Enchanted Ecologies in Scandinavia

Allegedly secularized Scandinavians often accentuate moments of enchantment in nature-oriented practices. Walking along the beach might prompt sensations of infinity, freedom and the ultimate reality.

Foggy beach


Forests, protected habitats and vistas are praised as evoking 'something almost holy' and open up visions of and for a 'reconnection to nature' in different versions. Moreover, in the discourse of nature-oriented urban movements such as slow food and tree activism, life 'close to nature' is described as having qualities associated with notions of the sacred.

The experiences of enchantment related to 'nature' we have come across in our previous research in some cases occur as seemingly insular subtle feelings of wonder, and in some cases as a disruptive force that prompts new environmentally oriented political engagements. The aims and purposes of Enchanted Ecologies in Scandinavia were, first; to offer new ethnographic accounts on the cultivation of enchantment in nature-oriented experiences among self-declared secular people in Scandinavia, and secondly, to develop new ways of theorizing enchantment and analyse how enchanted moments in different ways may relate to ethical and political concerns.




Methodologically, we aimed at developing a collective research method of ethnographic transects by combining methods of biologists and ecologists with anthropological fieldwork strategies. Each subproject outlined one or more transects by which actors and places were systematically investigated.

The sub-projects were carried out in Denmark, Sweden and Norway and were designed in order to operationalize the central concepts of 'enchantment' and 'emerging ecologies' in partly overlapping settings across the spheres of leisure, agricultural production and the scientific investigation of habitats. All participants contributed to and draw on the collective field material.






Enchanted Ecologies in Scandinavia was funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark. It was based on field work in Denmark, Norway and Sweden and offered new ethnographic accounts on the cultivation of enchantment in nature-oriented experiences. The five subprojects were designed in order to operationalize the central concepts of 'enchantment' and 'emerging ecologies' in partly overlapping settings across the spheres of leisure, agricultural production and the scientific investigation of habitats.



Sylvan Silence, Stockholm
Based on the notion that forests have recreational and health-promoting qualities, focused transects (incl. walk-along, ethnographic conversations and focus groups) was conducted along the trails with participants, urban planners, and guides. Based on pilot interviews the expectation was that moments of enchantment in the forest park resonates closely with existential and health concerns, but also with consumption guilt and broader environmental concerns about biodiversity and conservation policies. Analytically, special attention was given to the ways in which practices of silence resonate with post-Christian cosmology of secular Swedish culture.

Contact: David Thurfjell

Valued Vistas, Copenhagen
A transect was conducted from BIG house (8tallet), through protected areas of the Amager. Through ethnographic conversations and participatory techniques concerning the everyday 'doing of vistas' and the cultivation of the 'love of the commons' residents, architects, visitors, ecology experts and politicians were invited to explore how the small wonders of the commons are valued and contested in an urban space considered to harbour the most important cultural, economic and natural values.

Contact: Cecilie Rubow

Cultivating Slowness, Vegetal Life in Aurland
Inspired by an extended field of 'green' food studies and ethno-botanical methods, the fieldwork took place at SJH investigating the cultivation of plants and ecological sensibility in the agricultural practices at the school. Local product developers, local customers and visitors connected to SAKTE were sought out on a transect from Aurland towards Bergen.

Contact: Sofie Isager Ahl

Ecological Pedagogies and Matters of Care
This project explored the ethically and politically charged lives of a community of vociferous biodiversity-championing biologists in Aarhus, Denmark. It traced how ecological thought travel and mutate as such biologists-cum-eco-activists move from the university setting through sites of concerted nature-oriented gestures and engagements to the intricacies and conundrums of everyday life.

From this empirical point of departure, the project investigated the ways in which “ecological sensibilities” (Bennett 2001), 'attachment/detachment' (Candea et al. 2015), 'respons-abilities' (Haraway 2015), and 'care' (de la Bellacasa 2017) are configured and cultivated through and sometimes despite of the scientific practices of the so-called science of life.

Contact: Matti Weisdorf

Enchantment of Trees and Concerted Action
This project moved along the ethnographic transects established in the subprojects and zoomed in on everyday interaction with trees and how experiences of enchantment are translated into a sense of ethico-political responsibility for nature and concerted action. Participant observation and ethnographic interviews about public controversies over trees were conducted in order to understand how political action flow from experiences of affection and interconnectedness.

Contact: Stine Krøijer







Name Title Phone E-mail
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Cecilie Rubow Associate Professor +4535323568 E-mail
Stine Krøijer Associate Professor - Promotion Programme +4535321581 E-mail

Funded by:

Independent Research Fund Denmark

Enchanted Ecologies in Scandinavia has received funding from Independent Research Fund Denmark.

Project: Enchanted Ecologies in Scandinavia
Period:  2018-2021


Cecilie Rubow
Department of Anthropology
Mail: cecilie.rubow@anthro.ku.dk
Phone: +45 35 32 35 68

External members:

Name Title
David Thurfjell Professor at Södertörn University, Stockholm