Welker's research centers on the ethical relationship between business and society. Her first project was an ethnographic study of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) industry that is creating and installing voluntary social and environmental codes of conduct and practices among corporations. In adopting CSR, corporations internalize and set to new purposes ethical discourses derived from activists and the development industry (e.g. transparency, accountability, good governance, participation, empowerment, and environmentalism). Based on fieldwork in the U.S. headquarters of Newmont Mining Corporation and around the Batu Hijau copper and gold mine on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, the project examines the competing ways in which corporate managers, Sumbawan village residents, NGOs, and government officials construe and negotiate the social responsibilities of a mining corporation.
She is developing an ethnographic and historical research project on Sampoerna, a clove cigarette firm in Indonesia that was founded by a Chinese immigrant and controlled by his descendants until 2005, when it was taken over by Philip Morris International. Welker will study corporate strategy at different junctures in the clove cigarette commodity network, focusing on tobacco farmers, Javanese factory workers, urban and rural vendors, consumers, corporate managers, and anti-tobacco activists.