The seminar series is organised by Paula Uimonen, Ivana Maček, Johan Lindquist and Erik Olsson. The list is continuously being updated.


Research seminar

Monday January 22, 13.00–14.30, B600
Bart Barendregt, Associate Professor, Leiden Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden University

Princes Siti and the Particularities of Post Islamist Pop: Gender, Music, and Publicity in Malaysia and Beyond

The Voices of Asian Modernities Project (VAMP), a recent collaboration between Leiden and Pittsburgh university, focuses on how popular music increasingly has provided women with the means to articulate the modern. Female entertainers, positioned at the margins of intersecting fields of activities, created something hitherto unknown: they were artistic pioneers of new music, cinema, forms of dance and theater, and new behavior, lifestyles, and morals. They were active agents in the creation of local performance cultures, an emerging mass culture, and the rise of a region-wide and globally oriented entertainment industry.

The career of Malaysian pop diva Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza Tarudin, one of Asia’s bestselling female artists illustrates how Asian modernities have increasingly come to be articulated within an Islamic context. Her post Islamist pop transgress traditional values, especially with regards to the desired behavior of young women; at the same time, it is keen to constantly draw new boundaries, as it is defining new codes of gender relations. Siti’s life and works, and its reception by a wider Asian audience shows the ambiguities modern Malay Muslim star performers face, caught as they are between the particularities of local, national, transnational, and global Islamic music industries.

Bart Barendregt is an associate professor at the Leiden Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Sociology, where he lectures on media, popular and digital culture. Bart has extensively written on Islamic pop culture as well as (religiously inspired) social media use in Southeast Asia, and is co-author of Banal Beats, Muted Histories; Popular Music in Southeast Asia (Amsterdam University Press, 2017) and co-editor (with Andrew Weintraub) of Vamping the Stage Voices of Asian Modernities (University of Hawai`i Press, 2017). Bart is currently finishing his monograph on what is the world’s most popular, commercial and gendered of Islamist musics, nasheed and its mixing of religion, youth culture and politics.

Organised together with Forum for Asian Studies, Stockholm University.


Research seminar

Monday January 29

No seminar!



CEIFO seminar

Monday February 5, 13.00–14.30, B600
Niina Vuolajärvi, PhD candidate, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and visiting researcher, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Governing in the Name of Caring – The Nordic Model of Prostitution and Its Punitive Consequences for Migrants

A new trend has taken place in international prostitution policies. Sweden was the first country to claim a new feminist approach to prostitution and shift its prostitution policies towards abolishing commercial sex by criminalizing the act of buying sexual services, while decriminalizing the selling of sex. Sweden adopted the Sex Purchase Act in 1999, followed by Norway in 2009. Finland adopted a partial criminalization in 2006. Many anti-trafficking activists promote the Nordic approach as the best tool to combat sex trafficking and protect women in commercial sex, and, despite the lack consensus whether the law has been successful in its goals, the model has spread globally over the last five years to Europe, North America, and Southeast Asia.

Relying on over two years of ethnographic fieldwork and around 200 interviews with sex workers, social and health care workers, the police, and policy-makers, this paper examines the Nordic prostitution model and its intersection with immigration policies in three countries that have adopted some degree of client criminalization: Finland, Norway, and Sweden. My fieldwork findings show that in a situation where the majority of people who sell sex – 60-75% – in the region are migrants, the regulation of commercial sex has shifted from prostitution to immigration policies, resulting in a double standard in the governance of national and foreign sex workers. My fieldwork reveals a tension between the stated feminist-humanitarian aims of the model, to protect and save women, and the punitivist governance of commercial sex that in practice leads to control, deportations, and women’s working conditions becoming more difficult. The paper concludes that when examined in action the Nordic model is a form of humanitarian governance that I call punitivist humanitarianism, or governing in the name of caring.

Niina Vuolajärvi is a doctoral student at Rutgers University, Department of Sociology. In her ethnographic PhD research "Precarious Intimacies – Migration and Sex Work in the Nordic Region", she combines migration and precarization research perspectives to the inquiries of intimacies and commercial sex. Her PhD project focuses the so-called Nordic prostitution model and its intersection with immigration policies in three countries that have adopted some degree of client criminalization: Finland, Norway, and Sweden. The broader theoretical question of the thesis explores the role of law in shaping intimacies. For more information on her work see:


CEIFO seminar

Monday February 12, 13.00–14.30, B600
Livia Johannesson, PhD, Department of Political Science, Stockholm University

In Courts We Trust: Administrative Justice in Swedish Migration Courts

In my research I have investigated how judicial practices generate administrative justice in asylum determination procedures. Previous research on immigration policies argues that when asylum determinations are processed in courts, principles of administrative justice are ensured and immigrants’ rights protected. I scrutinize that argument by approaching administrative justice as an empirical phenomenon open for different types of interpretations. Instead of assuming that administrative justice characterizes courts, I assume that this concept acquires particular meanings through the practices of the courts.

Empirically, this dissertation studies practices of assessing asylum claims at the Swedish migration courts. By interviewing and observing judges at the migration courts, litigators from the Migration Board and public counsels from different law firms, this interpretive and ethnographic study analyzes how administrative justice acquires meanings in the daily practices of assessing asylum claims at the migration courts.

The main result is that a ceremonial version of administrative justice is generated at the migration courts. This version of administrative justice forefronts symbolic dimensions of justice. The asylum appeal procedure succeeds in communicating justice through rituals, building design and metaphors, which emphasize objectivity, impartiality and certainty on behalf of the judicial practices. However, these symbols of justice disguise several unfair aspects of the asylum appeal procedure. The implications of these findings are that immigration policy research needs to reconsider the relationship between the courts and immigrants’ rights by paying more attention to the everyday practices of ensuing administrative justice in courts than on the instances when courts oppose political attempts to restrict immigrants’ rights.

