Past Symposium: Fall 2012

Styles and Cultures of the Corporation
November 9, 2012
1:30-5:30 p.m.
National Museum of the American Indian, Room 4019

This symposium investigates the ways in which the look and feel of the corporation have shaped modern experience. Many scholars have considered the growth, over the past 150 years, of corporate influence over everyday life. On the whole, however, such writers have focused on the economic and social effects of corporate actions, and, recently, on such topics as corporate personhood and the shifting power relations between corporations and the nation-state. There has been relatively little work on the deep social effects of the sights, sounds, textures, and behavioral habits—in short, on the styles and cultures—of the corporation. What are the defining features of corporate styles and corporate cultures? To what degree and in what ways have these features molded contemporary experiences among different populations around the world? Focusing in particular on the United States over the last 100 years, the speakers at the symposium will entertain such questions as the following:

In what ways do the cultures, habits and behaviors of corporate leaders and employees shape social expectations and behavior in general? In what ways has globalization changed corporate cultures over time? How do corporations maintain not only economic but also social and cultural power?

What corporate styles have been persuasive in what places and times, and why? Why have such qualities as simplicity, brightness, and modularity proved so pervasive in recent decades? In what ways do corporations mold ideas of neutrality (with regard to gender, race, nationality, politics and so on)? To what degree do different corporations exhibit different styles, and in what ways do these styles compete in the culture at large? In addition to the traditional platforms of architecture, product design, and advertising, in what forms do corporate styles appear? Do the styles of the corporation ever end up working against corporate interests?

In what ways have literature and art uncovered corporate styles, probed them and made them visible? What can contemporary literature and art teach us about the particular texture of late capitalist life?

“The Corporate University: A Technical History”
Reinhold Martin
Associate Professor, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Columbia University
Director, Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture

“Oracle Aesthetics: The Guru, the Corporation, and the Plurality of Global Futures”
R. John Williams
Assistant Professor, English, Yale University

“Wall Street Women and the Gendered Culture of Corporate Finance”
Melissa S. Fisher
Visiting Scholar, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University

Joshua Shannon
Associate Professor, Art History and Archaeology, University of Maryland
Director, The Potomac Center for the Study of Modernity