PhD projects

A large range of topics are studied by PhD students at the department. Below is a list of all current PhD projects, all working titles. 

Sarah Seddig

Sarahs PhD project is titled Bodies of Data. The Power of Female Technology in Sexual and Reproductive Health in Kenya’s ‘Silicon Savannah’.
The project explores the recent emergence of Female Technology (FemTech) designed to improve womxn's sexual and reproductive health (SRH) in developing contexts. It entails ethnographic fieldwork among female-led FemTech startups/enterprises and FemTech users in Kenya’s ‘Silicon Savannah’.
The research examines the potentials and consequences of smartphone apps, wearables, and diagnostic devices, which offer affordable and accessible solutions to make informed health choices while simultaneously expeditiously collect, monitor, and analyse sensitive personal data on various aspects of womxn’s bodies and behavior.
With the rapid rise of information and communication technology and ‘girl-centred’ development approaches in emerging markets, the project investigates how the relationship between technological innovation, modes of control and empowerment, and social governance resurface in a new gender-specific contexts.
By tracing the gender discourse around ‘girl-centred’ approaches, the research’s insights provide the basis for a discussion on how private companies and female entrepreneurship can drive ‘girl-centred’ development and health care provision through both empowerment and commercialisation incentives.
Supervisor: Susan Reynolds Whyte, Professor, University of Copenhagen
Co-supervisor: Robin May Schott, Senior Researcher, Danish Institute for International Studies, DIIS

Line Kvartborg Vestergaard

Line’s PhD project sets out to explore the application of Doughnut Economics (DE) - a particular design or framework that marks a fundamental shift of economic imaginaries away from market- and growth-focused metrics and towards planetary and human wellbeing.
Centered around understanding the local translation of DE in the city of Amsterdam, Line has conducted nine months of fieldwork within the city government and among civil-led initiatives and activities taking place around the city. The project seeks to answer questions regarding the possibilities and barriers inherent in applying the visions found in DE and the role of models in transforming people and socio-economic structures. More generally the project wishes to explore attempts of mobilizing different actors around alternative economic imaginaries and thereby creating transformative change and a livable planet for future generations.
Supervisor: Kasper Tang Vangkilde, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen

Julie Nygaard Solvang

Julies PhD project explores how illicit trading in and dumping of electronic waste is negotiated and facilitated in Ghana. Discarded electronic devices and electronic waste (e-waste) become exported goods, finding their way, often irregularly, out of Europe and into Ghana. Here, the products enter into an informal refurbishing and e-waste management sector, where workers collect, dismantle, and ‘mine’ discarded electronics to obtain valuable secondary raw materials that again feed into the industry for further use. Although the informal sector facilitates a – in terms of green energy transition - much needed reuse of valuable minerals, the practices used in the informal sector expose toxic substances, and thus pose health threats to the workers as well as pollute the air, soil and water of the surrounding environment. Tracing the illicit movement of e-waste and social organisation of the trade, the project explores how this toxic waste and environmental harm in Ghana is linked to broader supply chains and grayzones of global trade flows. The PhD is part of the interdisciplinary and cross-border Environmental Crime and Illegal Ecologies (ILLECO) project, which investigates how Ghanaian minerals are irregularly mined, smuggled, and dumped and how these illicit practices challenge green transition initiatives. The ILLECO project is funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark.
Supervisor: Henrik Vigh, Professor, University of Copenhagen
Co-supervisor: Stine Krøijer, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen

Kathrine Dalsgaard

Kathrines PhD project is titled Co-created Nature: An Industrial PhD about narratives and management of new nature projects in Denmark.
How do citizens react when nature changes radically? What happens to their relation to nature when intensively cultivated fields are turned into extensively grazed meadows, drained wetlands are ‘let loose’ to flood and outdoor recreation areas are fenced off and nature is rewilded in national parks? And how can storytelling ensure a better co-creation of new nature projects in Denmark?
Given the entanglements of global climate and biodiversity crisis, Danish Nature Agency projects become larger, more complex and require better citizen involvement and conflict management. The purpose of this project is to explore and develop new narrative co-creation methods, which will help strengthen the social sustainability of new nature management in Denmark.
Supervisor: Stine Krøijer, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen
Co-supervisor: Lone Søderkvist Kristensen, Professor, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen

