Faculty of Social Science
Faculty of Social Science, University of Copenhagen

Stine Ilum defends her PhD thesis at the Department of Anthropology


Stine Ilum, Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen and SLA


Countering Terrorism in the Good City


Stine Krøijer, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen

Stig L. Andersen, Design Director, Partner, Professor, Architect MAA at SLA 

Louise Fiil Hansen, Design Director, Partner, Urban Designer at SLA


  • Associate Professor Kasper Tang Vangkilde
    University of Copenhagen (chair)
  • Associate Professor Mark Maguire
    Maynooth University, Ireland
  • Professor Rivke Jaffe
    University of Amsterdam, Netherlands


Head of Department, Bjarke Oxlund

Time and Place

27 June 2022, at 2:00 PM 
University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Social Sciences, 
Gothersgade 140, 1353 Copenhagen K
Auditorium no. 1

The defence is scheduled to last a maximum of 3 hours. 

One of the members of the committee will participate online, therefore guests are also welcome to join on zoom.

Zoom link
The link is open from 1.30 PM. Everyone except the committee have to stop camera and microphone during the defence.

Reception after the defence
After the defence, the department will host an informal reception in the garden between building 16 and 33.

A copy of the dissertation is available for reading at the Department of Anthropology. The dissertation will be available via academic books as an e-publication after the defence. 


This dissertation is about terrorism and counterterrorism in Copenhagen, Denmark. After a series of vehicle-based terrorist attacks targeting people in European urban spaces from 2015–2017, Danish authorities decided to install temporary counterterrorism measures, such as granite and concrete blocks, throughout crowded urban spaces in Copenhagen. Though the national security service had, for more than a decade, assessed the terror threat in Denmark to be “significant,” it only really became significant to Copenhageners when the threat in this way materialized in the local public space and attacks happened in neighboring cities. This sparked an increased fear of terrorism among Copenhageners, the growth of a new counterterrorism industry, development of local ways of working with counterterrorism, and more fundamentally, a discussion about what constitutes a good city—and what role counterterrorism should play in it.

This dissertation explores the tensions between, on one hand, a city where planners, architects, philanthropists, and scholars have for decades cultivated certain ideas of what a good city is, including values such as openness and inclusiveness, and a pedestrian-friendly, green, and inviting urban layout; and on the other hand, a threat of terrorism and the physical counterterrorism measures that have recently been installed in urban spaces to help mitigate it. With an empirical point of departure in the city of Copenhagen, the dissertation aims to understand: How do the terror threat and subsequent counterterrorism measures, developed among a network of actors, shape ideas about what makes a good city?

The dissertation dissects the urban public space of Copenhagen to illustrate how a variety of actors play a part in shaping both the urban landscape and the counterterrorism measures in it. Composed around three scientific articles, it follows (1) pedestrians in the streets of Copenhagen as they navigate city life with a fear of terrorism, (2) employees at the Municipality of Copenhagen as they engage in developing counterterrorism  measures more in line with local city values, and (3) private companies who see a business opportunity in promoting and installing counterterrorism measures in Denmark. By following these different actors, the dissertation shows how urban security is not composed by only one powerful actor working alone, like a state or a municipality, but rather is developed across blurred boundaries by a range of both state/non-state and human/non-human actors, such as the security service, the municipality, researchers, and private companies, as well as urban materialities, city values, and mediatized stories.

Across the social sciences, literature suggests we live in times of increased alertness, fear, and escalating initiatives made in the name of security. Urban security scholars point to a general increase in security measures in cities around the world, such as walls, barriers, and surveillance cameras, as well as an increased presence by police, guards, and patrolling soldiers. In line with the literature, this dissertation shows how the threat of terrorism and counterterrorism measures have come to play a more substantial role in Denmark in recent years; however, this dissertation also provides an example of a counter movement against the widespread increase in security measures. It argues that in the city of Copenhagen, there is a pronounced skepticism toward counterterrorism measures and an ambition to minimize their presence in the public space. Values locally associated with being a good city come to light in the debate over these counterterrorism measures and come to act as guiding principles for how to adapt more permanent measures to the urban public space. In this way, ideas associated with a good city are only reinforced thanks to the threat of terrorism in Copenhagen.

The dissertation is based on twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork in Copenhagen, conducted from 2017–2020. This has been supplemented with shorter one-month field trips to Oslo and Paris, to provide comparative ground for  understanding counterterrorism measures in different urban spaces and contexts. The dissertation is the outcome of an industrial Ph.D. project, which academically is conducted and assessed like any other Ph.D. but is funded by a governmental fund, which supports research that collaborates and actively shares knowledge with both public and private  industries. Therefore, it has been an important part of this project’s scope to have meaningful exchanges with the counterterrorism industry. This dissertation will discuss anthropological approaches to collaboration with partners outside of academia, and will end with a number of concrete recommendations for practitioners working within the field of counterterrorism.