Livia Johannesson is a political scientist specialized in immigration research, public administration and interpretive policy analysis. She defended her dissertation thesis in March 2017, which dealt with Swedish asylum policy and the role of courts in determining asylum claims. Livia often uses ethnographic methods in her research and has co-authored an introductory book to ethnography for political science. Currently, she studies decision-making in mega-project planning as she is part of a research project about the new University Hospital in Stockholm, Nya Karolinska Solna.


Research seminar

NB cancelled!

Monday February 19, 13.00–14.30, B600
Sheenagh Pietrobruno, Associate Professor, School of Social Communication, Saint Paul University

Digital Heritage and Community Expressions: The Case of YouTube’s Women Whirling Dervishes

YouTube provides a means of distributing videos of intangible cultural heritage from UNESCO, other heritage institutions, communities and users. Heritage is stored and transmitted on a platform whose fundamental goal is not the distribution of digital heritage but rather the monetizing of the labour of YouTube users through algorithms and business models. In light of the paradox of disseminating culture through a commercial venue, the transmission of heritage videos can both hinder and advance the dissemination of community expressions of intangible heritage. Although communities produce intangible heritage within the boundaries of nation states, the practices of given communities may be included or excluded from the national heritage narratives promoted by their respective governments. YouTube disseminates heritage narratives that are safeguarded by nations states as well as those that are not officially recognized. The narratives discussed are those of the Sufi performance of the Mevlevi Sema ceremony [Sema], a practice that is internationally known for its whirling dance. The Sema is safeguarded by the Turkish nation state through UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003). The Turkish government through this UNESCO convention only recognizes public Sema ceremonies performed exclusively by men. Yet there are communities who integrate women dervishes in public performances in Turkey and videos featuring these performances circulate on YouTube. This digital heritage research is approached from an interdisciplinary perspective, which draws from international communication, critical heritage studies, digital media studies and historical and contemporary research on the Mevlevi Sema ceremony and its whirling dance, including ethnographic research of a Mevlevi community in Istanbul.

Sheenagh Pietrobruno (PhD, McGill University) is an Associate Professor of Social Communication at Saint Paul University, which is federated with the University of Ottawa and a Visiting Professor (2018) at the Department for the Studies of Social Change and Culture (ISAK) at Linköping University. She has been awarded previous research fellowships at the Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths/University of London, the Advanced Cultural Studies Institute of Sweden (ACSIS)/ Linköping University and at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC). Pietrobruno was also awarded the Muriel Gold Visiting Professor Position at the Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies (IGSF) at McGill University and the Scientist-in-Residence position at the Center for Gender Studies at the University of Salzburg. Her work is published in leading journals including Convergence: The Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, New Media and Society; International Journal of Heritage Studies; Performing Islam; Intermédialités; International Journal of Cultural Studies; and Early Popular Visual Culture. She is the author of Salsa and Its Transnational Moves (Rowman and Littlefield, 2006). Her next book is Digital Legacies: The Global Archiving of Intangible Heritage.


CEIFO seminar

Thursday February 22, 10.00–12.00, B600
Thomas Faist, Professor, Bielefeld University

From Voice to Exit? Cross-Border Migration as a Transnational Social Question from the 19th to the 21st Century

On a world scale, distress and social instability are reminiscent of the social inequalities that obtained in a large part of nineteenth-century Europe. At that time the social question was the central subject of extremely volatile political conflicts between the ruling classes and working-class movements. Are we now on the verge of a new social conflict, this time on a world scale, characterized by manifold boundaries – such as those between capital and labour, global North and global South? This lecture traces exit and voice as the principal options for potential cross-border migrants from the late 19th century until the contemporary period. One major feature underlying the causes and dynamics of cross-border migration in Europe over the past 200 years has been social inequalities between regions of emigration, transit and immigration and within these regions. The politicization of such inequalities which refer to cross-border flows can be called the transnational social question. It becomes clear that an interpretation of the late 19th and early 20th century as the time of voice with respect to working class organization and of today as the time of exit in the face of an “age of migration” would be misleading. Instead, there are distinctive combinations of exit, voice and loyalty across time. Markedly, four long-term trends from the late 19th & early 20th century, through the post-World War Two period and the 21st century can be discerned: (1) the development of national welfare states as the main regulators of social protection as a response to political struggles around social inequalities; (2) the gradual emergence of sophisticated state migration control; (3) a perception of increasing heterogeneities and their politicization beyond class; and (4) in contrast to the 19th century and part of the 20th century a lack of a coherent theory around the social question which would be able to mobilize politically and intellectually. Instead, we find a multitude of theories and multiple new social movements.

See also filmed lecture with Thomas Faist: “Social Inequalities: What Role for Transnationality?

Thomas Faist is professor of Sociology of Transnationalization, Development & Migration at Bielefeld University. Professor Faist is a world-leading scholar in the research on cross-border migration but also on citizenship and development issues. Among his most famous publications are The Volume and Dynamics of International Migration and Transnational Social Spaces (Oxford 2000); Diaspora and Transnationalism: Concepts, Theories and Methods (with Rainer Bauböck, IMISCOE 2010) and Transnational Migration (with Fauser and Reisenauer, Cambridge 2013).


