Höstens seminarieserie arrangeras av Mark Graham, Hege Høyer Leivestad och Erik Olsson. Listan uppdateras kontinuerligt.


Research seminar

September 5, 13.00–14.30, B600
John D. Freyer, Assistant Professor of Cross­ Disciplinary Media, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Johan Lindquist, Professor, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University


In this visual and spoken presentation artist John Freyer and anthropologist Johan Lindquist will discuss their social practice performance project LIVE @ IKEA which took place in April 2013 at IKEA Tampines in Singapore. For three days, John and Johan inhabited a one-room showroom apartment at the entrance of the store. They built a photography studio from readily available IKEA items, made a series of portraits of shoppers as they entered and exited the store, and asked shoppers to map their own movements through the store. Focusing in particular on the artistic and ethnographic process they reflect on their struggle to develop a common project.


Research seminar

September 12, 13.00–14.30, B600
Final discussion (Slutseminarium)
Ioannis Tsoukalas, PhD student, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Apprentice cosmopolitans. A study of the Erasmus students

Cosmopolitanism has in recent years become an important subject of research and discussion in the academic world. The present study will focus on the ERASMUS exchange program, which has quite dramatically changed student life in many European universities the last two decades, in an attempt to understand the social and cultural processes that underlie the development of a more cosmopolitan attitude and lifestyle. ​In doing so it will have a closer look at issues of group formation and social identity, institutional arrangements and EU policies, mobility patterns and social networks, communication styles and cognitive processes. The ethnographic work on which this study builds was conducted in two different European cities - Stockholm and Athens - and consist mainly of participant observations and interviews with Erasmus students.

Examiner: Torbjörn Friberg, Universitetslektor, Malmö University


Research and CEIFO seminar

September 19, 13.00–14.30, B600
Alexandra Schwell, Visiting Professor, Department of Cultural Anthropology, University of Hamburg

Borders as Imaginations and Institutions of European Security

One of most important symbolic function of national borders is based on the fact that they promise security to the inhabitants of a specific territory. Border controls and the idea of the nation state are inextricably intertwined. Crossing the border thus for the nation state becomes an instrument of power as one of the main purposes of borders is to categorise and to classify travellers, migrants, those who are welcome and those who are not.

In summer 2015, the Dublin regulations have been virtually suspended. As a result, more and more states have been reinstating border controls and started building fences at internal Schengen borders, sometimes openly contradicting the principles of the Schengen zone. Simultaneously, right wing movements and threat scenarios are on the rise, increasing an already ongoing securitization of the Muslim Other. 

Against the backdrop of past fieldwork and recent examples, the presentation will elaborate on the meaning of borders and border functions and on imaginations, institutions and performances of European security and fear.

Dr. Alexandra Schwell is Visiting Professor at the Department of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Hamburg. She obtained her PhD in Comparative Cultural and Social Anthropology from the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder). Research interests include border studies, anthropology of security, anthropology of the political, and Europeanization. She was work package leader in the FREE project (“Football Research in an Enlarged Europe”, FP7) and is subproject leader within the “Doing World Heritage” project (funded by the Austrian Ministry of Science, Research, and Economy).


CEIFO seminar

September 26, 13.00–14.30, B600
Sanaa Alimia, Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin

Narratives of Fear for Pakistan’s Afghan Refugees: Discrimination, Detention, and Deportation

I carry my identity card with me at all times. Even when I sleep.
Interview, Peshawar (April 2016).

Borders are constructed and indeed policed with the very feeling that they have already been transgressed: the other has to get too close in order to be recognized as an object of fear, and in order for the object to be displaced.
Sara Ahmed, ‘Affective Economies’, Social Text, 22 (2004):2, 132.

In Pakistan, as is the case elsewhere, the border is not simply situated at a geographic space, rather it is situated in individuals and groups and it is something that is felt.

