Conflict, power and politics – University of Copenhagen

Department of Anthropology > Research > Researcher groups > Conflict, power and po...

Conflicts are an inevitable part of social life, sometimes appearing as exceptional, other times woven into what we might think of as ordinary life. Rooted in the Department’s long-lasting engagement with political anthropology, researchers in this group investigate the dynamics and expressions of politics, power and conflicts, both violent and non-violent with a regional focus on Africa (Vigh), Asia (Sen, Steur, Salemink), the Middle East (Carey, Henkel, Buch Segal) as well as Denmark’s military engagement in the Middle East (Refslund Sørensen). Our research within the broad field of Conflict, Power and Politics directs attention at how conflicts evolve, are experienced and managed by different actors, and at how conflicts shape and are shaped by particular political landscapes, socio-economic livelihoods and cultural/existential notions of being. Moreover, we seek to unravel the interconnections between different levels and kinds of conflict, shedding light on their mutual dependence. In tandem herewith we study how individuals co-create and/or are coerced into taking active part in such conflicts.

Through their studies researchers provide meticulous ethnographic accounts, develop innovative anthropological analyses and grounded theories that have set the scene for important discussions in the anthropology of conflict (for instance Henrik Vigh’s idea of ‘Social Navigation’, Refslund Sørensen’s work on recognition, Henkel’s analysis of secularism and politics in European-Turkish relations, Salemink’s contribution to heritagization and Sen’s innovatiove take on urban, violent youth). As a consequence hereof the research group has a large and innovative group of graduate students working within and helping to move the group forward. Cutting across these various fields of inquiry is a concern with ethics not least with regards to the methodological and analytical caveats of working ethnographically with conflict. Our group and our students are thus constantly engaged in discussions about the boundaries of anthropological research. While we are first and foremost concerned with strengthening and developing the research field of Conflict, Power and Politics in anthropology, researchers engage in and contribute to cross-disciplinary research with particularly colleagues from Economics and Psychology internationally. Additionally research group members are committed to sharing their knowledge with local and global stakeholders in their respective fields. Our impact is thus not only limited to media appearances but also directly affects policy and intervention.

Teaching and other activities

The researcher group offers introductory and advanced courses in political anthropology, bringing classical anthropology and contemporary conflict and security concerns into fruitful dialogue.  The group also regularly organises workshops and lectures on methodological, theoretical and thematic questions pertaining to its focus on conflict and security.