Felipe Roa Pilar

Felipes PhD project is titled Mennonites and their search of fertile land: fire, soy wealth and political power in Bolivia.
The project focuses on understanding the involvement of Mennonites in processes of fire, deforestation and land use change in lowland Bolivia, and by doing so, also asks to what extent their involvement can be said to have effects on political processes at the local, regional and national level.
Based on an in-depth ethnography, the research explores Mennonite's meanings of fire, including ontologies of land within the context of Mennonite colonization of forest areas and indigenous territories. The project seeks to contribute to debates about the political effects of fire, Mennonite cosmologies and reflections upon new potential settler-colonization dynamics.
Supervisor: Stine Krøijer, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen

Anne Sofie Beer Nielsen

Rising sea levels and an expected increase in severe storm surges have raised awareness in Danish communities about the urgent need for coastal protection. However, conflicts often arise in coastal protection projects, leading to prolonged plans with detrimental consequences to communities that are left unprotected. This PhD project investigates such disagreements through 9 months of ethnographic fieldwork in three coastal areas. The goal is to understand how risks and values are negotiated and how public involvement can enhance adaptive resilience in coastal protection plans. Methodologically, the project explores the potential of audio-visual methods in a field where the aesthetics of nature and coastal morphological changes play a central role. This PhD project is part of the research project 'Coastal Conflicts: Mapping Storm Surge Protection Disagreements and Solutions in Denmark'.
Supervisor: Kristoffer Albris, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen
Co-supervisor: Karen Waltorp, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen

Gerd Kieffer-Døssing

Gerds PhD project is titled 3rd wave Pan-Africanism: Digital activism, local protest, and geopolitical change in West Africa.
West Africa is becoming increasingly unstable, antipathy towards former colonial master France is rising, and still more states renew connections with Russia. This project explores the links between changing perceptions of geopolitical actors and a rising 3rd wave Pan-Africanism, 3WPA – a transnational movement promoting a new decolonial order and calling to resistance against French neo-colonialism and Western imperialism. Through digital ethnography, focused on the online activism of leading 3WPA-actors, and fieldwork in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire among Pan-African activists, the project explores how 3WPA circulates regionally through digital technologies and in which ways it affects local activist practices and perceptions. The project contributes with new empirically rooted knowledge on the links between
digital activism, local protest, and geopolitical changes in Africa and provides valuable insights into how new actors affect geopolitics in West Africa through digital means.
Supervisor: Karen Waltorp, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen

Fernanda Gallegos Gutiérrez

Fernandas PhD project is titled A collision of pyropolitics: a rhetoric of fire in Chilean contemporary political struggles.
Recent Chilean history shows a manifest contrast between two expressions of fire. On one hand, fire shows its potentiality to consume a historically exploited territory by an economic and political elite. After 50 years of intensive forestry industry development across central Chile, the massive forest fires that have affected more than 500,000 hectares and took more than 100 human lives found part of its origin in the liberalization politics encouraged after the 1973 coup d’ état, revealing a thigh nexus between politics and disasters. Conversely, fire emerge as a symbol of power returning to the working class, which uses fire to build barricades and burn public buildings to the ground, thus re-defining the meaning of fire. In order to conceptualize this counterposed political expression and explore the possibilities that an understanding of fire’s multiplicity offers, Fernandas project focuses on pyropolitics, that is, the Chilean contemporary political struggles expressed through the rhetoric of fire. In doing so, he intends to contribute to two theoretical fields: liberalism, extractivism and historical Latin American struggles, and the concept of fire itself, as a modern hybrid in times of indeterminacy. This PhD project collaborates with a larger research project titled 'Fire and Political Alterity in Amazonia' at University of Copenhagen.
Supervisor: Stine Krøijer, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen

