Dr Mike Prentice

School of East Asian Studies

Lecturer in Korean Studies

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Full contact details

Dr Mike Prentice
School of East Asian Studies
Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
S3 7RA

I am trained as a linguistic and cultural anthropologist. My research broadly focuses on genres & technologies of communication, organisations & corporations, and work & labour cultures in contemporary South Korea. Before joining Sheffield, I was a research fellow at the University of Manchester where I researched digital security. I have taught anthropology at Brandeis University in the US and held a Korea Foundation postdoctoral fellowship at the Korea Institute at Harvard University. 

I published a monograph based on my dissertation in 2022 with Stanford University Press entitled Supercorporate: Distinction and Participation in Post-Hierarchy South Korea. It was translated in 2023 into Korean by Antares Press under the title <초기업>. The translation received extensive press coverage in South Korean media, including Hankyung (Korea Economic Daily), Dong-a Business Review (DBR), and Arena Homme+ magazine. 

My current research project looks into the role of unofficial workplace communication platforms in South Korea and their influence on management, workplace dynamics, and the social discourse of working life. Initial research has been funded by a Korea Foundation fellowship.

At Sheffield, I have served as the School of East Asian Studies’ Director of Undergraduate Studies since 2021 where I oversee undergraduate student welfare management, act as the disability liaison officer, and run the undergraduate student-staff committee. 

From 2021 to 2023, I led the UKRI-funded network Sociolinguistic Futures between the UK and South Korea that aimed to build the profile of sociolinguistics of Korean in the UK through greater collaboration with South Korea-based researchers. More information about the network can be found here.


Senior Fellow, HEA
PhD, University of Michigan (Linguistic Anthropology)
BA, Brown University (Anthropology-Linguistics, Italian, Classics)

Research interests

I have carried out ethnographic research in and on South Korean workplaces since 2011. My research has focused on the cultural semiotics of office life. I am broadly interested in the way different aspects of office life come to articulate broader problems in society such as hierarchy, fairness, distinction and democracy. In my work, I analyse how linguistic icons, genres, materialities, and platforms of communication, from PowerPoint to job titles, mediate these broader ideas and shape the experience of work.

My book Supercorporate brought together findings from my dissertation for which I spent one year working inside a multinational industrial conglomerate in Seoul. The book, the first in English to document internal dynamics of a South Korean corporation in 30 years, moves beyond the tropes of thinking about South Korea as a site with bad hierarchy or hyper neoliberalism to consider how office places are idealised sites of both technocratic distinction-making and democratic participation. By looking at different sites and events within workaday corporate life, I show how these ideals map onto the ever-expanding genre worlds of office life. 

My new research focuses on a widespread platform called Blind used by office workers in South Korea, and increasingly in Silicon Valley in the US. I am interested theoretically in how versions of organisational life are recreated or reconfigured on platforms outside of organisational spaces proper and how such shadow platforms interact with or have an impact on seemingly powerful figures and genres of authority. This includes impact on management as well as public discourse around workplace life. South Korea is portending a coming social media-isation of once-closed office life. 

My research has been funded by grants from the Fulbright Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, UKRI, the Korea Foundation, and the Academy of Korean Studies.

Research group

Postgraduate research supervision

I welcome enquiries from PhD students interested in any area relevant to my past and present research interests. I am happy to advise undergraduate, master's, and PhD students with interests in South Korea, particularly issues around language, culture and society and new aspects of the economy.

Research Cluster

I am currently the cluster lead for the school's Critical Ethnography in East Asia research cluster. We aim to promote ethnographic approaches to East Asia within the school. Recently we have held a book symposium on New Ethnographies of White-Collar Work in East Asia with Xinyang Peng, Nana Okura Gagne, and myself as well as a roundtable on Working on/with/in Organisations for researchers across the UK.

Teaching interests

I teach across our Korean Studies, East Asian Studies, and East Asian business curricula. While my own training is primarily in anthropology, sociolinguistics, and organisation studies, I take a broadly multi-disciplinary approach to teaching about East Asia with a particular focus on the history of ideas about East Asia in the West. This includes using novel approaches to teach about the division of Korea and the Korean War (EAS1041) or the history of East Asia as an exception to Western economic theory (EAS61004). I aim to bring unique experiences into the classroom, such as collaborating with the university’s library to explore Korean War archives or interviewing Korean business people in the UK. 

Teaching activities

EAS1000 Exploring East Asia

EAS1041 History & Culture in Korea

EAS21007 Mass Culture and Digital Society in East Asia

EAS21008 Gender and Identities in East Asia

EAS350 Business & Management in Contemporary Korea

EAS61004 Perspectives on East Asian Business & Economy

EAS6078 MsC East Asian Business Group project supervisor

EAS362 Undergraduate Dissertation Supervision


Academic Publications

Prentice, Michael M. (2023). 초기업 (Supercorporate). Translated by Young-rae Lee. Antares Press: Seoul.

Prentice, Michael M. (2022). “From drafts to drafting: genre work, time, and the fragility of managerial expertise in South Korea.” Journal of Cultural Economy 15 (6): 753-767.

Prentice, Michael M., and Ilana Gershon. (2022). "Introduction: genre work and the new economy." Journal of Cultural Economy 15 (6): 725-734.

Prentice, Michael M. (2022). Supercorporate: Distinction and Participation in Post-Hierarchy South Korea. Stanford University Press: Stanford, CA.

Gershon, Ilana, and Michael M Prentice. (2021). “Genres in new economies of language.” International Journal of the Sociology of Language 2021 (267-268): 117-124.

Prentice, Michael M. (2021).  “The securitized workplace: document protection, insider threats and emerging ethnographic barriers in a South Korean organization.” Journal of Organizational Ethnography 10 (3): 258-273

Prentice, Michael M. (2020). “Old Spirits of Capitalism: Masculine Alterity in/as the Korean Office.” Anthropological Quarterly 93 (2) 

Prentice, Michael M. (2020) “Resisting flatness: Job titles, identity infrastructures, and semiotics in the office.” In Korean Lingua-Culture edited by Yoon-hee Kang. Published in Korean by Seoul National University Press.

Prentice, Michael M. (2019). “The Powers in PowerPoint: Embedded Authorities, Documentary Tastes, and Institutional (Second) Orders in Corporate Korea.” American Anthropologist 121 (2):350-362. 

Prentice, Michael M. & Meghanne Barker (2017). “Intertextuality & InterdiscursivityOxford Online Bibliographies.

Prentice, Michael M. (2015). “Managing Intertextuality: Display and Discipline across Documents at a Korean Firm.” Signs and Society 3 (S1): S70-S94.