The Ethnology section focuses on culturally different ways of living in the past and present and changes to them in a European and global perspective.
Research in practice
In practice, ethnological research is based on studies of archives and fieldwork and involves developing qualitative methods and innovation studies. The section considers the history and theory of the discipline of ethnology as part of the reality it seeks to conceptualise, and with this in mind analyses and views them from the perspective of cultural history.
The research is conducted in close collaboration with other disciplines, involving both the private and public sectors, and through active links with international research and partner universities.
One hallmark of Ethnology’s research profile is that everyday life provides a basis from which to analyse the relationships between qualitatively different ways of living in and perceiving the world, and how people seek to realise and reproduce the conditions for these different versions of “the good life”.
As cultures can both facilitate and exclude each other, both coexist and compete, the section studies cultural variation and complexity, analysed in specific places and across time, as reflections of different types of relationships. It views culture in an ethnological context, as practices and processes through which types of cultures are formed, maintained and changed, and looks at sociality, subjectivity and materiality from the perspective of both cultural history and cultural analyses.
This priority area involves studying collective processes related to remembering, forgetting and commemorating. It explores how the past manifests in the present, is fought over and unfolds through a range of practices. Uses of history is one of the key concepts in this research, which studies the political and everyday staging and uses of the past, including how museums and other cultural institutions produce, manage and communicate both natural and cultural heritage. The section also studies how this relates to identity politics and the production of identity, including cultural, religious, national and European identity.
The research focuses on focus on the materiality inherent in cultural heritage sites and objects and the important role of intangible cultural practices and relations in political and everyday life.
Overarching areas studied include the cultural and natural heritage, memory culture, the uses of history and museum studies.
Researchers: Tine Damsholt, Frida Hastrup, Anne Folke Henningsen, Signe Mellemgaard
The Ethnology section explores how people establish habitable settlements around the world. It sees the physical environment as both a premise for human endeavour and a product of it. We study how these endeavours, at different times and in different locations, become embedded in landscapes as types of culture, practices and experiences. The starting point for our studies is to look at how nature and culture are always intertwined.
We consider all landscapes to be cultural landscapes, in the sense that the sea, coast, desert and forest, just like urban spaces, parks and infrastructure, are mediated by human activity. We study fisheries, agriculture, urban life, etc. and how people respond to the opportunities and limitations presented by natural and cultural landscapes, and how these give rise to various processes, e.g. the assertion of sovereignty.
We are currently addressing the restructuring of agriculture and fisheries that is occurring in the context of the EU’s structural rationalisation, the capitalisation of production and the use of natural resources in Europe.
Competition for resources has given rise to new rural policies that fundamentally change the conditions for forms of life in the widely different cultural landscapes that surround the urban spaces in Europe’s towns and cities. The section is involved in research and development work in Nordic coastal communities, with particular emphasis on exploring the potential for sustainability.
We also work on the transformation of cities and new uses for urban spaces, which give rise to new forms of urban culture and change the cities’ relationships with rural areas. We also explore the challenges faced on different continents by widely differing peoples who need to maintain their cities and make urban, rural and coastal areas habitable in the wake of natural disasters, climate change, depopulation, renewed colonisation and globalisation.
Researchers: Frida Hastrup, Signe Mellemgaard, Mark Vacher
Climate change, political and economic crises and demographic changes will continue to make people more geographically mobile. The focus in this area of research is on the conditions for, and day-to-day consequences of, growing cross-border mobility, and the transformations it brings to national and European labour markets and political and social institutions.
The Ethnology section adopts a broad understanding of the processes of migration and integration and covers all aspects of relocating from the country of origin to the destination country, including all the actors, infrastructures and networks involved, including the family.
The emphasis is on understanding the conditions in relation to national and EU migration policies, including new social technologies that regulate, facilitate and/or limit migration. Globally, the economic landscape is fundamentally changing, as more and more businesses transfer their operations from the West to Asia and Eastern Europe. On top of that, terrorism and security-policy problems, combined with growing de-secularisation, have put the importance of migration for loyalty to the state and for social cohesion on the political agenda in new ways.
Seen from the perspective of the migrant, there are numerous reasons for migration – it may be circular, to do with welfare or age, for the purpose of family reunification, or the result of refugee status due to political, ethnic or religious persecution. The diversity of these forms of migration raises new questions about social and political rights in welfare states.
The focus is on migration processes in a European context, but other continents are also studied. The ethnological approach also looks at current migration issues from the perspective of cultural history.
Researchers: Marie Sandberg, Niels Jul Nielsen, Tine Damsholt
One of the characteristic features of the global balance of power in the early 21st century is the shift from West to East, a trend particularly evident in manufacturing. In recent years, Denmark and other Western countries have seen a range of industries and labour-intensive business closing or moving their operations to other countries.