Pakistan’s long-standing Afghan refugee population are increasingly constructed as the dangerous mobile border. However, historical legacies of colonial boundary drawing, contemporary globalised wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s north-western areas, and ethno-federal structures of discrimination within Pakistan mean the experience of ‘bordering’ is also felt by Pakistan’s devalued and quasi-citizens, most notably Pashtuns from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. In the 2000s and 2010s, in the context of the ‘War on Terror’, being positioned on the spectrum of the ‘Afghan/Pashtun’ border is to be subject to increased forms of violence – including military operations, drone warfare, internal policing, and routine harassment and discrimination.

Through the analysis of specific cases of stop-and-searches, check-posts, arbitrary detention, and, for Afghans, coercive repatriation schemes in Peshawar, Karachi, and Islamabad, this paper draws out the ways in which everyday life and mobility is laced with fear and uncertainty for these ‘bordered bodies’ (Afghan refugees, undocumented migrants, and devalued and quasi-citizens in Pakistan) – an experience that is also intersected by gender, class, and ethnicity.

However, by focusing on the cases of mass arrests and deportations of Afghans at various junctures in 2010–2016, the paper also draws out the ways in which the norms of the territorial nation-state mean that non-citizen Afghans exist in a different type of vulnerability, where the intention of the state (and supporting international actors) appears to be to directly and indirectly enforce repatriation to Afghanistan. If sovereign power is contingent upon repeated ‘performances’ upon subjects, this paper explores how the state creates emotional responses via day-to-day harassment, mass arrests, and deportation with the aim of coercing them to leave the country. Through the analysis of narratives of fear that circulate among Afghans in Pakistan, this paper explores how more and more Afghans are affected to leave Pakistan.



Research seminar


October 3, 13.00–14.30, B600
Anthony Pickles, Postdoctoral Fellow, Division of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge and Junior Research Fellow, Trinity College

Transferring the Gift: Transfers and a Micro-Analytical Terminology of Transaction (+ some Gambling)

In the language of the 'gift', of 'exchange', and 'reciprocity', gambling is an aberration. It fits no category well, for the aim is to induce a transfer of wealth to a player without the necessity of obligation and without direct reciprocal valuation. Based on fieldwork in the supposedly gift-centred Papua New Guinea Highlands (which, like most of the rest of the Pacific, once lacked gambling altogether) I try to construct a terminology that includes all kinds of transactions without prior etic privilege. I build transactional forms, viewing them as achievements brought about through the coordination of their component 'transfers', the units of economic value that move. The aim is not to deny reciprocity or obligation, or to impose an itenerant perspective, because I make no assertions about underlying motivations. Instead I aim to foreground the inclusion of the prospecting work that makes up so much of people's efforts to secure obligation or finality, and to analyse the many attempts that fail on an equal footing to those that elicit returns or sever ties. This presentation is the first public testing of this position.

Anthony Pickles conducted long term ethnographic research in Papua New Guinea on gambling, and received his PhD in 2013 from the University of St Andrews. Anthony is currently a Research Fellow at Trinity College Cambridge, and will begin a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship in January 2017, also at Cambridge. He will be investigating the emergence and proliferation of forms of gambling across the Pacific from 1880 until the present, including new fieldwork in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.


Research seminar

October 10, 13.00–14.30, B600
Gabriella Körling,
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