Research seminar

Monday February 26, 13.00–14.30, B600
Maris Gillette, Professor, School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg

Conceptualizing Industrial Heritage: The View from China

When China's former state and collective enterprises failed to privatize successfully in the early 2000s, millions of former workers lost their jobs, industrial sites and machinery turned into obsolescent eyesores, and a state-driven, centralized modernization project became unwanted history. After artists and designers in Shanghai and Beijing took over a few former factories for creative purposes, government officials in some cities realized that deindustrialized sites could be a resource for redevelopment, and the central government began creating policies to promote industrial heritage. Previous ethnographers of industrial heritage have used concepts such as performance, scar, and ruination to theorize heritage-making in deindustrialized places. Here I draw on examples from China, particularly Jingdezhen, to suggest that industrial heritage processes be understood as metaphoric and metonymic processes of gentrification.

Maris Boyd Gillette is a social anthropologist and filmmaker whose research explores how capitalist processes affect group identities, material culture, and economic practices. She has studied porcelain workers and entrepreneurs in Jingdezhen, southeast China (China’s Porcelain Capital: The Rise, Fall, and Reinvention of Ceramics in Jingdezhen, Bloomsbury 2016), Chinese Muslims in Xi’an, northwest China (Between Mecca and Beijing: Modernization and Consumption Among Urban Chinese Muslims, Stanford 2000), and urban neighborhoods in the midwestern and eastern United States. Gillette works regularly with museums on exhibitions, public history, and educational initiatives, including the Campbell House Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the St Louis Art Museum, and the Missouri History Museum. She has participated in several community engagement initiatives, including the community history and digital media project Muslim Voices of Philadelphia, for which she received a Courage in Media Award from the Council on American Islamic Relations in 2012.  She is Professor of Social Anthropology, School of Global Studies, the University of Gothenburg.



Research seminar

Monday March 5, 13.00–14.30, B600
Špela Drnovšek Zorko, PhD, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick

Genealogies of encounter: race and coloniality among (Central-)East European migrants in Britain

While it is often assumed that the concept of ‘race’ is external to the social and cultural geographies of (Central-)East Europe – in contrast to notions of ‘ethnic’ or ‘religious’ difference – recent debates (Baker 2018; Dzenovska 2013; Imre 2012) are opening up possibilities for examining the articulations between race, coloniality, and the global in postsocialist Europe. At the same time, broader calls to recognise the connections (Bhambra 2014) between seemingly disparate or marginal histories offer a challenge to the assumed centrality of Western Europe as the primary site of ‘new’ global encounters, as well as to the selective epistemologies that underpin such assumptions. This paper sets out a preliminary theoretical approach to a new project provisionally entitled “Toward a diasporic postsocialism: ‘race’, migration, and genealogies of encounter”, which investigates how (Central-)East European migrants living in Britain narrate their encounters with race and coloniality. I propose a conceptual lens that locates such encounters against a historical legacy of Cold War intersections between the state socialist and decolonising worlds, rather than seeing them solely as a consequence of ‘multicultural’ or ‘post-Brexit’ Britain. At the same time, I draw on ethnographic data from past research to address the ambivalence of self-conscious encounters across racialised difference, emphasising that recognition might not necessarily equate to solidarity, or lead to a commitment to coalition-building.

Špela Drnovšek Zorko is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, working on a postdoctoral project investigating how Central and East European migrants living in Britain articulate their encounters with race and coloniality, as well as how such encounters might be read against a historical background of Cold War internationalism. Prior to taking up the fellowship, Špela obtained her PhD in Anthropology at SOAS, University of London, with a thesis on intergenerational memory among former Yugoslav migrants. Between 2012 and 2015 she was an Early Stage Researcher in the Marie Curie Initial Training Network ‘Diasporic Constructions of Home and Belonging’ (CoHaB) and has also taught at SOAS as a Senior Teaching Fellow on the MA Migration and Diaspora Studies.


Research seminar

Monday March 12, 13.00–14.30, B600
Nikhil Anand, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania

Leaks and the Hydraulic City

In this talk I will present an overview of my recently published book, Hydraulic City. Drawing attention to the ways in which settlers in Mumbai establish access to water in the city, I begin by showing that urban citizenship is not an event in linear time, but a fickle, distributed and reversible process. Next, I attend to the ways in which water leaks in the public system. Rather than theorize this leakage as ‘loss’, I argue that it is constitutive of the water infrastructure in cities. Neither fully in the water engineers’ control, nor out of their domain, leaks are vital sites not only for the making of political authority, but also of lives that are rendered marginal and illegal by the rules of the city. Based on over two years of ethnographic fieldwork with city water engineers, social workers, politicians, plumbers and urban residents, Hydraulic City demonstrates how water infrastructures are critical sites for the making of cities and citizenship.

Nikhil Anand is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on the political ecology of cities, read through the different lives of urban water. His first book, Hydraulic City focuses on the everyday ways in which cities and citizens are made through the everyday management of water infrastructure in Mumbai. Articles based on this research have also been published in Antipode, Cultural Anthropology, Ethnography and Public Culture. With Hannah Appel and Akhil Gupta, Dr. Anand is co-editor of a forthcoming volume, The Promise of Infrastructure (forthcoming with Duke University Press), that focuses on the ways in which infrastructure provides a generative ground to theorize time and politics. Dr. Anand has a Masters in Environmental Science from Yale University and a PhD in Anthropology from Stanford University.

Organised together with Forum for Asian Studies, Stockholm University.


