practices and social relations were altered by radical economic and technological innovations during the turn of the new millennium. My first book, Wall Street Women (Duke University Press, 2012) is a historical ethnography of the first generation of women to build professional careers (1956-2010).  It follows this group as they moved from modest career beginnings, holding jobs on the lowest levels of banks (in the 1960s and 1970s), to high-level positions in global finance and national politics (in the 1990s), and to new ventures in 21st-century philanthropy and the promotion of gender equality in the global marketplace.

I have also published book chapters and in journals including City and Society, Business Anthropology, Collaborative Anthropologies, Globalizations, and Femina Politica. My article, “Wall Street women: professional saviors of the global economy?” published in Critical Perspectives on international business 2015 Vol 11 2E was selected by the journal’s editorial teach as a Highly Commended Paper in the 2016 Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellent. Recently I have published on finance, feminism and film; performance, leadership and global cities; women’s mechanic collectives and solidarity economies in Brooklyn; eco-fashion designers, cooperatives, and sustainable businesses in Berlin; and the future of business and organizational anthropology.

Dissemination, Outreach, and Experience Working in Industry:

My book on Wall Street women has received over twenty-five reviews in academic journals. In addition, my research has been profiled by, for example, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, the BBC and  NPR. My writings have appeared in publications such as Bloomberg, Bill Moyer’s Group Thing, and Truthout. I appeared in the Emmy nominated PBS documentary, Makers: Women in Business (2014). I played a small advisory role on the first female financial thriller movie: Equity, a Sony Classic Pictures release (2016). I also spoke on NOS Dutch Broadcasting TV on gender inequality in American business and politics (September 2016).

I have given numerous keynotes and conference talks nationally and internationally. During the past several years, I presented my work at institutions including: the Stockholm University Department of Anthropology; The Berlin School of Economics and Law; The Program on Gender and Global Change at the Graduate Institute in Geneva; the Political Economic Research Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London; and The Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan. Most recently I gave talks at the Museum of American Finance in NYC, the Federal Reserve Bank in NYC, The Conference Board, UBS, and the US Embassy in Berlin.

For the past 16 years, I have also worked as an independent consultant, applying cultural approaches to consumer and business research. I have primarily worked on behalf of BBDO World Wide Advertising and Batten & Company. Our clients have included, for example: an international hotel company, a global financial services firm, a multi-national e-commerce company, and an American owned cable sattelite channel.

Research Group and Teaching

I am a member of the Business and Organizational Research Group. I currently teach: Organizational Anthopology; Markets, Power and Global Cities. 

Current research

As an Associate Researcher in the Department of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University I have been participating in an interdisciplinary research project, Global Foresight: Anticipatory Governance and the Making of Geo-Cultural Scenarios. Funded by a five year external grant from Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences, the overall project investigates how global foresight organizations attempt to anticipate the future, how scenario models are produced, and what they tell us for tackling urgent global challenges. Led by principle investigator anthropologist Christina Garsten, and composed of 10 researchers (anthropologists, management scholars, and legal experts) from Europe and the United States, the goal is to arrive, by way of comparative analysis, at a deepened understanding of the crucial tenets of knowledge that undergird the future modelling of foresight professionals.

As the Laurits Andersen Professor at the University of Copenhagen, my research and writing places special emphasis on businesses and organizations in Denmark. Thus, my own contribution to the Global Foresight project is based on fieldwork conducted at an Institute for Future Studies in Copenhagen and affiliated corporations. Specifically, I am investigating the ideas, practices and processes of the Institute for analyzing, identifying, and anticipating trends shaping the future of the workforce and workplaces in Denmark, including one of the world’s leading facilities companies, headquartered in Copenhagen. My aim is to understand what kinds of knowledge, scenario modeling, cultural analysis, and identification of international trends in the Institute are involved looking towards and providing strategies to such companies about the future of their workplace. I am also following the implimentation process in the companies.

Notably, while questions about anticipation and related phenomena like foresight and futures often come up in empirical research, there are few attempts to develop analytic vocabularies that make anticipation the core of research. In my project, one major ambition will be to establish the production of anticipatory knowledge (about business). I will illustrate the varieties of forms of anticipatory knowledge in organizational settings such as the Institute. I will also examine how these forms of anticipatory knowledge shape decision and solution making for organizations about the future of their workforce, work and workplace, all with a special empahsis on Denmark.

I am developing a second project on the new digital workforce and workplace based on fieldwork in Copenhagen in relation to the Nordic Countries and Europe. The project focuses on the meaning and gendering of work, workers, technology, as well as firms in FinTech (financial technology). It builds on work conducted this past year on diversity and inclusion in fin-tech in NYC, Frankfurt and Berlin.

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