16 March 2020

New Head of AnthroAnalysis unit will break down walls between the university and society


Kasper Tang Vangkilde has joined the Department of Anthropology as an associate professor, where he, as the new head of the AnthroAnalysis unit, will contribute to strengthening the impact and value of anthropology in society.

Photo: Kasper Tang Vangkilde

Anthropology has a lot to offer society, whether it be private companies, public institutions, civil society organisations or specific groups of citizens. The challenge is to forge the necessary links between anthropologists and other actors.

This will be a priority for Kasper Tang Vangkilde, who has just joined the University of Copenhagen as an associate professor at the Department of Anthropology. Here, one of his main tasks will be to increase the visibility and relevance of anthropology by creating new and stronger connections between the department and society at large.

As the third leader of AnthroAnalysis, a unit seeking to strengthen the impact of anthropology in society, he will be in charge of rethinking the unit and initiating discussions on how to fulfil its purpose.

“We need to soften the boundaries between the university and society at large. The research here at the department deals with topics that are clearly socially relevant. These may be issues of climate, crime, health, migration, economy and digitalisation. We can become better, however, at experimenting with ways to give research greater impact, and we also need to explore what anthropological 'impact' is – and can be," says Vangkilde.

At the same time, he challenges the perception of the university as a separate world living in its own bubble.

“We must try to punch into that bubble without compromising research integrity and academic knowledge. In my opinion, the University – and anthropology in particular – must be an open space where we invite other stakeholders to both cooperate with us and challenge us,” he says.

In his work, Kasper Tang Vangkilde has had a specific focus on those fields of anthropology that concern business, organisation and design. He wrote his Ph.D. thesis about the creative processes in a large, international fashion house. At the Department of Anthropology, he will be part of the research group 'Business and Organisational Anthropology' – a field that is undergoing rapid development and has great potential, according to Vangkilde.

“One can clearly speak of an increasing recognition in corporate organisations that the world of business is, in fact, human life, just like so much other human life, with its social and cultural peculiarities, which anthropologists can make a significant contribution to both understanding and managing,” he says.

Head of Department Bjarke Oxlund welcomes the department’s recent recruit:

“With Kasper Tang Vangkilde we get an incredibly talented researcher, who has at the same time established a huge network of private companies over the last 15 years. Kasper has been central to Danish anthropology's focus on business and organisations since the turn of the millennium, and I cannot imagine anyone better suited to taking on the task as head of AnthroAnalysis in the coming years. Kasper's work will also help to address the challenge that anthropology can face in relation to the employability of its graduates,” he says.