CEIFO seminar

Thursday March 15, 10.00–12.00, D900 (NB)
Peter Gatrell, Professor, University of Manchester

Writing migration into a history of Europe since 1945

I am writing a history of Europe since 1945 seen through the prism of migration. Europe has always been a continent of people on the move; it’s difficult to imagine any part of the continent that has been untouched by migration of one kind or another. The continent’s history and the history of individual European countries have been shaped by migration, by people voluntarily and often quietly crossing international frontiers or moving within a single country, by people who have migrated in order to escape from violence, by people who have been deported, and by those who didn’t migrate.

My book will begin with dead bodies: ‘People trying every way to get out in boats. Bigger ships could not come in, only little ships. I remember there was an old lady left to die, screaming. No-one to help her. Left to herself. We were lucky. We get out on little ship and then to big ship … There was no water in town. Canals full of dead people’. There are many more stories in the same vein, of individuals being literally as well as metaphorically engulfed. One eye-witness recalled: ‘the stench was terrible. There was no air. We didn’t know where we were going. We didn’t know how long we’d be on the ship. We couldn’t see anything’. Migration is partly about engulfment. The first quotation is the testimony of a Latvian refugee, describing the journey she made from the Baltic coast to Lübeck, in a desperate attempt to evade the Soviet Red Army in May 1945. The second is a quotation from the words of an Algerian woman described being transported to France in 1962, along with hundreds of other harkis, Algerians and their families who fought on behalf of the French during the bitter conflict over the status of Algeria.

Historical testimony such as this can make us sit up and take notice. It can prompt us to think about what is familiar and what is unfamiliar about migration and about how migration is and has been represented. It has the capacity to challenge unwarranted suggestions that what happens today is ‘unprecedented’. Precedents direct our attention to the scale and suddenness of migration, as in ‘refugee crisis’, but also require us to think about motives, opportunities and constraints on people who migrate. As the late Adam McKeown put it: ‘the arguments about migration are numbingly familiar … the intractable positions of migration debates seem to be trapped in an incestuous cycle of call and response that has little to do with the dynamics of migration itself’. In my presentation I want to talk about dynamics – changes in political, economic and other contexts – and about the aspirations of migrants, against the backdrop of constraints of numerous kinds.

Peter Gatrell teaches history at the University of Manchester where he is also affiliated to the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute. He is the author of a trilogy of books on refugee history, including A Whole Empire Walking: Refugees in Russia during World War 1 (1999) and The Making of the Modern Refugee (2013). His latest book, co-edited with Lyubov Zhvanko, is Europe on the Move: Refugees in the Era of the Great War, 1912-1923 (2017). He is currently writing a history of migration in/to Europe since 1945, for Penguin Books and Basic Books.

Organised together with the Department of History (Modernhistoriska seminariet), Stockholm University.


Research seminar

Monday March 19, 13.00–14.30, B600
Nina Gren, Associate Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology, Lund University

About Not Understanding the System – Ignorance as an Obstacle to a Meaningful Life in Sweden

During this seminar I will explore experiences of ignorance among some Swedish-Palestinian interlocutors. They expressed an absence of knowledge when it came to the country they lived in. Often they used the word “the System” then summarizing what they did not know about Swedish society. Such experienced ignorance created confusion and frustration in people’s lives and was only partly related to how long someone had lived in Sweden. Often ignorance was expressed in relation to a complex bureaucracy and how to deal with different authorities, but it could also be in relation to more vague feelings of not knowing how to get around or ahead in society. Several stated that they felt lonely and isolated and that they did not manage to get employed. Ignorance had at least partly created a sense of meaninglessness in life. It seemed as if such ignorance was more than just an outcome of an absence of knowledge or lack of proper information. To the contrary, these informants had followed several programs, projects and courses to inform and teach immigrants about Swedish society.

I will try to answer two questions: first, why do these Swedish-Palestinians feel ignorant despite all the work that are spent on making them and other migrants more knowledgeable, and second, what alternative attempts to gain knowledge do they make? I hereby build on anthropological analyses that underline the cultural and contextual specificities of how ‘knowledge’ and ‘non-knowledge’ are configured and how they are intimately connected to one another as well as to power. I argue that ignorance in this case is the unintended result of Swedish efforts to govern immigrants and that we need to take seriously the work of the “ignorant to teach themselves and others what they might decide they need to know” (Varenne 2009).

Nina Gren received her PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Gothenburg in 2009. It focused on resilience in relation to violent conflict in a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank. Gren has also done research about Palestinian diasporic practices during a post-doc at the University of Copenhagen and, more recently, about a Swedish introductory program for refugees. She is employed at the Department of Sociology, Lund University as an associate senior lecturer.


Research seminar

Monday March 26, 13.00–14.30, B600
Cris Shore, Professor of Social Anthropology, the University of Auckland and Guest Professor, Score, Stockholm University

Audit Culture Revisited: Indicators, Performance Measurement and the Transformation of Society

The rise of ever-more pervasive systems for monitoring, measuring and ranking performance has become a defining feature of our times. Virtually every field of human activity, from childcare, education, employment and health, to policing, security, environmental management and human rights, is now subject to bureaucratic regimes of auditing and ranking (Porter 1995; Rose 1999; Kipnis 2008; Merry 2011). These audit procedures are introducing new forms of accountability that are profoundly reshaping the way workplaces, organisations and societies are governed. Yet they also produce unanticipated effects. Taking up the concept of ‘audit culture’ as an analytical framework, I examine the origins, spread and rationality driving these new systems of accountability and their impact across a number of different fields, from administration and the military to business corporations and universities. Marilyn Strathern (2000:1) argued that audit is ‘where the financial and the moral meet’. If so, what new kinds of ethics do audits produce? This paper sets out a framework for theorising audit culture and its socio-cultural effects. I also ask, what can be done to reclaim the professional values and democratic spaces that these regimes of audit are eroding?

