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.).

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



Panels and Roundtables 

If you wish to contribute to a workshop, we ask that you please contact the workshop organisers directly, via the email given. The deadline for call for paper abstract (sent to the organisers of the panel) is the 6th of August.

1 - Technology and polarization


Håkon Fyhn, Norwegian University of Science and Technology: hakon.fyhn@ntnu.no

Jens Røyrvik, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Technology (whether we talk about specific technologies, or technology as a form of emerging worldview in Heidegger's sense) intervenes and shapes life in ways that make it interesting to look at polarization in new ways, locally as well as globally.

In Norway, polarization for example is taking shape in the form of resistance to specific technologies such as wind turbines. This resistance reveals stories of powerlessness in the face of authorities, financial interests and the green shift in general, and an increasing distance between urban and rural areas, but also completely different narratives. Globally, it is possible to see similar patterns, in some cases where even more is at stake. Another technology that has aroused resistance is vaccines, where the resistance entails everything from caution, to general mistrust of dominant biomedical science and industry. Alternative facts and alternative realities form their own ecosystems in various social media, aided by normal scientific arrogance, and algorithms aimed at communities of interest. Perhaps the distance to dissenters and objects of hatred increases as fellow human beings become virtualized? Even work colleagues can experience the distance of virtualization through the digital management systems' pull-down-menu-power. Expressions of polarization are also characterized by contemporary technological rationality, predisposed for clear boundaries and entities. The technologies that connect us and organize us also have the ability to capture and divide us. Not all human perspectives are equally easily expressed in the absolute logic of digital systems, and one must fight to be seen. Some are even left completely outside the digital community in a kind of analog marginalization. What does the digital world look like from here?

Nevertheless, on closer inspection, it may turn out that what looks like polarization from a distance, turns out to contain nuances, diversity and far from clear boundaries. This diversity is something we want to make visible in this session, in addition to the dynamics that make it relevant to talk about polarization.

We welcome contributions that in one way or another link topics within polarization to topics within technological anthropology. The contributions can be in Norwegian or English.

2 - Protracted Displacement in and beyond Time: research collaborations and funding frameworks


Sarah Tobin, Chr. Michelsen institute: sarah.tobin@cmi.no

Mari Norbakk, Chr. Michelsen Institute: mari.norbakk@cmi.no

With the dramatic and highly-visible rise of migration into Europe, national governments are seeing an increase in polarization regarding how to manage the influx. The consequences of which may be traced out in actions such as the Danish decision to allow forced return of Syrian refugees to Syria, or Norwegian policy on forced return of Afghan refugees. These and other events raise the question of what different host countries do to deal with settled refugee and migrant communities across Europe, many of which have turned into protracted displacement situations.

The UNHCR defines protracted refugee situations as one in which 25 000 or more refugees from the same nationality have been in exile for five years or more in a host country. In recent studies of migration in Europe, the concept of time has emerged as a central reference point for examinations of protracted displacement. This roundtable has been convened to discuss protractedness in and beyond time.

The invited speakers are leading migration researchers in Norway and come together to disseminate findings from several Horizon 2020 and RCN-funded projects. The roundtable will have two interconnected foci: insights and potentials for generalization from project work on the topic of protractedness; and lessons learned from working with various funding-frameworks.

This roundtable will be of interest to those interested in topics of migration in a wide understanding; as well as those interested in learning more about these funding opportunities; and the potential for international research collaboration in the field of migration research.

3 - Moral economy in Scandinavia


Sarah Tobin, Chr. Michelsen Institute: sarah.tobin@cmi.no

Mari Norbakk, Chr. Michelsen Institute: mari.norbakk@cmi.no

Taking the intersections of economy, ethics and morality as our starting point, this panel is organized around questions of how finance and economy are entangled with ethical considerations, religious morals, as well as practices linked to welfare, consumption, investment, banking and business development. We are particularly interested in contributions that look at these issues in the Scandinavian or Nordic context, but other cases are also most welcome.

Scandinavian economic systems have often been espoused as a hybrid – somewhere between market liberal principles and heavily state-regulated economies with comprehensive welfare systems. The linkages between “private” capital and welfare are not necessarily always explored in the Scandinavian context precisely due to the ideological focus on welfare and a collectivist state narrative. This does not mean that these entanglements are not present, and we are seeing a shift to increased dependence on private capital to take over certain aspects of welfare. Polarization may take the form of increased inequality, and this panel is interested in ways capital may intersect with state practices to undermine levelling factors built into the welfare system. As we look to these linkages, the panel is therefore also interested in contributions that deal with issues such as public ownership, accountability and transparency.

