Group Contributors: Andrée Dumont, Mubeen Ladhani, Naseem Aidid and Tahani Ibrahimkhan

Keywords: culture, stories or sharing, communication, organization, performance

Cultural Approach to Organization Pioneers: Clifford_Geertz.jpgClifford James Geertz (August 23, 1926 – October 30, 2006) was an American anthropologist who was an avid supporter of symbolic anthropology: symbols used to construct public meaning. Geertz was born in San Francisco, California on August 23, 1926. In 1950, Geertz received his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio and in 1956, he received his doctorate from Harvard University where he studied social anthropology. Before taking up a teaching post at the University of Chicago (1960-1970) he taught at many other schools and held an array of fellowships. Between the years of 1970-2000, he became professor and eventually emeritus professor of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. In 1973, Geertz published is most acclaimed piece of work entitled “The Interpretation of Cultures” in which he described culture as "a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which people communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life" (1973:89). In addition to his teaching career, Geertz received a variety of Honorary Doctorate Degrees from 15 college and universities, some of which include: Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Cambridge. On October 30th, 2006 Clifford James Geertz died due to complications after heart surgery.
Michael Pacanowsky is a professor at the University of Colorado who took the ideas put forth by Geertz's and applied them to organizational life.
Cultural Approach to Organization (Main Ideas):
  • Organizations have their own culture
  • Organizations have a particular culture where the meaning of things are shared between individuals
  • Corporate culture is formed through image, character and climate
  • The cultural approach takes a humanistic look at organizations/work places
  • A switch from a “systems” based approach, to a “cultural” approach metaphor of organizations

Cultural Approach to Organization & Communication:

Culture in an organization is learned through the transmission of:

1. Corporate Stories: what management decides shares with employees

2. Personal Stories: told to help define who individuals are within the organization

3. Collegial Stories: good or bad stories told about others in the organization

Organization Communication = Cultural Performance

Performances of:

  • Ritual
  • Passion
  • Sociality
  • Politics
  • Enculturation

References:, retrieved 21/09/2010, retrieved 21/09/2010 , retrieved 28/10/2010

Pacanowsky, M., & O’Donnell-Trujillo, N. (1983). Organizational communication as cultural performance. Communication Monographs, 50, 127-147, retrieved 28/10/2010

Picture of Clifford James Geertz from