Cris Shore is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Auckland and Guest Professor of Public Management at the Stockholm Centre for Organisational Research (2018). His main research interests are the anthropology of policy and the study of organisations, governance and power. He has conducted fieldwork in Italy (on Italian Communism), Belgium (on EU bureaucracy), Britain and New Zealand (on politics, ‘audit culture’, and higher education reform) and writes on various themes including the anthropology of Europe, the state, corruption, and universities. He is currently completing two books: one entitled The Shapeshifting Crown: Locating the State in Post-Colonial New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK (Cambridge University Press), the other called Audit Culture: How Rankings, Indicators and Numbers Re-order the World (Pluto Press). His research at Score includes a new project on metricized performance management and its effects in academia.



Research seminar

Monday April 9, 13.00–14.30, B600
Darcy Pan, PhD, Hege Høyer Leivestad, PhD, Johan Lindquist, Professor, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Presentations of new research projects.

Darcy Pan, PhD

Zone of dreams: big data, infrastructure and development in Southwest China

This project is an ethnographic study of China’s first national pilot zone for big data industry: Guizhou Big Data Comprehensive Pilot Zone in Southwest China. With the big data pilot zone, Guizhou, one of the poorest provinces in China, aims to reinvigorate its economy and put its provincial capital Guiyang at the forefront of the development of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in China and the global data market. The construction of the big data pilot zone in Guizhou illustrates China’s intensified shift towards a high value-added and innovative economy and the dramatic high-tech expansion in China’s Southwest. Rather than adopting a macro perspective on large infrastructure investments, this project approaches infrastructure from an ethnographic perspective focusing on the everyday practices and socio-cultural representations of big data so as to understand how technological advancements are configuring the relationship between the state, labor and environment. Focusing on the construction and development of the big data pilot zone, this project sets out to investigate how big data is imagined, negotiated, and put into practice in China. The aim of this study is to understand how visions of big data are incorporated into the imagining of life, development and modernity as well as the production of truths and value that contains the social world.

Darcy Pan is an anthropologist whose research focuses on the state and regimes of governance, area studies specific to China, and global technology and development. Her work has been published in Uncertain Times: Anthropological Approaches to Labor in a Neoliberal World (University Press of Colorado, 2017) and academic journal Social Anthropology.

Hege Høyer Leivestad, PhD

Frontier Freight: Maritime Logistics at the Strait of Gibraltar

Ports are critical nodes in a global maritime transport system where the aim is to move freight as seamless and efficient as possible. But how are logistical operations in ports performed in practice? And how -and between whom- is the power over logistical operations negotiated? In this presentation I draw upon my ongoing fieldwork in Algeciras, located at the strait of Gibraltar, at the gateway between Europe and Africa. The Port of Algeciras Bay is Europe’s fourth busiest container port, functioning primarily as a transhipment hub, due to its strategic location at the crossroads of several maritime routes. Despite being an apparent commercial success, the development of a third container terminal has been put on hold due to labour conflicts that culminated during 2017. Future plans of expanding the Port of Algeciras Bay have also been met with protests, revealing layers of tension in the local community regarding the economic and social importance of the port. By examining the daily work of moving goods, as well as the conflicting visions of the port’s future, this project uses logistics as a strategic lens for understanding how global mobility and capitalism are reconfigured in local contexts.

Hege H Leivestad is postdoctoral researcher at Dept. of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University and visiting researcher at London School of Economics. Her monograph "Caravans: Lives on Wheels in Contemporary Europe" was published with Bloomsbury Academic in 2018. Leivestad is currently doing fieldwork in a Spanish port examining issues of maritime mobility and logistics. The project “Frontier Freight”, is funded by the Swedish Research Council.

Johan Lindquist, Professor

Shadow Economies of the Internet: An Ethnography of Click Farming

This project investigates the devices, actors, sites, and processes that are at the center of the developing controversy around ”fake news“ and "fake clicks“: so-called “click farms,” persons or companies selling likes, views, and followers on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter via unregulated online marketplaces. Previous research suggests that the majority of click farms are based in Asian countries such as Indonesia and India, while click buyers are concentrated in North America and Europe. Rather than taking this North-South dichotomy for granted, however, the project aims to empirically study how clicks are assembled into a commodity that emerges through the transnational interactions between sellers, buyers, and online marketplaces.
Methodologically, the project combines ethnographic fieldwork among click farmers with media industry analysis, thus bringing together Social Anthropology and Media Studies. Click farming has only been sparsely researched, and primarily in ethical and regulatory terms, through a focus either on digital labor or internet marketing fraud. This project suggests a perspective of “ethical inversion” that takes the South rather than North as a starting point regarding reigning digital norms and ideals, with the aim to critically re-evaluate the “like economy.” In doing so, it develops empirically grounded social theory and a broader analytical grasp of today’s digital media ecology.

Johan Lindquist is Professor of Social Anthropology and Director of the Forum for Asian Studies at Stockholm University in Sweden. He is a member of the editorial committee of Public Culture and the editorial board of Pacific Affairs, has published articles in journals such as Ethnos, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Mobilities, Public Culture, Pacific Affairs, and International Migration Review, is the co-editor of Figures of Southeast Asian Modernity (University of Hawai’i Press, 2013), the author of The Anxieties of Mobility: Development and Migration in the Indonesian Borderlands (University of Hawai’i Press, 2009), and the director of B.A.T.A.M. (DER, 2005). 


