Rituals in an International Work Environment: An Anthropological Research Study on Cross-cultural Relations and Interactions in United Nations Affiliated Organizations in Geneva and Vienna

Rituals in an International Work Environment: An Anthropological Research Study on Cross-cultural Relations and Interactions in United Nations Affiliated Organizations in Geneva and Vienna

The aim of my cultural anthropological research project is to analyze the work and staff culture of the United Nation system, starting from the UN Headquarters in Geneva and Vienna and focusing on specific sampled sub-organizations and affiliated entities. I argue that this umbrella organization with its many international bodies can be considered, however, as a place with a specific staff culture. Thus, following the agent perspective, this research project ultimately asks for the characteristics of this closed system of the United Nations and how these cross-cultural relations and interactions influence professional careers and biographies.         
More precisely, the everyday performances (referred to as ritualized cross-cultural interactions) will be analyzed based on how they mold work culture or identity of employees in UN organizations. It is presumed that this particular culture and the cultural practices, in other words the transnational habitus or habitus of transnational life and work, shape the careers and biographies of the employees and, to a certain extent, the biographies of their family members.             
The research subject includes a multi-site research perspective and applies a multi-method approach such as a combination of qualitative interviews with relevant agents seen as representative case studies and a discursive data analysis of the organization’s publicity focused on human resources issues. Thus, it is an anthropological research project orientated in the recent research discussion.

Research interests:

- Organizational Anthropology, Ethnography of work and work cultures, careers, bureaucracies
- Biography Studies, transnational biographies
- Migration and Mobility Studies, highly skilled migrants
- Elite Studies
- International Organizations (United Nations)

Webpage Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology

Supervisor: Walter Leimgruber

Co-Supervisor: Irene Götz (LMU München)


Linda Martina Mülli is a PhD candidate at the Department of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology at the University of Basel. Her dissertation will be realized as a Cotutelle de thèse and in cooperation with the Institute for European Ethnology and Cultural Analysis at the LMU University of Munich.

In her research she investigates staff culture(s) and careers/(work) biographies in the context of the United Nations taking the UN headquarters in Geneva and Vienna as point of departures. She worked at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as well as the Swiss multilateral embassy in Vienna (Permanent Mission of Switzerland).
From 2007 to 2014, Mülli studied cultural anthropology, history and Hispanic studies in Basel, Madrid, Seville and Vienna. She obtained her master’s degree in 2014 after completing a field research on a small Swiss consultancy company’s corporate culture and the adaptation to flexible project work; “It just requires flexibility, input and dedication.” A cultural anthropological research study on knowledge workers in a Swiss consultancy company (“Es fordert einfach eine Flexibilität, einen Input und eine Begeisterung.” Zur Subjektivierung von Wissensarbeit in einem Schweizer Beratungsunternehmen).
In 2015 she became member of the Graduate School of Social Sciences (G3S) and was awarded by a G3S start-up scholarship. She also is a member of the international doctoral programme Transformations in European Societies. In 2016 Mülli was awarded by a Doc.CH stipend by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) (cf: http://p3.snf.ch/project-165292).




Mülli, Linda M., and Stefan Groth, eds. (2019) Ordnungen in Alltag und Gesellschaft. Empirisch-kulturwissenschaftliche Perspektiven. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann.

Mülli, Linda M. (2019) “Die Rituale der UNO? Wie habitualisierte Praktiken soziale Ordnungen und Hierarchien herstellen”. In Linda M. Mülli, and Stefan Groth, eds.  Ordnungen in Alltag und Gesellschaft. Empirisch-kulturwissenschaftliche Perspektiven. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann: 37–58.

Mülli, Linda M. (2018) “Reflexive subjects: Exploring the narrative habitus of self-aware interviewees”. Fabula, “Special Issue: Narrationsanalyse”, ed. by Silke Meyer, 59 (1–2): 92–111. https://doi.org/10.1515/fabula-2018-0006.

Mülli, L. M. (2017) “Homo UN. Early career professionals adapting to the organizational culture of the United Nations”, Revista Murciana de Antropología. Universidad de Murcia, “Issue: Avances de Antropología Económica” (24): 167-194. Available at: revistas.um.es/rmu/article/view/311961/219421.   edoc | Open Access

Mülli, L. M. (2017) “Still researching up? Ethnographieren in UNO-Hauptquartieren”, Kuckuck - Notizen zur Alltagskultur, “Issue: Forschen” (2/2017): 40-44.   edoc

Mülli, L. M. (2017) “Early career professionals adjusting to the work and lifeworld of the United Nations”, In Konrad Kuhn, Katrin Sontag, and Walter Leimgruber, eds. Lebenskunst. Erkundungen zu Biographie, Lebenswelt und Erinnerung. Köln: Böhlau: 189-205.



Linda Mülli Portrait G3S

Linda Mülli
Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology
Rheinsprung 9/11, Office 204

4051 Basel

Tel: +41 61 207 18 45