Department of Social Anthropology
NAF conference

Norwegian Anthropological Association Annual Conference

The NAF conference will be arranged November 25-26 2021 in Bergen.

Logo NAF conference 2021
Welcome to Bergen in November 2021 for the NAF Conference 2021.
Nina B. Dahl/Colourbox

Main content

On this page you will find information about conference theme, important dates and practical information.

NAF Conference 2021

The conference is open to researchers, students, scholars, applied anthropologists, and practitioners from all fields of social and cultural anthropology. Panels and papers can be submitted in English or any of the Scandinavian languages.

Organizing committee

After the conference, Norsk antropologisk tidsskrift (NAT) will be interested in article submissions and will also consider proposals for a Special Issue.

Polarization: Anthropological Explorations

The world is becoming increasingly polarized. Intensifying border controls, the amplification of new and old political antagonisms, increasing economic and social inequalities, new macro-political and geo-political constellations and positions, novel forms of activism across the political spectrum, and a proliferation of hate-speech create a sense of exacerbated polarization across regions, nations, ideologies, religions, race, social class, and political beliefs. As anthropologists we may ask: how can anthropology read and interpret these polarizing processes? What are the strengths and weaknesses of our discipline in capturing such complex and compound developments? In which way can applied anthropologists contribute as in-house social interpreters as well as sparring partners with the academic community from within the respective workplaces? And, does a more polarized world correspond to a more fragmented anthropology? Is, for instance, the growing hyper-specialization of anthropology an effect of a more polarized and fragmented world? And, finally, is polarization a useful conceptual tool to understand the ongoing dynamics mentioned? The conference invites reflections on both a polarized and fragmented contemporaneity and a polarized and fragmented anthropology.

A key characteristic of contemporary political landscapes is that political fault lines are in flux and difficult to pin down and define. Whilst political differences in the latter part of the 20th century were by and large mediated through left and right or liberal and conservative political categorizations, political orientation and identification now seems to be more fluid – and yet more divisive and violent. As the public sphere has increasingly become a cacophony blurring the lines between truth and lies, information and noise, significant and insignificant, politics and entertainment, opinion and propaganda, news and spin, the result is a seemingly growing sense of fragmentation, alienation, and people increasingly retreat into fenced-off identity positions and group belongings.

Meanwhile, in a world characterized by rising social and economic inequalities, and an accumulative concentration of capital amongst national and transnational elites, class-in-itself and class-for-itself is lesser and lesser a platform for political mobilization. Rather, as the language of class has lost currency and legitimacy, class-determined interests have become objects for manipulation across the political spectrum; thereby obscuring structural, political, and financial processes reproducing and exacerbating socio-economic inequalities. Consequently, societies are characterized by increasingly separated and segregated life-worlds across social groups, but without a language to denote and explain how and why these differences and inequalities are produced. The results we are witnessing, not least in the UK and the US, are increasingly polarized societies and a loss of faith in politics, politicians, and democratic processes with unknown outcomes. At the same time, we are witnessing a resurgence of social activism and social mobilization that points towards new forms of political identity formations and forms of solidarity (think of grassroots aid initiatives or vernacular forms of humanitarianism). New climate concerns and actions mobilize actors across the whole spectrum of politics, ranging from biodynamic agriculture to environmental activism. Increasingly polarized public opinion on immigration and asylum is expressed both in technologies of bordering and confinement (e.g. walls and fences), as well as amplified voluntarism and political action to assist people on the move. Different modalities of polarization clearly intersect, as in the case of political and religious divisions, for example when minorities such as Muslims in Europe and the USA or Christians in some African countries become targets of political violence. While exacerbating existing inequalities and creating new social and economic challenges and divisions, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its repertoires of governmental responses has ignited polarized understandings and visions. Mostly swallowed by the official narrative, it could be argued that the voice of anthropologists has not been sufficiently public and thus not as relevant as it could, given the profound societal impact of the (series of) event(s).    

In face of this scenario, we ask what conceptual and methodological tools anthropologists can use, in the academia and beyond, in trying to grasp and make sense of these various conflictive and polarizing entanglements. We invite contributions that engage with the issue of polarization from different ethnographic contexts and analytical perspectives, whilst at the same time trying to engage actively and critically with the very notion of polarization. For instance, how may we approach it as an emic and/or ethic category? Claims regarding polarization are not always empirically explored. Anthropologists are trained to analyze social processes in a holistic perspective to situate and embed it within historical processes of structural, social and political formations, as well as in relation to different symbolic, discursive, and cultural expressions and articulations. What is the role of anthropology in contributing to better understandings of the polarized phenomena at hand? If polarization is a key zeitgeist of our time, why is that so and how does it play out in different sites and contexts? Is it correct to state that we are witnessing emergent modes and forms of polarization, or is it merely continuations and reconfigurations of time-old conflictive fault lines?

The conference is open to researchers, scholars, students applied anthropologists, and practitioners from all fields of social and cultural anthropology. Panels and papers can be submitted in any of the Scandinavian languages or English. We accept panel proposals that already include a list of speakers as well as panel proposals that will have open call for papers. We are also open to other alternative workshop formats than the more traditional panels with papers (e.g. roundtable discussions, monitored debates, discussion of workplace concepts, processes and practices, etc.).

Panel proposals

Please include the following to your panel proposals:

  • Title
  • Text (max 400 words) 
  • Organiser (name, association, mail address)
  • Discussant (optional)

The proposal can be sent to naf2021@uib.no, by 25 April. 

Panels and papers can be submitted in any of the Scandinavian languages or English. We accept panel proposals that already include a list of speakers as well as panel proposals that will have open call for papers.

Call for papers will be opened after the panels have been accepted. If panel proposals comes with paper proposals, individual paper proposals and bio attached to the panel descriptions should not exceed 250 words.

Important dates for 2021

25 AprilPanel Submission Deadline
15 MayPanel Acceptance Notification
6 AugustPaper Abstract Deadline
3 SeptemberPaper Acceptance Notification
15 NovemberRegular Payment Deadline
22 NovemberLate birds Payment Deadline
25-26 NovemberConference Days