People’s practices of money-making, saving, investment and their moral and ethical deliberations on these issues; and how they seek to find insights, support, and consensus for how things are to be done “properly” are all of core anthropological interest. What was formerly viewed as livelihoods, integral to the organization of small-scale societies may in this panel’s explorations be redefined to look at how peoples’ economic practices are still very much tied to their world-making, their cosmologies, as well as self-making. On the flip side, the panel also opens to contributions that explore how certain economic scripts may be transposed onto other identity-categories and boundaries, contributing to increased polarization and inequality. Economic practices are for many people a very tangible way to envision state-individual relationships and conceptualize state, bureaucracy, or community – also in a transnational sense.

Economic practices offer a productive locus for examining topics like integration, nationality, identity, value, and worthiness. Further – looking at conceptualizations of banks and bankers; fund-managers constructions of citizens, customers, investors; and basic dualisms like good and bad credit; growth-potential and risk may open new paths for ethnographic enquiry of inequality and polarization. This panel will show the potentials for anthropological contributions to economic and financial research in Norway.

Confirmed paper presenters:

  • Ainur Begim, NTNU: "Translating Risks: Ethics, Oil, and Finance"
  • Sarah Tobin, CMI: “Islamic finance in Norway”
  • Mari Norbakk, CMI: “Ethnography of entrepreneurial trainings for immigrants in Norway”
  • We would also like to open the panel to more papers from the open call.


4 - The Multispecies City: Overcoming polarisations between urban human and nonhuman natures


Ferne Edwards, Norwegian University of Science and Technology: ferne.edwards@ntnu.no

Ida Nilstad Pettersen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology: ida.nilstad.pettersen@ntnu.no

Many scholars call for the need to bring natures back – both conceptually and physically – within the city. Introduction of nature-based solutions increases the health, resilience and sustainability of cities (Cohen-Shacham et al. 2016). Transitioning cities to be green, productive and regenerative landscapes may provide many direct and indirect benefits for both people and the environment from the creation of diverse new business and the reduction in costs associated with health and degraded resources (Kabisch et al. 2016). Physical health benefits are derived from urban nature where a ‘sense of place’ is created, positively influencing peoples’ perception of and motivation for activity in open areas such as parks, and trails (Frumkin 2003). Mental health significantly benefits from urban greening, biodiversity, and involvement with birds and animals and gardening, reducing the impacts of ‘nature deficit disorder’ that results from the ‘extinction of experience’ between people and nature (Soga & Gaston 2016). The physical and conceptual return of animals – as sources of food production, companionship, as potential catalysts to close the urban ecological loop and as creatures in their own right – is also proclaimed as a desirable socio-environmental act. Yet the return of certain natures to the city – and in particular certain animal species – remain in contention. Such human and nonhuman conflicts include issues of health and safety, nuisance and property damage (Soulsbury & White 2015).

The shift towards an appreciation for a more-than-human city corresponds with a shift to a multispecies anthropology. Such a repositioning seeks to correct polarisations between human and nonhuman knowledges, agencies and power relations. It raises questions of who and what have a right to the (multispecies) city? Who and what voices should be heard? This shift also herds a call for the creation and testing of innovative methodologies that are able to recognise the presence, value and role of nonhuman ‘others’ that often remain hidden or marginalised in human worlds. This panel focuses on diverse forms of nonhuman natures in cities. It seeks to explore methodologies, concepts and experiences of how humans can learn to live well with a diversity of natures whilst redefining who and what the city is for.

Topics that fall within, but are not limited to, this theme include:

  •  Human/wildlife urban conflict and/or conviviality
  •  Multispecies methods such as multispecies ethnography, etc.
  •  Approaches to convivial conservation in cities.