At the same time as the economy is increasingly globalised, national labour markets are also opening up, and regulations built up in the 20th century are being challenged by competing forms of regulation, e.g. from former Eastern Bloc countries. This has brought about fundamental changes in working life. For example, fixed working hours, demarcation and clear borders between work and leisure can no longer be taken for granted. Today, flexible, innovation-oriented employees are in demand, and the emphasis is on entrepreneurship and innovation, which are considered necessary for society’s survival.
Ethnology has a long tradition of exploring how, through various historical periods, and in agrarian, industrial or post-industrial societies, the capacity for subsistence and production is closely connected to working life, social contradictions, the relationship between family and work, etc. The section’s research emphasises that these conditions must be viewed as a part of complex everyday practice and materiality (including the use of tools and work processes), as well as of organisational, political and discursive constellations.
The major historical shifts in these areas are also a key issue.
Researcher: Niels Jul Nielsen
The ethnological interest in everyday life and culture is closely integrated with the attention the discipline pays to overarching social and political conditions. As a result, a vital aspect of the section’s research is the relationships between the state and citizens in changing historical constellations of continuity and transformation.
Relationships, identity and practice
The section conducts research into topics such as changing leadership rationales and technologies (governmentality); European, national, regional and local identity; the relationship between state and market; everyday routines and practices; subjectification and interpellation processes in relation to individuals, lifestyles, political and social institutions and collective actors. The research also covers what opportunities various actors and (social, religious or ethnic) groups have to set the political agenda.
All of this research stresses understanding how everyday and political relations between society and citizens are formed in material and discursive practices, and in local, national, transnational and supranational contexts.
Supranational developments and local changes
Recent studies of contemporary trends have identified several supranational developments that are playing an increasingly prominent role. Europeanisation and the redrawing of borders are changing the way people act in relation to national, regional and local government; economic globalisation is changing the fundamental terms of the relationship between states and citizens; and new leadership rationales are changing the way in which people and their everyday lives are regulated or become the subject of voluntary interventions and social experiments.
Researchers: Astrid Jespersen, Marie Sandberg, Mark Vacher, Frida Hastrup, Niels Jul Nielsen, Tine Damsholt
Body culture: gender, health, ageing, movement
The research in this field spans themes all the way from understanding and experiencing life with a body, to perceptions of illness, health and ageing, to gender, affect/emotionality, choreography and room for movement. This research views the body and body theory are from the perspective of cultural history and material discourse and studies the relationships between bodies, populations and leadership form a biopolitical and governmental perspective.
In recent years, the Ethnology section has actively participated in humanities health research, with a focus on, e.g. ageing, the life cycle and health. Ageing is studied not just as something that only occurs during a particular phase of life. Instead, the focus is on the life cycle as a whole, and on the role of health and health perceptions at different ages and in different cultural and social contexts. The research activities in this area involve close collaboration with a range of other disciplines, both in and the humanities and beyond. All ethnological research projects therefore include an interdisciplinary dimension.
While some of the section’s sub-projects focus on ageing discourse, ageing processes and active ageing, others emphasise different types of social and material health-promoting technologies. To shed light on these topics, the section uses fieldwork and adopts both a cultural-history perspective and interventionist approaches.
Researchers: Astrid Jespersen, Tine Damsholt, Signe Mellemgaard, Aske Juul Lassen
Centres, collective projects and networks
West African post-slavery
AMIS lecture by anthropologist Dr Paolo Gaibazzi, currently Associated Researcher at the ZMO-Leibniz Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin.
Researchers and lecturers
|Damsholt, Tine||Professor with special responsibilities||+45 51 29 89 20|
|Hastrup, Frida||Associate professor||+45 51 29 89 63|
|Henningsen, Anne Folke||Associate professor||+45 51 29 90 11|
|Jespersen, Astrid Pernille||Associate professor||+45 20 97 22 05|
|Jørgensen, Line Jandoria||Part-time lecturer||+45 23 83 20 57|
|Mellemgaard, Signe||Associate professor||+45 51 29 89 33|
|Møllgaard, Johannes||Associate professor emeritus||+45 51 30 17 81|
|Nielsen, Niels Jul||Associate professor||+45 51 29 90 95|
|Olsen, Anja||Part-time lecturer|
|Riegels Melchior, Marie||Associate professor||+45 23 70 79 74|
|Sandberg, Marie||Associate professor||+45 51 29 90 17|
|Turner, Simon||Associate professor||+45 28 25 88 48|
|Vacher, Mark||Associate professor||+45 51 29 85 78|