The promise of infrastructure: preparing for the railway in a Nigerien town

Infrastructures such as roads and railways often come to signify modernity and economic development. In 2014 the construction of Niger’s first railway was announced. The railway was billed as a ‘lifeline and corridor of hope’ was presented as a longstanding dream that had finally come true and as a key investment for the country’s future economic development. In this paper I focus on anticipations of the arrival of the railway and related infrastructure in Dosso, a town located alongside the future railway tracks. In Dosso imaginaries surrounding the railway centered less on mobility and circulation, usually associated with transport infrastructure, and more on turning Dosso, a slumbering regional capital, into a ‘destination’. Despite being situated in the Cotonou-Niamey transport corridor which channels important quantities of imports and exports, and at the crossroads of two important national highways, commercial activities in Dosso had never really taken off and the town had remained economically marginalized. In this context, the construction of the railway together with a dry port were seen as a means of tapping into formerly elusive flows of goods and economic capital. Flows that would now, or so it was imagined, stop in Dosso. The case of Dosso illustrates the importance of paying attention to the ways in which national infrastructure projects and related promises of economic development are filtered through local perceptions, experiences and histories that together shape the kinds of desires and hopes that people invest in infrastructure. In Dosso these future oriented imaginaries of economic prosperity were also accompanied by important investments, altering land ownership and changing the urban landscape. Infrastructure, even when as in the case of the railway it is still under construction, produces important political and economic effects as imaginaries of future prosperity are entangled with individual and collective investments.


Research and CEIFO seminar

October 17, 13.00–14.30, B600
Tom Scott-Smith, Associate Professor of Refugee Studies and Forced Migration, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford

Emergency shelter and the return of the refugee camp: reflections on a new European infrastructure

The experience of forced displacement is profoundly shaped by where people find shelter. The most urgent concern for migrants is how to find safe and stable spaces in which to live, rest and sleep, both during their journey and when they arrive at their destination. Tents and camps dominate media images of forced displacement, but forced migrants find shelter in many other ways. They may make use of abandoned buildings, stay on the floors of friends and relatives, find rest in self-built shelters, or sleep under trees in the natural environment. Some may find themselves placed in reception centres and immigration detention facilities against their will; others may be housed in specially created spaces, such as ‘villages’ made from shipping containers or IKEA-designed prefabricated shelters. The recent ‘refugee crisis’ has led to a proliferation of emergency shelter in these multiple forms, as well as their collection together in camp-like environments. This seminar asks how this phenomenon might be studied and conceived, suggesting two theoretical tools for making sense of the world of emergency shelter: ‘low modernism’, which applies to the design of many new shelters, and ‘sticky infrastructures’, which describes how these forms are connected. 

Tom Scott-Smith is Associate Professor of Refugee Studies and Forced Migration at the Department of International Development, University of Oxford, and Fellow of St. Cross College. He specializes in the ethnographic and historical study of humanitarian relief and its impact on the lives of refugees. He is currently finishing a monograph on the history of humanitarian nutrition, entitled On an Empty Stomach: the Humanitarian Approach to Hunger, and is beginning a new project on emergency shelter. Before coming to academia, Tom worked as a development practitioner in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. 


CEIFO seminar

October 24, 13.00–14.30, B600
David Gunnarsson, PhD in Ethnology, Stockholm University and Södertörn University

Guest in Sweden: Regimes of Truth, Conditional Self (Re)Presentations and National Belonging in the Guided Tours of a Mosque in Stockholm

This presentation explores the regimes of truth surrounding Muslims in Sweden. The main focus lies on the production of knowledge regarding Muslims in the context of the guided tours of a mosque in Stockholm. Special attention is given to how regimes of truth regarding Muslims inform the conversations during the visits, how they are debated in this particular arena and how that is dependent on positionality.

The central results concern the fact that the guides see the tours as a chance to alter other stories about Muslims and allow the visitors who tour the mosque to hear something that is not mediated or taught in school; however, they experience difficulties in terms of gaining credibility with regard to their presentation of alternative stories. The guides, and hosts, use their private lives to explain their position in Sweden, but the visitors also expect them to expose their personal opinions regarding how they, as Muslims, would act in morally difficult scenarios; thus, the tours present a situation where the visitors seem more comfortable than the hosts. Another significant result is that both the guides and visitors expressed the importance of the tours becoming a respectful meeting place. Religiosity, religion and secularism seem in themselves to represent otherness. What is respectful in practice, however, is not very clear. There is an ongoing debate in Swedish society concerning whether it is respectful to shake hands with a Muslim in a working situation, as is customary in Sweden. Moreover, the showing of respect is given a gender dimension on the tours, since the main way to perform respect is for every woman to wear a robe when entering the mosque. Respect as a practice seems to be mired in social inequality.