5 - Klima og miljøkamp: etnografiske nyansar


Nils Haukeland Vedal, University of Bergen: nils.vedal@uib.no

Er klima- og miljøkamp eit eliteprosjekt? Klimaendringar og miljøøydeleggingar blir ofte omtala som ei krise og som vår generasjon si store utfordring. Trass i stor semje om at ulike grupper blir ulikt råka, blir ofte klima- og miljøkrisa snakka om som ei fellesmenneskeleg erfaring som råker på tvers av tradisjonelle sosiale og økonomiske skiljelinjer. Samstundes har diskusjonar omkring korleis ein skal møte klima- og miljøkrisa i aukande grad prega samfunn i ulike deler av verda i ein slik grad at den ofte dannar grunnlag for politikk som blir grunngitt gjennom å vise til vitskapleg fakta og slik sett stilt utanfor det politiske. Debattar omkring korleis ein best skal møte utfordringar knyta til ein førestilt ressursknapphet tek sikte på å finne løysingar som garanterer kontinuiteten av den gjeldande sosiale, økonomiske og politiske ordenen. Slike løysingar tek ofte sikte på å bevare, atterreise eller restaurere landskap og økosystem som er sett på som degraderte eller øydelagde, og har forgreiningar til måten ein tenkjer skiljet mellom det urbane og det naturlege landskapet på. Vegen er ofte kort frå førestillingar om ei verd i krise til malthusianske idear om overbefolkning og ressursknapphet, eller til generelle argument om at eit vagt definert “oss” må redusere forbruket. Ofte blir dei foreslåtte løysingane på klima- og miljøkrisa forstått som eit angrep på legitime aspirasjonar om sosial mobilitet og velstandsauke blant dei segmenta av befolkninga med marginal representasjon i det politiske systemet. Antropologar ulike stader i verda observerer aukande konfliktar om tilgang til land, eigedom og arbeid, der klima- og miljøretorikk blir nytta på ein måte som garanterer privilegia til høgare samfunnslag og kontinuiteten til ein sosial orden basert på den private eigedomsretten.

Dette panelet ynskjer velkomen bidrag som inviterer til diskusjon kring klima- og miljødiskursars rolle i sosial, økonomisk og politisk polarisering. Me ynskjer å utforskekorleis nyare debattar i antropologifaget er med på å forme vår forståing av samspelet mellom natur, menneske og samfunn og korleis desse er med på å forme den globale debatten omkring klima- og miljøkrisa. Står nyare antropologiske perspektiv i fare for å fetisjere urfolksperspektiv som ei løysing på klima- og miljøkrisa? Korleis kan antropologiske studiar synleggjere større globale tendensar i måten klima- og miljødiskurs er med på å forme ulike samfunn?

Stadfesta paneldeltakarar:

  • Tomas Salem, Doktorgradsstipendiat ved Institutt for sosialantropologi, Universitetet i Bergen,
  • Nora Haukali, Doktorgradsstipendiat ved Institutt for sosialantropologi, Universitetet i Bergen.
  • Oda Eiken Maraire, Doktorgradsstipendiat ved Institutt for sosialantropologi, Universitetet i Bergen.
  • Nils Haukeland Vedal, Doktorgradsstipendiat ved Institutt for sosialantropologi, Universitetet i Bergen.


6 - What on Earth! Outrage and Anthropology on a Disrupted Planet


Natalia Magnani, University of Tromsø: natalia.magnani@uit.no

Peter I. Crawford, University of Tromsø

Work group: This work group will reflect and exemplify how research in the context of research group EA:RTH, as indicated by the subtitle, is based on ethnography (fieldwork-based) and dealing with a topic related to disruption of the planet in one way or the other, be it climate change, environmental change, abuse of human rights, armed conflicts, forced migration, etc.. It has grown out of a book project in which chapters deal with outrage, as an object of study and/or as a dimension of critical anthropological research, by attending reflexively to the question “who is outraged here and why?” We want to try to trace the changing constellations between wonder, urgency, advocacy and outrage in anthropology from salvage anthropology to the Anthropocene. There is no doubt that ‘outrage’ is also an almost obvious reaction to the forms of polarization covered by this conference.

The rhetorical question “what on Earth (is happening)?” indicates surprise or wonder and sometimes the start of a moral outrage or disapproval. “What on Earth” relates to the puzzlement that is anthropology’s classic trademark. What is happening and what makes people tick in that place? In what world could this particular thing happen “as a matter of course”? These conventional “small questions” of anthropology usually lead to the bigger (and political) issue: could the world be otherwise? We would like to suggest that the conventional anthropological wonder implied by the rhetorical question “what on Earth is happening” has become a literal and acute concern in the Anthropocene. At a time in which humans are arguably a geological force of nature, the question “what on Earth” combines a standard anthropological inquisitive puzzlement about human worlds with the concrete question: “what is happening to the Earth?” and the moral concern “how on Earth could this happen?”. Answering this simultaneously inquisitive, concrete, and moral question in ethnographic practice implies a re-focussing and retooling of anthropology. It means attending to local and planetary scales at the same time. It also means attending to the connections in time and space between human worlds and geological, environmental and nonhuman worlds. 

Although the work group will consist of some of the contributors to the book project, we would also like to invite other presentations of fieldwork-based ethnographic research, such as ethnographic accounts and anthropological analyses of a specific political, environmental or multispecies event, that help us reflect on the issues covered by the research group.

7 - Paradoxes of polarization and post-politics in the Nordic welfare regimes and services.