Freja Bach Kristensen

Through fieldwork and active participation, Frejas PhD project explores how green communities can be supported in social housing associations, as well as whether, how, and to what extent they can contribute to addressing social challenges. The Ph.D.  is part of the SAMSKAB: from gray housing associations to green communities', research project, running from 2022 to 2025.
In the project, the researchers challenge the notion that the green transition primarily occurs through individual behavior change and technological advancements. Instead, the team highlights that it can equally manifest as a fundamental social transformation, involving community engagement. Current climate policies primarily aim to influence individual behavior towards environmental friendliness through means such as information campaigns and economic incentives. However, this approach, which places responsibility on individuals to change their behavior, often yields mixed results. Behavioral changes are typically limited in scope and duration, frequently dissipating once the economic incentives are removed. Research findings indicate that members of green communities have, on average, a carbon footprint 27% lower than the Danish average, while also experiencing higher life satisfaction levels. This outcome is achieved through shared goals, knowledge, and identity, promoting greater environmental awareness, as well as through shared social and physical infrastructures such as communal dining or collaborative consumption measures. The challenge lies in disseminating experiences from green communities to both existing housing stock and incorporating them early in the establishment of new residential areas. SAMSKAB aims to elucidate how and to what extent green communities can be implemented across different ownership types (e.g., ownership, cooperative, rental), housing types (e.g., apartment, house, townhouse), and living arrangements (e.g., family, collective, co-living). The project contributes knowledge and tools to support the establishment of new green communities. The Ph.D. project is supported by the VELUX Foundation
Supervisor: Simon Westergaard Lex, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen
Co-supervisor: Quentin Gausset, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen

Astrid Andrea Anesen


Anna Maria Frost-Jensen


Ala Jamal Zareini

Alas PhD project is titled Care negotiated: an anthropological investigation at the intersection of formal and informal care in the Danish elder sector.
Scientific and general discourse points to a ‘care crisis’ in Denmark. To mitigate this, policies increasingly involve informal actors in elder care. However, not much is known about informal actors or the effects of their involvement in elder care in Denmark. Based on an ethnographic study, the project will provide novel insight on how formal and informal actors in homecare and elder care facilities collaborate and negotiate to achieve good care across generations and institutions, blurring the lines between the state, civic society, and kinship relations. Inspired by moral anthropologists’ conceptualizations of morality in everyday life, the project understands the actors’ practice of care as morally contingent and evolving in everyday actions in correspondence with themselves and others. This allows for an in-situ examination of care negotiations and how actors’ virtues of care differ or converge in relation to their values, institutional logics, and ideals.
The project is part of the research project Care Across Generations (INTERGEN), which explores how intergenerational care and solidarity are practiced in a welfare society under pressure.
Supervisor: Line Hillersdal, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen
Co-supervisor: Jonas Cisse Winther, Assistant Professor, University College Copenhagen

Maria Athena Campbell

Marias PhD project is titled Do-It-Yourself Dads. A cross-cultural analysis of paternal care in the context of pediatric Type 1 diabetes and technology.
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is the most common metabolic disorder diagnosed in childhood, with a worldwide increase in incidence highest among pre-school children. Children with T1D are dependent on their parents/caregivers medical and technical support and care. According to the literature, the burden of care in families with one or more children with T1D still lies primarily with the mother, despite clinical evidence that a positive correlation exists between paternal involvement and improved clinical outcomes in the child.
This project explores the challenges and barriers fathers experience in their role as caregiver to their child(ren) with T1D, and what happens to the notions of “good parenting” when daily practices include a child’s T1D management and the use of technical devices. Fieldwork will be conducted with families in Copenhagen and Athens, Greece, as a cross-cultural analysis of these two locations will allow for an opportunity to capture experiences of fathers from backgrounds with differing approaches to parenting. By identifying patterns in their experiences, I hope to expand our general understanding of the barriers fathers encounter as caregivers, and whether an increased use of technology provides this group of fathers an opportunity to overcome these barriers.
Supervisor: Hanne Overgaard Mogensen, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen

