Michael Prentice

Research Fellow, Digital Futures InitiativeUniversity of Manchester


   Michael Prentice is a linguistic anthropologist who focuses on language, management, and technology in contemporary South Korea. For his dissertation, he spent a year as an ethnographer-intern inside a steel conglomerate in Seoul. His dissertation seeks to understand how control operates in South Korean corporate worlds through an emphasis on the forms of writing, technologies, and events that mediate office life. In contrast to the image of centralized and top-down control emanating from family-owners, his dissertation shows how high-level managers are equally constrained by and occupied with the documents, systems, and meetings used to control their own complex empires. As South Korea continues to wrestle with conglomerates as regulatory objects and sites of office inequality, his research points to the ways that conglomerate managers themselves are tied up by many of these same concerns. His research has received support from the Korea Foundation, Academy of Korean Studies, Social Science Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Fulbright Program.

                 Michael graduated from Brown University with a bachelor's degree in anthropology-linguistics and Italian Studies. He is originally from Baltimore and has lived at different times in Philadelphia, New York, and Bologna, Italy in addition to Ann Arbor and Seoul. He first became interested in South Korean office life while working in corporate marketing and reading a lively biography about Chung Ju Yung. 

Award Information

2016 Korean Studies Dissertation Workshop

AnthropologyUniversity of Michigan

Ranks & Files: Corporate Hierarchies, Genres of Management, and Shifting Control in South Korea's Corporate World.