Anette Fagertun, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences: anette.fagertun@hvl.no

Democratic governance involves grounded social institutions and functional arrangements, but also contingency and political re-articulations – thus, difference and division, antagonism and polarization, are predicaments of a democratic polity (Stavarakakis 2018: 49). The Nordic welfare state aims at counteracting societal divisions through inclusive welfare policy and universal and accessible welfare service provision (Vike 2018). Thus, public welfare services can be conceptualized as ‘a commons’, referring to the complex of systems, practices and conflicts connected by a commitment to life beyond self-regulating markets. Neoliberalism – as rationality and form of governance – is ‘multi-vocal’ and articulates differently in various contexts. Yet, it has challenged and changed the welfare state through logics at odds with for example egalitarianism and universalism. The welfare state is currently conceived of as in ‘crisis’, and welfare policies are increasingly surrounded by turmoil that produces tight sequences of reforms in the name of ‘sustainability’ driven by a logic of ‘evidence-based’ innovation. The current political and institutional landscape is characterized by rising polarization and insurgent grass root resistance, yet, also by a consensus-mode through which neoliberal rationality is supported across all political party lines. This situation may represent a disjuncture, a triple movement overlapping Polanyi’s description of the structural properties of the ‘double movement’, yet, it is also different because of fragmented counter-hegemonic projects in the era of post-politics narrowing ‘the political’ (Fraser 2017; Mouffe 2019).

The aim of this panel is to scrutinize paradoxes of polarization and consensus-making as they articulate in public welfare services within changing welfare regimes shaped by the ‘triple movement’ of the forces of ‘marketization’, ‘social protection’ and ‘emancipation’ (Polanyi 1944; Fraser 2017). In order to theorize and operationalize the concept of polarization, this panel makes an analytical distinction between ‘societal polarization’ understood as the formation of (new) social divisions, and ‘political polarization’ understood as the increasing ideological distance between poles where the middle ground is abandoned and policy-making takes a new form and/or is made difficult. This panel invites theoretical and empirical papers that examine the implications of the current dynamics described above on the welfare state, welfare regime and its services. Comparative papers, policy-analysis and case studies are welcome!

Confirmed paper presenters:

  • Roar Hansen, HVL: "Some comments on expert rule. Policy work and the rise of democratic auteurism."
  • Gudmund Ågotnes, HVL: "Whose user? User involvement and representation in the adaptive welfare state."
  • Frode F. Jacobsen, HVL: "What is in the “co” in co-creation of welfare services? Chasing the moving targets of “the private” and “the market” in discourses of co-creation in older people’s care in Norway."
  • Christine Øye, HVL: "Polarization of care? An analysis of care practices in day-centers targeting frail home dwelling older adults."
  • Anette Fagertun, HVL: "Silencing labour in welfare production."
  • Tone Jørgensen & Mari Husabø, HVL: "Paradoxes of polarization in the child welfare services: an analysis of children’s participation practices."


8 - Nye konfigurasjoner: Spenningsfeltet sosialantropologi og sosialt arbeid


Anne Sigfrid Grønseth,  Inland Norway University of Applied Sciencesanne.gronseth@inn.no

Christian Sørhaug, Østfold University College: christian.sorhaug@hiof.no

Marianne Rugkåsa, OsloMet: marirug@oslomet.no

I dag jobber mange sosialantropologer opp mot virksomheter knyttet til sosialt arbeid.  I denne arbeidsgruppen er vi interessert i å utforske nye mulighetsrom, sammensetninger og utfordringer som gjør seg gjeldende i dette kryssningsfeltet. Den pågående pandemien har skapt økt polariseringer og større sosial ulikhet som gjør seg gjeldene både for antropologiske studier og sosialt arbeid.

Både sosialantropologi og sosialt arbeid har vokst ut av gode intensjoner om å bedre sosialt liv, samtidig som begge sliter med en historie av «sivilisering» og «kolonialisering» av «den andre». En sentral tematikk er «den andre», og helst den underpriviligerte andre. Mens sosialt arbeid utviklet seg fra et ønske om å forbedre fattiges livsbetingelser, ville antropologien forstå de «eksotiske» andre, deres kultur, og således skape et utgangspunkt for å kunne iverksette sosiale reformer (Taylor 1871), renovere «vestlig kultur» (Durkheim 1912) og overføre kunnskap til Vesten (Levi-Strauss 1971), Sammen skaper disse tilnærmingene en forståelse av kunnskap og sosial reform som harmoniske tiltak, og utgjør en anvendt og kritisk antropologi, eller det som nylig er blitt kalt en «moralsk forpliktelse» (Scheper-Huges 1995), også kalt en «moralsk angst» (Faubion 2003).