Nina Charlotte Kramp

Ninas PhD project is titled Ideas and Practices of Childcare in the Everyday Lives of Children.
In Denmark, concerns about strained childcare provision have sparked a sense of cultural emergency, prompting public and political discussions on the relationship between family and welfare state. At the core of this discussion lies the pivotal role of children, positioned as a focal point within families and as future citizens of the state. Through 8 months of ethnographic fieldwork, I will explore the ideals and anxieties related to childcare at the intersection of families and welfare institutions for children, by following a group of children as they transition between kindergarten and school. The project contributes with qualitative insights into how care for children is thought of and enacted by pedagogues, teachers, parents, grandparents, and children themselves, in a transitional period in their lives that is characterized by significant shifts in localities, routines, practices, and notions of what is - and no longer is - expected of care.
The PhD project is part of the research project ‘Care Across Generations: Intergenerational Solidarity in a Time of Demographic Change’ (INTERGEN), which seeks to explore how intergenerational care is shaped in a Danish welfare context amid demographic change.
Supervisor: Line Hillersdal, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen and University College Copenhagen
Co-supervisor: Jonas Cisse Winther, Assistant Professor University College Copenhagen, and Associate Professor Sara Eldén, Lund University.

Nehemías Pino


Rebecca Solovej

While there has been a growth in non-governmental Search and rescue (SAR) activities on the Mediterranean Sea since 2014, there has also been an increase in border violence against migrants due to a change in political focus in the EU from rescuing to securitization of European borders. Rebeccas PhD project researches the consequences of border violence and border control in the Mediterranean Sea for humanitarian Search and Rescue (SAR) activities. she examines the ethical, moral, political, and emotional dilemmas humanitarian rescuers experience during SAR activities in the Mediterranean Sea, and how humanitarian practices develop and change in response to border violence against migrants. Such violence includes illegal pushbacks, sexual and gender-based violence, detention, deterrence, expulsion, human rights violations, and migrant deaths. The project contributes new knowledge about how the 'humanitarian crisis' in the Mediterranean Sea is understood, experienced, and negotiated in humanitarian SAR work. The project is based on ethnographic fieldwork among humanitarian SAR organizations in Sicily and NGO work in Berlin
Supervisor: Anja Simonsen, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen
Co-Supervisor: Sine Plambech, Senior Researcher, Danish Institute for International Studies, DIIS

Vladimir Alejandro Ariza Montanez

Vladimirs project is titled Food citizenship: the formation of citizens in the programs to prevent and reduce malnutrition in Colombia.
The project aims to uncover the processes and practices shaping citizenship among individuals grappling with food insecurity, with a particular focus on programs catering to children suffering from malnutrition. These interventions primarily revolve around consumption, a concept elucidated by Lock and Guyen as the medicalization of diet. They encompass medical efforts to identify and rehabilitate nutritional conditions, alongside directives urging families, especially women, to take self-responsibility in this regard (Page-Reeves, 2004). These measures will be examined for their intersections with the human right to food, humanitarian interventions, and the promotion of healthy lifestyle habits. They encompass various directives dictating behaviors and lifestyles, such as the utilization of therapeutic and supplementary foods, recommended food quantities and qualities, meal preparation techniques, eating schedules, caloric intake guidelines, and age-specific nutritional requirements, among others. He will analyze the relationship between these interventions and practices of government that contribute to the emergency of a specific food citizenship in Colombia.
Supervisor: Ayo Wahlberg, University of Copenhagen