Research seminar

Monday April 16, 13.00–14.30, B600
Angela VandenBroek, PhD candidate, Binghamton University (State University of New York) and visiting researcher, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Innovation in #SthlmTech

Stockholm is the land of unicorns. Coined in 2013 by Aileen Lee, the term unicorn refers to startup companies that are valued at a billion dollars (USD) or more before they make their exit through a public offering (IPO) or acquisition. Sweden, driven by its capital city’s “startup ecosystem,” has produced the highest number of unicorns per capita outside of Silicon Valley—a feat that has drawn the attention of investors, talent, prospective entrepreneurs, and other municipalities seeking to build their own startup communities. Woven throughout all this attention is the claim of Stockholm’s exceptional innovative capacity. The word innovation appears in every corner of Stockholm’s startup ecosystem (known locally as Sthlm Tech): building hype, justifying infrastructure, inspiring creativity, drawing in investment, and marketing products to customers. Yet, interlocutors from within Sthlm Tech describe innovation derisively as a “meaningless buzzword” while simultaneously acknowledging its essential role in “getting things done.” This study asks what innovation is and what it is “getting done” in Stockholm’s startup ecosystem.

For this seminar, I will present the preliminary findings from the first half of a year-long ethnographic study of innovation in Sthlm Tech. Based on interviews and observations within Stockholm’s startups, co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators, events and meetups, and educational and governmental organizations, I will describe Sthlm Tech and propose two conceptions of innovation. Drawing on the work of Ulf Hannerz, I will describe innovation as a global scenario that imagines the future as hinging on the success or failure of producing commercial innovations. This conception of innovation works well for understanding the growth and structure of startup ecosystems globally, particularly within media, public policy, investment, and ecosystem infrastructure. Within the social sciences, it is this conception of innovation that is often and rightly critiqued as techno-solutionism and utopianism. However, this conception of innovation and its critique obscures and distorts–for both scholars and the community’s members–the epistemic and work practices of innovation that flow through the ecosystem. To better illustrate these practices and the challenges they present to innovation as global scenario, I will present an alternative conception of innovation that traces the paths of “innovative ideas” from inspiration to production.

Angela Kristin VandenBroek is a PhD candidate in anthropology at Binghamton University, a visiting researcher in social anthropology at Stockholm University, and a research fellow with the American-Scandinavian Foundation. She combines her anthropological background with a decade of experience in design and web development to investigate cultures of expertise that generate around working with and making web and other digital technologies. She is currently conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Stockholm, Sweden on innovation in Stockholm’s startup ecosystem that is funded by the American-Scandinavian Foundation. For more information about Angela see:


CEIFO seminar

Tuesday April 17, 13.00–14.30, B600
Anju Mary Paul, Associate Professor, Yale-NUS College, Division of Social Sciences (Sociology)

Is The Trailing Wife Always Disadvantaged?: Varying Contexts Of Return For The Wives Of Western-Trained Asian Scientists

Asian scientists who train in the West may settle down overseas or may choose to return to Asia at some point in their careers. For returning scientists who are married, this return decision will also impact their spouse.

Drawing from 50 interviews with Western-trained, Asian academic bioscientists and/or their spouses who returned to China, India, Singapore or Taiwan as a result of husband-directed or joint-directed decision-making, I examine the return experiences of trailing wives. I find significant variations in these experiences across the group of trailing wives as a whole, as well as within any given wife’s post-return experience. A typology of supportive and unsupportive “contexts of return” is proposed to highlight how social, cultural, legal, and economic factors influence the post-return experience of trailing wives, independent of husbands’ gender role attitudes, and challenge the stereotype of the disadvantaged trailing spouse.

Anju Mary Paul is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at Yale-NUS College, Singapore. She is an international migration scholar with a research focus on migration to, from, and within Asia. She is especially interested in how gender, labour, race and ethnicity, as well as class, intersect at the moment of migration and the post-migration experience. Her research spans the migrations of low-wage Asian migrant domestic workers as well as high-skilled Asian-born, Western-trained bioscientists. She has published sole-authored articles in several journals, including the American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, Migration Studies, Ethnic and Racial Studies, and the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. Her books include Multinational Maids (Cambridge University Press 2017) and Local Encounters in a Global City (Ethos Books 2017).

Organised together with Forum for Asian Studies, Stockholm University.


Research seminar

Monday April 23, 13.00–14.30, B600
Don Kulick, Professor, Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Uppsala University

The End

I will present material from my forthcoming book titled The End: Adventures with a Dying Language (Algonquin Books, 2019). The book is the final outcome of my thirty years of research on language death in the village of Gapun, Papua New Guinea, begun as a graduate student in the department. It is both an analysis of how a language dies and a memoir of my work as an anthropologist in the village.

Don Kulick is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at Uppsala University, Sweden, where he directs a Swedish Research Council-funded research program titled Engaging Vulnerability. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including Language Shift and Cultural Reproduction: socialisation, syncretism and self in a Papua New Guinean village (1992), Travesti: sex, gender and culture among Brazilian transgendered prostitutes (1998), Fat: the anthropology of an obsession (edited with Anne Meneley 2005), and Loneliness and its Opposite: sex, disability and the ethics of engagement (with Jens Rydström, 2015).