It seems difficult to become a guest if you are simultaneously appropriated the position of a Swede, and difficult to pass as a host if you position yourself as a Muslim.



Research seminar

November 7, 13.00–14.30, B600
Christian Vium, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anthropology, Camera as Cultural Critique Research Group, Århus University

Departures without Arrivals. Documenting undocumented migration from West Africa to Europe

In my on-going research into undocumented migration from West Africa to Europe (Vium 2007, 2009, 2014, forthcoming) I have been particularly interested in how to comprehend and communicate what happens subjectively to the individual migrant when he/she undertakes the long and perilous journey through the Sahara desert, across the open sea and when navigating in the shadows of the European continent. The quintessential notion of (social) becoming, may, I believe be approached from its negative – that of unbecoming, or becoming undone. Over the course of their Dantesque crossing into Europe, many of the migrants among whom I have worked essentially must become nobody, in order to become somebody. As I have argued elsewhere, this transgressive process of ‘becoming through unbecoming’ unfolds, I believe, through a succession of departures – transgressions of geographical cum politico-moral thresholds, often nested in migratory ‘intersections’, that progressively transform the migrant as he/she literally and figuratively ventures further into the unknown.

Working extensively with audio-visual technologies and modes of representation (in particular photography, film and exhibition-making) in my research, I grapple with how to “frame” transgression. To convey the fundamental notion of disorientation, uncertainty and indeed precariousness of indefinitely prolonged liminality, I believe emotional registers identified by and enacted through extra-textual technologies and media (audio-visual and three-dimensional installations) afford insights that can facilitate new insights that transgress the written and oral.


Research seminar

November 14, 13.00–14.30, B600
Ignacio Farías, Assistant Professor, Munich Center for Technology in Society

Reconstructions of Urban Anthropology

Tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, fires, hurricanes... The entanglements of cities with overwhelming earthly forces often end up with vast reconstruction processes - reconstructions based on new problematizations regarding what the urban cosmos is made of and the entities and forces that need to be taken into account and rearranged. To the extent that it captures a reflexive and recursive mode of constructing the city, the value of reconstruction as an urban anthropological concept extends well beyond post-disaster situations. Tourism, noise abatement policies, smart city projects, to name some random examples, they are all attempts at reflexively refiguring and reconstructing the urban, semiotic-material orderings based on the articulation of urban problems, knowledges and values. Accordingly, urban anthropology itself can be understood as an epistemo-political project of articulating urban experiences, as a form of situated concept work and writing that reconstruct cities in a recursive manner.

Ignacio Farías is assistant professor at the Munich Center for Technology in Society and the Department of Architecture of the Technical University of Munich. His research interests lie at the crossroads of urban studies, science and technology studies and cultural anthropology. His most recent work explores the politics of urban environmental disruptions, from disasters to noise, as well as current experiments in technical democratization. Together with Anders Blok, he has recently co-edited Technical Democracy as a Challenge to Urban Studies (City, 20(4), 2016) and Urban Cosmopolitics: Agencements, Assemblies, Atmospheres (Routledge, 2016).


