Anthropology has traditionally engaged with people in the periphery, those far-away from the state or the economic and political centres. During last decades we have seen a movement away from the sole preoccupation with marginalized groups and small-scale societies towards an anthropology that increasingly also deals with powerful elites and larger entities like transnational corporations and state bureaucracies. The Department of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University has played a critical role in the re-orientation of the subject, establishing what has become known as transnational anthropology. The annual Stockholm Anthropology Roundtable has been one venue where invited international scholars have joined hands with the in-house researchers to explore particular topics within the larger framework of transnational anthropology.

The 2015 Roundtable will address ‘transnational elites’, especially the increasingly powerful group of mobile professionals. We see raising levels of inequality and vulnerability in the world and the role and formation of elite groups with respect to these processes still remains under-explored within the social sciences in general, and anthropology in particular. Mobility, we claim, is one defining aspect of contemporary elites. The roundtable aims to highlight and discuss the role of transnational elites. By ‘transnational elites’ we here refer broadly to communities of people equipped with various kinds of resources (cultural, social, financial, political) that enable them to move easily across space and between contexts. As such, we understand the role of transnational elite groups as an entry-point into discussions of globalization and localization processes. Transnational elites exist in a variety of societal domains. There are the cultural elites of the cultural sphere and the media industry; the financial elites of the transnational corporations and foundations; the political elites of the international and multilateral organizations, INGOs and globe-spanning development agencies; the academic elites in prominent academic institutions, but also in research institutes and think tanks.

Transnational elites have been depicted as key actuates of world city production (Beaverstock 2001; Hannerz 1996), as drivers and shapers of global capitalism (Robinson 2010), and as the new ruling elites (Rothkopf 2008). Yet, their role in globalization processes remains multifaceted and oftentimes contradictory. Mobile elites may be more or less visible and detectable as groups or social categories, and their roles may be more or less significant with regards to transnationalization processes. Whilst in some positions, as for example in leading positions of multilateral organizations and corporations, they are clearly visible and their influence traceable, in other positions, as in think tanks, foundations, or secluded networks, their influence work may be less easily demonstrable. Their role in shaping global agendas and framing social problems should, however, not be underestimated.

At this Roundtable workshop, we hope to attract contributions to the conversation about transnational elites, especially mobile professionals, their practices, perspectives, and networks. Topics and questions might include the following and many others.

  • Who are the transnational elite? Is the global elite homogeneous or fragmented? How are people brought into the global elite phenomenon?
  • What does the ’transnational’ dimension stand for? What is the role of the ’national’?
  • (How) do they contribute to globalization processes?
  • What roles do a globally mobile elite perform within discourses and structures of power, dominance, and resistance?
  • How might the global elite be challenged? How do global elite and non-elite individuals interact? How do they establish and cultivate network relations with different aims and backgrounds?
  • What are the gender and race aspects of the global elite?

We believe that there is great potential in stopping to reflect on the role of transnational elites in processes of social, cultural, and political change.

We invite participants to offer 15-20 minute presentations that deal with the role of transnational elites in various ethnographic contexts. The format of the Roundtable is conversational – hence your presentation will serve as an introduction to the discussion.

Important dates

If you would like to present, please contact both Christina Garsten and Beppe Karlsson no later than September 30.

Participants to the Roundtable should notify Lina Lorentz no later than September 30.

Invited guests

  • Anne-Meike Fechter
  • Melissa Fisher
  • Ulf Hannerz
  • Douglas Holmes
  • Mark Maguire
  • Afshin Mehrpouya
  • Horacio Ortiz
  • Daromir, Rudnyckyj
  • Jamie Saris
  • Adrienne Sörbom
  • Eren Zink


  • Beaverstock, J. V. 2002. Transnational Elite Communities in Global Cities: Connectivities, Flows and Networks. In Stadt und Region: Dynamik von Lebenswelten, Tagungsbericht und wissenschaftliche Abhandlungen, 53. Deutscher Geographentag Leipzig, 29. September bis 5. Oktober 2001. Edited by A Mayr, M Meurer and J Vogt. Leipzig: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Geographie, 2002: 87-97.
  • Hannerz, Ulf. 1996: Transnational Connections. London: Routledge.
  • Robinson, William I. 2010. Global Capitalism Theory and the Emergence of Transnational Elites. UN, UNI-WIDER. Working Paper No. 2010/02.
  • Rothkopf, David. 2008. Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.