Research seminar

Monday April 30, 13.00–14.30, B600
Tomas Cole, PhD student, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Spectral Sovereignty: Conflict, Conservation and Ghostly Governance in the South-eastern Highlands of Myanmar

In the chronically conflict ridden south-eastern highlands of Myanmar, at the frayed edges of the central government’s sphere of influence, plans are afoot to reconfigure these former battlefields into what the de-facto sovereign of these lands, the Karen National Union (KNU), and a local environmental activism network, KESAN, are calling the Salween Peace Park. This landscape is envisioned to become a space for “all living things sharing peace”. However, during my prolonged fieldwork in these mountains I quickly learnt that not only did the KNU state apparatus equally struggle, to paraphrase Scott (2008), to “climb hills” but local/customary leaders that could stand in their stead were either lacking or largely ceremonial. To better come to grips with the working of this anarchic state of affairs in this paper I explore the everyday practices of sovereignty, conservation and justice performed by the indigenous peoples of this realm that are open ended and draw their authority from the knowledge of and interventions from unseen, spectral beings such as the k’sah, the “real owners” of the landscape. Here people see themselves as simply borrowing the land they farm and the animals they hunt from higher, hidden, powers. I then build on these findings to critically engage with the literature on these non-state, anarchic, spaces, from Leach to Scott, to unsettle both common binaries of hierarchical/egalitarian societies and given notions of sovereignty. I then forward the idea of spectral sovereignty as a way to help grasp the entanglements of more-than-human beings, animals, mountains and ghosts, with the everyday workings of politics, justice and conservation in these highlands and beyond.

Tomas has been a PhD candidate in Social Anthropology at Stockholm University since 2015. Prior to coming to Stockholm he conducted research among disabled ex-soldiers of the Karen National Liberation Army who were living as refugees in Thailand. His current research has taken him across the border, to the de-facto autonomous zone of Kawthoolei in Southeast Myanmar to explore the entanglements between protracted armed conflicts, local cosmologies, conservation, ecology, and peace building.



CEIFO seminar

Monday May 7, 13.00–14.30, B600
Megha Amrith, PhD, Max Planck Institute for The Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

Ageing, migration and translocal mobilities in global perspective

My work has studied the relationship between care and migration, with an ethnographic exploration of the everyday co-presence of Filipino care workers and residents of an older-age nursing home in Singapore. These encounters involve frequent negotiations of religious, ethnic and linguistic boundaries, and they challenge particular expectations and understandings of care in the region. This research led me to the questions that sit at the heart of my new research group ‘Ageing in a Time of Mobility’, which examines the intersections between ageing, migration and translocal mobilities. My talk will set out the group’s research agenda: an investigation into how ageing and mobility jointly shape and respond to social, cultural and political-economic transformations, with a focus on regions of the ‘Global South’ that are rapidly ageing but that have not been widely featured in academic and policy research agendas on ageing migrants. It will consider the diverse range of relationships between ageing and mobility including the experiences of displaced older refugees; the formation of new communities among people who migrate in later life; and the active role of those who do not necessarily migrate, yet whose lives are profoundly shaped by translocal mobilities. Conceptually, questions of care, kinship, home, memory, citizenship and inequality sit at the project’s core. I will illustrate these broader questions with a closer look at how older returning migrants and those ‘left behind’ are building new retirement communities in the Asian context, and the capitalist political-economic forces that underlie these developments.

Megha Amrith is Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity for the project ‘Ageing in a Time of Mobility’. From 2014 - 2017, she was Research Fellow at the United Nations University Institute on Globalization, Culture and Mobility in Barcelona, working to connect academic and policy debates on migration. She holds a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge and her doctoral work was an ethnography of Filipino migrant care and medical workers in Singapore. Her research interests include transnational migration, urban diversity, care, labour, citizenship and ageing. She is the author of Caring for Strangers: Filipino Medical Workers in Asia (NIAS Press, 2017) and co-editor of the forthcoming book Gender, Work and Migration (Routledge, 2018).


Research seminar

Monday May 14, 13.00–14.30, B600
Peter Schweitzer, Professor, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Universität Wien

The Affordances of Infrastructure: Examples from Transportation Projects in the Arctic and Other Remote Regions

Transportation infrastructures in remote regions are built rarely to satisfy needs of local residents. On the contrary, these infrastructural developments are often implemented over and against local and regional interests. However, once infrastructure projects have been set into motion, they start displaying significant social and material agency, whether it is through rumors about things to come or through brick and mortar constructions. Thus, among other things, infrastructures overcome and create remoteness.

The affordances of infrastructure in remote regions are often unintended consequences of far-away economic or political considerations. Affordance theory recognizes that what environments or objects offer to humans depends as much on the perceiver of these affordances as on the giver. For infrastructure studies, this means that we need to pay particular attention to how specific groups of people perceive and engage with infrastructure objects and with infrastructure as a process.

This presentation will focus on Arctic case studies because of the author’s regional expertise and because of their “remote” quality. Soviet and post-Soviet examples are particularly relevant in this context, as the Russian North has been defined by a mixture of state-driven development projects and the local necessity to make things work in the absence of assistance from the center for at least the last hundred years.


Research seminar

Monday May 21, 13.00–14.30, B600
Gunilla Bjerén, Professor emerita, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Urban ethnicity: evidence from Shashemene, Ethiopia 1965-2010

In a case study of movements in and out of the town of Shashemene 1965-1973, I concluded that mobility patterns at that time were largely determined by “ethnicity”. Ethnicity at the time was a controversial subject. The government refused denied identities legitimacy in its attempt to replace ethnicity by a common identity as Ethiopian nationals. In my first Shashemene study I found that “ethnicity” subsumed many elements that jointly formed the mechanisms behind mobility patterns. There were in effect “ethnic syndromes” of language, history, social prestige, and economic opportunities.