CEIFO seminar

November 28, 13.00–14.30, B600
Final discussion (Slutseminarium)
Tekalign Ayalew, PhD student, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Struggle for Mobility. Diasporic practices and High-risk Migration pathways of Refugees from the Horn of Africa

The current ‘migration and refugee crisis’ across the Mediterranean region, particularly as represented via images of human suffering and African migrants’ boat tragedies, has attracted media, public, academic and political attention. However, less is known about the conditions that shape overland migration from the Horn of Africa and migrants’ experiences before, during and after they arrive in northern European destinations. Long journeys across countries in political crises (for instance Libya), vast deserts and high seas are dangerous and fatal. But migrants’ vulnerability levels vary according to individual profile: age, gender, religion and access to finance – in the diaspora or countries of origin – needed in case of kidnapping for ransom or imprisonment en route. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Sweden, Italy, Sudan and Ethiopia, 2013-2015, this study examines migrants’ subjective energy and collective practices in producing and appropriating networks and infrastructures that help them survive vulnerability and perpetuate overland migration, despite Europe’s creation and fortification of internal and external borders. Ethnographic accounts reveal complex factors and dynamic conditions behind the journey. This dissertation depicts how Ethiopian and Eritrean migrants negotiate and navigate impeding and facilitating institutions and actors while organizing various stages of their mobility: departures, transit, and arrival in Sweden. I attempt to explore community, historical and cultural dimensions and social forms of organizing ‘irregular migration’ and practices of human smuggling. The study tries to unpack new insights into how the facilitation of such irregular mobility creates, expands and sustains a collective system and community of knowledge – embedded in transnational social spaces, reciprocal exchange and diasporic practices – that strive to bring refugees and migrants to ‘safety and security in Europe’.

Examiner: Nauja Kleist, Senior Researcher, Danish Institute for International Studies



Research seminar

December 5, 13.00–14.30, B600
Rachel Harkness, Lecturer, School of Design, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh and Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen

Unfinished Materials and Designs: Interdisciplinary Reflections upon Material Entanglements, Knowledge and Sustainability in Scottish Art, Architecture and Anthropology

In this seminar I'd like to share some reflections upon materials as gathered within the research project 'Knowing from the Inside: Anthropology, Art, Architecture and Design' (KFI), a project based in Scotland that I have been part of since 2013. I will draw upon fieldworks with community groups and artists in Scotland who have been designing, building and making things, sustainably and ecologically, as well as upon playful material experiments that colleagues and I have carried out with the material concrete. As I am currently producing and editing an art-anthropology book for KFI that is taking the shape of an 'Unfinished Compendium of Materials' (with lots of short entries on the various materials the team's researchers have encountered), the book will feature too. Along with the ethnographic observations and material experiments, it will allow me to think with materials on issues of knowing, making, materiality and sustainability. As well as the concrete, other materials that might make an appearance include paper, shipping containers, straw, and polystyrene.

Rachel Harkness is a Lecturer in Contextual Studies in the School of Design, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh and Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen. Her research explores architecture and design as a peopled process, pays particular attention to the social life of the materials involved, and considers how people make manifest their (eco-)designs for living. She writes on issues of art and craft, time, value, materials and the environment, and has produced a number of interdisciplinary art-anthropology exhibitions. She regularly facilitates participatory visual research workshops and between 2010 and 2012 ran an international Mellon Sawyer Seminar Series and conference on the senses and environmental values in the arts and humanities. Her recent work considers vibrant materials in the built environment, and the stories, lives, entanglements and skills that a focus upon them brings to the fore. It does so, in part, through playful experiment and participation in artistic practices of making.


Research seminar

December 12, 13.00–14.30, B600
Stephan Feuchtwang, Professor, Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science

Civilisation in China and the modernising PRC’s culture project

The civilisation of dynastic China was a centring of the cosmos and also a political centring that I think can be theorised as a constantly adjusted hegemony of mandate or fate and a dispersal of territorial centres. Some of that has continued into the People's Republic but under a more strictly Gramscian hegemony of a people and its history in which the ruling bloc is constantly claiming and reclaiming what it is constantly defining and redefining as culture and heritage. The combination of urban planning, the bulldozer, the culture project and the local Party's mission of social management are powerful hegemonic forces but they too are subject to appropriation and the place-making activities of residents, which include some of the ritual appropriations of the older civilisation and government through rites. This argument will be based on case studies by researchers with whom I have worked.