I antropologien holdes kulturrelativisme, forstått som en metodisk relativisme, høyt. Vi skal kontinuerlig etterstrebe å forstå andres livsverden. I sosialt arbeid framheves det at for å hjelpe den andre, må du forstå den andre. Tross slike likheter er det en forskjell ved at sosialarbeideren ser seg som en aktiv ‘endringsagent’ mens sosialantropologen strekker seg mot en fortolkende forståelse, og vil helst intervenere minst mulig. Slike og andre spenningsfelt kan åpne nye konfigurasjoner, nye perspektiver på eget fag, nye produktive arenaer og studiefelt for sosialantropologien.

Arbeidsgruppa ønsker med dette å utforske følgende – og andre - relevante spørsmål:

  • Hvordan kan antropologi påvirke sosialt arbeid?
  • Kan relasjonen mellom antropologi og sosialt arbeid rekonfigureres?
  • Hvordan kan antropologi og sosialt arbeid spille på lag for å dempe sosial polarisering?
  • Hvordan kan antropologer forbli ‘a community of critics’ (Marilyn Strathern) og samtidig jobbe bekreftende med sosial endring, sosialt arbeid og deres praksiser?
  • Hvordan forstår de to fagene innholdet, etablering og opprettholdelse av sosiale relasjoner?
  • Utover å forstå sosialt arbeids posisjon og destabilisere våre egne disiplinære vaner og antakelser, spør vi om det finnes andre måter å samarbeide på?
  • Hvordan kan vi legge til rett for produktive, inkluderende, rettferdige og ulike framtidige scenarier i kjølvannet av pandemien?
  • Kan sosialantropologi og sosialt arbeid finne nye felles perspektiver i møte med pandemien?

9 - Antropologiske tilnærminger til paradokser og kompleksitet i offentlige sektor


Gard Ringen Høibjerg, NAV, Design Researcher: Gard.ringen.hoibjerg@nav.no

Maria Taivalsaari Røhnebæk, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences: Maria.rohnebak@inn.no

Organisasjoner i offentlig sektor håndterer kontinuerlig en rekke motstridende verdier, krav og forventninger. Det er organisasjoner som er satt til å forvalte fellesskapets interesser og ressurser, og de skal samtidig ivareta individet og tilby tjenester som er tilpasset individers forutsetninger og behov. Det forventes at fellesskapets ressurser forvaltes på kostnadseffektive måter, samtidig som det skal være formålseffektivt og etiske og moralske hensyn skal ivaretas. De mange motstridende verdiene og kravene som ligger til grunn for virksomheter i offentlig sektor innebærer at dette er organisasjoner preget av paradokser og med høy grad av kompleksitet.

I teorier om organisatoriske paradokser er man opptatt av paradokser ikke kan løses, men at de kan forstås og håndteres på mer eller mindre hensiktsmessige måter. Utgangspunktet for denne arbeidsgruppen er at antropologi er egnet for å fortolke, analysere og sette ord på slike paradokser, og at antropologer derfor kan spille en viktig rolle i offentlige organisasjoners håndtering av kompleksitet og spenninger. Antropologers ‘verktøykasse’ er basert på en holistisk tilnærming til problemstillinger, og den vektlegger evnen til å forstå fenomener fra ulike perspektiv.  Men hvordan fungerer denne verktøykassen i praksis, og i møte med offentlig sektors organisasjoner paradokser og kompleksitet?

I denne arbeidsgruppen inviterer vi til refleksjoner og diskusjoner rundt disse temaene. Bidragene kan være basert på innsikt fra forskning på eller i organisasjoner i offentlig sektor; fra praktisk erfaring med å jobbe som antropolog i slike organisasjoner; eller fra erfaring med konsulent eller rådgivningsvirksomhet.

Målet med sesjonen er å skape en møteplass der praksisnær empiri og forskningsfronten møtes i samtale for å utvikle en forståelse av antropologiens relasjon og mulige innflytelse på offentlig sektors evne til å håndtere kompleksitet.  

Som bidrag til sesjonen ønsker vi både mer tradisjonelle akademiske bidrag, i form av konferansepapers, og bidrag fra personer eller grupper som vil presentere hvordan de bruker faget i sin arbeidshverdag. Formatet vil bli tilpasset av bidragene som kommer inn.

Kommentator: Halvard Vike (USN)


10 - Exterminate All the Brutes! Exploring the Global Colony and its Resistance


Jennifer Hays, University of Tromsø:  jennifer.hays@uit.no

John Andrew McNeishThe Norwegian University of Life Sciences

In a recent documentary produced by Raul Peck, and based on a book by Svein Lindquist, the phrase “Exterminate All the Brutes” is said to sum up the underlying logic of the genocidal history of colonialism and current global order. In the four-part documentary Peck attempts to uncover the “origin story” of white supremacy. Focused mostly on the US and its original sins – the long slow genocide of Indigenous peoples, and slavery – its often-artistic narration draws on wider source material dealing with the European partition of Africa, the rise of the political right, and the “techniques of killing at a distance”. 