When I returned to Shashemene for a follow-up study in 2008, the country had moved from being a centralized monarchy, and later socialist People’s Republic, to a federation of “regional states” formed on ethnic grounds. This signalled a new significance of ethnicity and ethnic identities and, along with continuing urbanization, a breaking up of elements that used to go together. In this paper I will look into the new forms of urban ethnicity, as they have developed in Shashemene during the period 1973 to 2008.

Gunilla Bjerén is retired professor of Gender Studies and docent in Social Anthropology, both at Stockholm University. She is now completing her second study of population dynamics in Shashemene town under the preliminary title “An Ethiopian kaleidoscope. Shashemene lives 1965-2010”.


CEIFO seminar

Thursday May 24, 15.00–17.00, E420
Miriam Ticktin, Associate Professor and Chair of Anthropology, The New School for Social Research, New York

Innocence, Care and the Politics of Sanctuary?

This talk will explore the relationship of innocence and care, particularly in humanitarian situations, with the goal of reconfiguring and reclaiming a more radical political concept of care that works across temporalities and affective registers. Is a non-innocent form of political care possible? If so, what does it look like? I will draw on recent feminist theories of care, and think with other political movements, such as that for “expanded sanctuary”; ultimately, the talk will push anthropological methods into the speculative: how might we imagine, design and amplify possible alternate political forms?

Miriam Ticktin is Associate Professor and Chair of Anthropology at the New School for Social Research. Her research has focused in the broadest sense on what it means to make political claims in the name of a universal humanity. She is the author of Casualties of Care: Immigration and the Politics of Humanitarianism in France (University of California Press, 2011) and In the Name of Humanity: The Government of Threat and Care (co-edited with Ilana Feldman, Duke University Press, 2010), along with many other articles and book chapters. She is a founding editor of the journal Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism and Development. Ticktin is currently at work on two related book projects: 1) a short book on innocence as a political concept, and how it produces an unending search for purity; 2) a book on practices of containment at the border, from border walls to spaces of quarantine.


Research seminar

Monday May 28, 13.00–16.00, venue TBA
An Anthropology-Art Extravaganza

Join Indonesian artist Vincent Rumahloine, US artist/scholar John Freyer, Swedish anthropologists Anna Bohlin and Staffan Appelgren and design master student Ingrid Saori Furuta for an afternoon of drink, food, and conversation at the intersection between art and material culture.

Location: to be decided. If the weather is nice we will be outside. Please bring a blanket or something to sit on.

In addition, please bring something you have a long relationship to (either bring the thing if possible, or a photo of it). Focus should be on things we have used for a long time, things that have not been replaced for one reason or another. It doesn’t have to be fancy, spectacular or even important, but things as “faithful old servants”, or ”trotjänare” in Swedish.

Please register at: by May 24.

Vincent Rumahloine

John Freyer


Sponsored by the Forum for Asian Studies. The event is co-financed by the Centre for Critical Heritage Studies (CCHS), University of Gothenburg.


Research seminar

Thursday May 31, 13.00–14.30, B600
Daniele Cantini, research associate, Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies, University of Zurich

Ethnography of a university? The University of Jordan as an institution, and how to study it

The paper discusses the possibilities of making sense ethnographically of a complex and multi-faceted institution like the university and educational institutions in general. More specifically, the paper presents the case of a public university in Amman, analysing its political and social relevance in the Jordanian developmental discourse, and addressing the impact of globalization. The ethnographic research takes the university as a vantage point to look at continuities and changes in the ways in which youth in Jordan are socialized, citizenship is built, and differences are created and sustained. The university is thus highly relevant for discussions of citizenship, civic consciousness, and the role of the contemporary state, and therefore located at the centre of questions of legitimacy of knowledge and power, allocation of positions in society, and entrance into the labour market.

The paper argues that institutions such as the university above all have a semantic function to confirm and re-confirm certain orders or states of affair and to establish the reference for their evaluation. Institutions consolidate “what is” and “what is valuable” as true and valid for all circumstances in public discourse and thereby construct reality. But institutions are highly ambiguous things – “at once necessary and fragile, beneficial and abusive” (Boltanski 2011). There is an urgent need to understand ethnographically the actual conditions and the context that shape what the universities can be, and what they can contribute to.

The university presents an ambivalent and contested space, since from one point of view it is a place of legitimacy and at the same time a place in which some form of opposition might emerge, and is therefore carefully guarded both physically and from an organisational perspective. But the possibility of opposition and critique originates from the very essence of the university as an institution. Here opposition is not only political, but also more significantly played out as struggles for dignity, freedom and autonomy.

Daniele Cantini is currently research associate at the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies, University of Zurich, Switzerland. He earned his PhD in social anthropology at the University of Modena and the University of Milan-Bicocca in 2006, with a thesis on the Jordanian university system and its students, and obtained the Abilitazione Scientifica Nazionale in Social Anthropology in Italy in 2017. He has been an affiliated researcher at the Centre d’Études et de Documentation Économiques, Juridiques et sociales (CEDEJ, Egypt), a postdoc and then senior research fellow at the Research Cluster "Society and Culture in Motion" at the University of Halle-Wittenberg (2011–2016); and has led a German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)-funded project on doctoral studies at Egyptian universities. In 2016-7 he was research associate at the Orient-Institut Beirut, Lebanon, an institute of the Max Weber Foundation. He is the author of Youth and Education in the Middle East: Shaping identity and politics in Jordan (London: I.B. Tauris, 2016).