It is this documentary and its textual foundations, including Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Dunbar Ortiz’s An Indigenous People’s History of the United States and Rolph Trouillot’s Silencing the Past, we propose to use as reconsideration of our anthropological work. Papers in this panel will ask, what empirical evidence do we have in our work of this “origin story”, and of its persistence into the present? What details of our work reveal critiques and adjustments to this narrative? What does ethnography reveal about forms of resistance to this “order”, and our possible replication its logics and actions? Social anthropology had a role in the history of colonialism. Does it now have a role in confronting this past, or in aiding and abetting continued “extermination”?

With these questions in mind we invite contributions to this panel from a spectrum of interlinked themes. For example, we invite contributions exploring topics relating to the violence waged against indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities across the world; the social and environmental consequences of land acquisition, resource extraction, and attribution of economic value to nature; and the responses of marginalized peoples and other forms of activism to persisting forms of colonialism (racism, patriarchy, anthropocentrism). We welcome papers connecting these processes with the rise of the political right in Europe and elsewhere; and/or exploring them in relation to the problem of “whiteness” and scientific racism. We seek insights regarding the role of social anthropology both as a force to confront the colonial past and its possible flaws, and the complicity of our field with its logics and practice, and reflections on decolonization and different directions in decolonial theory. It is in the conversation between these disparate directions in anthropology we wish to interrogate and come to terms with the long shadow of a dark legacy: exterminate all the brutes.


11 - Coexistence, conflict, and complexity: ethnographies of social and political change in urban communities


Bruno Lefort, Tampere University: bruno.lefort@tuni.fi

Eeva Puumala, Tampere University.

Largely shaped by neoliberal policies that intensify inequalities, cities are becoming the sites of increasingly polarized battles on growing income disparities, segregation and cultural differences related to immigration, the place of religion in the society, or national identities. These tensions disrupt the social and political fabric calling into question what living together means. This panel seeks to understand how people move through, exist in, and make sense of difference and complexity in the urban everyday.

Anthropological examinations discuss communities and their dynamics mostly through cultural identity. Growing complexity in urban settings is generally addressed against the backdrop of ethnic, linguistic religious, cultural or other group-based attributes. Even the notion of hybridity, despite its contribution to the study of complexifying identities, remains ontologically connected to a group-based understanding of the social as it essentially supposes “an anterior pure”. Anthropological insights into diversity, in turn, have largely revolved around the concept of citizenship, illuminating how regimes of citizenship translate into dynamics of inclusion and exclusion. This has normalized the nation-state as an entity of reference in discussions around community.

This panel wishes to engage with the affective and emotional experience of living with, in, and through diversity in its complexity. How can we think of community beyond the state, society or group-based accounts? We propose adopting not a cultural, but an existential perspective to belonging to grasp its personal and interpersonal, as well as affective and embodied modes. Furthermore, to understand the heterogeneous and changing nature of human lives, we suggest moving from a communal, consensus-based understanding of living towards a relational and dissensual understanding of coexistence. This double inflection makes it possible to rethink community through emergence, understood as ever-coming-into-being temporary negotiations that make coexistence possible amidst differences, tensions, and conflicts.

We invite ethnographic, participatory and experimental explorations that engage with these or related questions and think of communities as fundamentally fluid, emergent constructions in urban contexts. The presentations can explore, for instance:

  • How social divisions emerge and develop, and how people and places stick together
  • How local arrangements that enable coexistence amidst complex, polarized fault lines emerge in the urban everyday
  • How often-temporary negotiated settlements reshape our understanding of a community in contemporary cities
  • What methodologies are suited to study emergent forms of coexistence and division
  • What sort of conceptual challenges the complexity of everyday life presents to research that seeks to understand processes of affective, political and social polarization


12 - Comparative perspectives on entrepreneurship, organisational culture, and social changes


Carla Dahl-Jørgensen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology: carla.dahl-jorgensen@ntnu.no

Benedicte Brøgger, BI Oslo

Tone Danielsen, Kristiania University College

The work of Fredrik Barth in The Role of the Entrepreneur in Social Change in Northern Norway (1963), was a seminal anthropological work illuminating the role of entrepreneurs, the meaning of a working environment and organization to understand processes of social change. Now – in the middle of the pandemic – it is time to make a new seminal workshop on social changes.

Over the years, we have witnessed a move towards understanding entrepreneurship more in line with a neoliberal approach, more individualistic and self-centred. Entrepreneurs are defined as neoliberal subjects where they craft their subjectivities, their identities, and are the optimal examples of the embodiment of neoliberalism. In these narratives, the role of the working environment or the organization, as a space of cultural and social meaning-making, have receded to give way to individuals in their economic drive, self-making and identity practices – analyzed independent of work settings, collectives, and community belonging. Furthermore, ethnographic studies on local and social entrepreneurship have been signalling empirical variations of the nature and role of entrepreneurs; as not necessarily economic and utility maximizing agents. As such the role and production of entrepreneurship is contested and empirically differentiated.

By providing fine-grained ethnography, anthropologists can illuminate the cacophony and intrinsic complexity of entrepreneurship. Stories about individuals, analysed within the larger cultural context of both their ‘communities of practice’ as well as the ‘global marketplace’ in which we are all entangled. Thick descriptions can challenge static models and taken-for-granted trend analyses, so that we can have better-informed discussions on social changes in our current era.

In this session we are inviting empirical and ethnographic based studies on entrepreneurship, organizations and social changes from a diverse range of cases. Topics related to, but not limited to, the following themes are welcomed:

What are the roles of entrepreneurs and who are they? How is the diverse ways of entrepreneurship practices and organizational culture manifested in ethnographic works of today? How do we understand the relationship between entrepreneurship and organized action in the Global North and the Global South? Does entrepreneurship transcend the current polarizing tendencies? Do they contribute to them? How can anthropologists contribute to the concept and debate of indigenous, spiritual, and social entrepreneurship?

This call should be of interest to anthropologists doing ethnographic studies, but also anthropologists working for NGO’s, public organizations, or private firms who are extending the boundaries of the discipline through their work and by engaging anthropology as a source of intervention and knowledge production.


13 - Forskningsetikk og etnografisk datamateriale: Nye problemer, erfaringer og løsninger

Kontaktperson for innsending av bidrag uansett form: Camilla Hansen, OsloMet: camilla.hansen@oslomet.no


  • Elisabeth L. Fürst (SAI)
  • Camilla Hansen (OsloMet) 
  • Ragnhild Elise Johansen (NKVTS)
  • Mari Rysst (HINN)
  • Jan Ketil Simonsen (NTNU)
  • Halvard Vike (USN)

I forbindelse med den pågående reguleringen av innsamling og lagring av data knyttet til personlovgivning (GDPR) og et generelt større søkelys på etikk i alle samfunnssektorer, er forskningsetikk nok en gang høyt oppe på den forskningspolitiske agendaen. Utviklingen skaper en rekke hindre som kan svekke styrken ved etnografiske og empiriske forskningstradisjoner. Spesielt tverrfaglige miljøer kan oppleve grenseoppgangene mellom kvalitative og kvantitative forskningsdesign som kompliserte.

Det er behov for mer kunnskap i fagmiljøene om denne utviklingen og et behov for å gjøre antropologiens metoder og nye utfordringer bedre kjent ovenfor regulerende myndigheter og forskningspolitiske aktører. I denne situasjonen har vi, antropologer fra ulike fagmiljøer, mobilisert for å bedre ivareta våre interesser (se NAT 3/2020), og Innspill til NESHs Høring om forskningsetikken. Det arbeides nå med å etablere en fagetisk komite for etnografi i Norsk Antropologiske Forening.

På denne bakgrunn inviterer vi til en bred diskusjon og erfaringsutveksling om ulike etiske og juridiske utfordringer som begrenser vår empiriske forskning, akademiske frihet og ytringsfrihet – og hvordan de konkret har blitt løst/ kan løses. En slik erfaringsutveksling vil gi komiteen et godt grunnlag for det videre fagpolitiske arbeidet.

Vi ønsker et bredt og åpent spekter av erfaringsbaserte innlegg velkomne. De kan presenteres både skriftlig og muntlig, uansett form. Vi planlegger å arrangere rundbord diskusjon med utgangpunkt i å operasjonaliserer GDPR praksiser og erfaringer.  

14 - Positioning Sustainability in Critical Global Form


Arthur Mason, Norwegian University of Science and Technologyarthur.l.mason@ntnu.no

Cymene Howe, Rice University

Ståle Knudsen, University of Bergen

Sustainability necessarily means different things in various contexts but in aggregate seems to encompass quite literally everything. The United Nations worries about meeting sustainability goals, business leaders are concerned about sustainable development, politicians worry about economic sustainability. For the rest of us who balance purchasing power amidst running down the natural capital of the planet, sustainable consumption is our main concern. This multitude of meanings testifies to sustainability’s uncertainty as a unitary concept but also to its ideological power of representing life on earth between two poles of reproducible and exhaustible assets. 

This panel explores critical debates in sustainability through the lens of global inequality in the twenty-first century and asks what is being sustained in these rhetorics, and possibly more likely, what is imagined to be being sustained? If the status quo is not something we want to reproduce and sustain, as there seems to be no sense in propping up broken worlds, what then does the discourse of sustainability do, metaphorically and/or within policy circles -- in ways that radically departs or suggests maintenance of status quo? Crucially, sustainability calculations often hinge on polarized arguments, such as weighing the advantages over disadvantages, suggesting that such calculations themselves are sites for the struggle over legitimate definitions whereby certain calculations arise in political debate while others are enclaved as a non-political matter. How then do sustainability calculations based on polarized all-or-nothing distinctions represent a new political economy in the struggle over needs (à la Nancy Fraser)?

Papers will bring together practitioners in theories of sovereignty, critical and political ecologies, identitarian movements, democratizing energy, the Global South, and media and digital studies, that enable critical political economic approaches for an emerging anthropology of sustainability research. We welcome contributions that draw on ethnography to critically address the issues and discourses of sustainability and global inequality. Specifically, panelists aim to seek a "way out" from the status of immaturity now affecting sustainability studies. Here, we refer to attitudes that accept external discourses such as “natural resources” and “market,” where the use of critical judgement about dispossession and forced labor is called for. Reformulated approaches raise questions about key organizations involved in sustainability for example, how is the IMF and World Bank responsible for laying the foundations for the paradox of global poverty? How do such organizations favor economic policies of capital and trade liberalization, tax advantages for the rich, and the selling-off of state assets?

15 - Transitional justice and contested memorialization after terror:  the Norwegian 22 July attacks


Kristin Bergtora Sandvik, University of Oslo/PRIO: k.b.k.sandvik@jus.uio.no

In the contemporary context,  in many locations in the so-called Global north communities and governments are grappling with how to come to terms with the aftermath of religious and right-wing extremism and  mass-death terror attacks. While contestations and failings over issues pertaining to healing, security and inclusion share many empirical similarities with struggles common in more traditional transitional justice contexts (as carefully documented by a large ethnographic literature), there has been no analysis of these attacks through the frame of transitional justice.  Using the 22 July attack as a case, the panel welcomes ethnographic and socio-legal contributions exploring the aftermath of terror.

In the 22 July 2011 terror attack, a car bomb in the Oslo government district killed eight people, injured about 200 and destroyed a large tract of urban space. 69 children, women and men were massacred at Utøya Island. Thousands of individuals – survivors, family and friends of victims and survivors, rescuers, and bystanders – continue to be directly affected. The government responded with a call for ‘more democracy, more openness’.

Yet, only now, Norwegian society is moving from framing 22 July as an attack against ‘us all’, democracy and the rule of law, to a difficult recognition of the attack as a large-scale political assassination carried out against the Labor party and its Youth wing: executed by a lone terrorist but through the prism of a political ideology. At the same time, the States attempts to settle this conflict and provide a recognition of the political nature of the terror attack through the construction of a memorial site, a gigantic new government quarters and the renaming of streets have been met with fierce resistance from ordinary citizens who oppose the reframing of their lifeworld as a ‘political’ site of post-terror commemoration.


16 - Anthropological forays into urban polarization


Trine Olsen Møgster, Norwegian University of Science and Technology:  trine.o.mogster@ntnu.no

Bjørn Enge Bertelsen, University of Bergen

Christine Jacobsen, University of Bergen

Knut Rio, University of Bergen

This session is dedicated to anthropological studies of cities and urban formations—especially focusing on the social life of cities. In particular, we are interested in providing comparative perspectives on the multiform and multisemic effects of neoliberal tendencies within urban development and urban planning. Concretely, such tendencies may include processes which redefine and restrict urban commons, class-based forms of spatial access, ghettoification, systems of surveillance and control that suffuse our everyday lives and urban spaces, as well as the emergence of privately engineered, privately built and fully privately owned cities. Such tendencies generate, we claim, various and contested urban forms of polarization that are not only accessible for anthropological analysis but should be of keen interest to our discipline, reflecting a long-standing interest in friction, conflict, resistance, and modes of governance in socio-spatial circumstances.

Based on this broad and deliberatively inclusive focus, in this session we explicitly hope for a range of papers that deal with different parts of the globe. This is done not only to juxtapose formal commonalities and similarities between in urban contexts around the globe but also to open up a broader discussion which approaches, in critical fashion, common understandings of the private-public distinction, the relations between the material constitution of the city and its many imaginaries, or the ways in which urban governance relates to various forms of capitalist transformation, to name some.