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Thomas Hylland Eriksen's new site is now open at

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Thomas Hylland Eriksen is an anthropologist and writer based at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo, Norway. '

His work is motivated by a double concern: to understand the present world, and to understand what it means to be human. Much of his work is comparative and interdisciplinary. His research has involved fieldwork in several ethnically and culturally complex societies. He has written extensively about ethnicity and the dynamics of culture and identity, nationalism and the politics of identity, cosmopolitanism and human rights, globalisation and its implications for the study of culture and society. He has also published several textbooks in anthropology and related subjects. Apart from his academic publications, Eriksen also writes essays and miscellaneous nonfiction intended for the general reader, and occasionally contributes to the press with a book review or a polemical intervention. His second novel was published in autumn 2012.

In his spare time, Eriksen plays a bit of music, potters around in the garden and collects unintentional consequences of modernity. So far, he has collected four (the paradoxes of new information technology, identity, affluence and waste), and is considering the possibility of a fifth.

A fairly recent interview with Eriksen, written by Monika Palmberger (MPI-Göttingen), is available here. A more recent one from the Mauritius Times is here, and an even more recent one, written by Luis Fernando Angosto Ferrández, can be downloaded here.

A full, searchable list of publications can be accessed on CRISTIN.


Connect with Eriksen on Facebook

This site, which has existed in various formats since 1996, is bilingual in English and Norwegian. Engaging with the world is the English-language subsite. The Norwegian-language subsite has been named, for some reason, ‘Et langt, kaldt land’ (‘A long, cold country’).

Den norskspråklige forfatteren og akademikeren Thomas Hylland Eriksen treffes på ‘Et langt, kaldt land’.


I am currently directing two research projects:

• Inclusion and exclusion in the suburb.
A collective, multidisciplinary effort based on research in a suburb in eastern Oslo, partly a somewhat underfunded descendant of Culcom, this project aims to explore the significance of place for identity and belonging. The project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council, has its own website and is beginning to make its mark, in cyberspace and elsewhere. Most of the subprojects were completed in 2012, and a final conference is scheduled for November 2014.  

• Overheating: An anthropological history of the early 21st century or The Three Crises of Globalisation.
Partly in an effort to weave together a few loose strands emerging from my work over the last decade, but mostly to add something different to the huge literature on 21st century globalisation, I began, a couple of years ago, to take notes for an analysis aimed to show the advantages of an ethnographic approach even when the object of study is the global system. The project has been endowed with an Advanced Grant from the ERC, and started in earnest in 2013. Its website is continuously being updated.  



Stacking and temporality

A theme from Tyranny of the Moment -- stacking or ‘multitasking’ -- is developed here in an analysis of a particular aspect of contemporary popular culture.



Diversity in the UK and Norway

"Virtually any comparison
between the UK and
Norway has to begin
with an assessment of
difference. In few domains
do the differences between
our two countries appear
to be more evident than
in the area of cultural and
ethnic diversity." ... Continue reading.




Defunct but not obsolete, Culcom's website still contains dozens of interviews, feature articles and downloadable publications from the 2004–10 strategic research programme of the University of Oslo. Lorenz Khazaleh continues to update it as long as there is still some petrol left, but – alas – no fuel is being added to the tank now.

Partly a legacy of Culcom, the current project ‘Inclusion and exclusion in the suburb’ explores conditions for local belonging in a new, diverse part of Oslo.




Probably the best anthropological group blog, Savage Minds is subtitled -- with impeccable historical reflexivity -- ‘Notes and queries in anthropology’.




The Sophie Prize is an annual environmental prize named after the main character in Jostein Gaarder's novel Sophie's World. The prize aims to raise ecological consciousness and stimulate political action. In 2012, the award goes to Eva Joly, known for her one-woman war on corruption, but also a leading Green politician in France and member of the European Parliament.

The 2011 prize was awarded to the author and activist Tristam Stuart, whose book Waste: Uncovering th Global Food Scandal is an incredible book -- readable, entertaining, provocative and important.



Alan MacFarlane's site

The social anthropologist and cultural historian Alan MacFarlane has a wonderful website packed with texts, videos, links and snippets from his wide-ranging work. Recommended!



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Edited by Lorenz Khazaleh, this trilingual site is one of the best virtual magazines covering news and more on anthropologically related topics.


Eriksen's Newsletter, the closest I came to writing a blog back in the early 2000s, was discontinued years ago, but back issues (1-17) are available here.



Writings about 22 July 2011

To be updated


Gellner and the multicultural mess

A leading theorist of nationalism, Ernest Gellner never looked closely at contemporary European pluralism caused by migration. This is why and what he might have said.



Some translations

of Eriksen's books with occasional links to publishers' websites


Linguistic McDonaldisation or universal cosmopolitanism?

What are the cultural implications of English as a universal academic language?

Norsk versjon i antologien Hva skal vi med vitenskap?




Stories about Somalis

Somalis are arguably the most stigmatized ethnic minority group in Norway, and are routinely depicted as poorly integrated immigrants. There are nonetheless other stories which could be told about Somali emigrants to Europe, beyond the limiting perspective of methodological nationalism.



Farewell to the gift economy?

All good parents try to teach their children that the important things in life are free. This is also how it ought to be in the academic world, but after fifteen years of mounting student numbers, activity planning, auditing, efficiency-enhancing measures and reforms, it no longer appears thus.



Of Negro kings and Hottentots

This is about "Negro kings" and "Hottentots" in Scandinavian children's stories, featuring the iconic authors Astrid Lindgren and Thorbjørn Egner. It turns out that many are outraged because it has been suggested to amend a couple of texts because of their racist/pejorative connotations, and concerned defenders of human rights accordingly make thought-provoking comparisons with Orwell's 1984... This article is unpublished; it was just before Christmas, and I badly wanted my bit of peace and quiet.



Creolization in anthropological theory and in Mauritius

A chapter in Charles Stewart's Creolization, this is a comparison between different conceptualisations of ‘creole’ and ‘creolization’, from local uses in Mauritius (and elsewhere) to linguistic and anthropological usages.



The Open Anthropology Cooperative, founded by Keith Hart in 2008, represents an ecological approach to the growth of knowledge.



Everyday cosmopolitanism

A chapter in a book on transnational law, my chapter in this book chiefly looks at that which is outside the law and the conditions for an everyday cosmopolitanism.



The Human Economy

Edited by Keith Hart, Jean-Louis Laville and Antonio David Cattani, this book develops a broadly conceived, radical and innovative framework for thinking along alternative lines about the economy. It is interdisciplinary, open-minded and international and a great read. My contribution is a chapter on globalisation. Get yours here.



Divided by a shared destiny

The climate crisis discourse makes it necessary to rethink the dominant metaphors of contemporary ideology. This is a bid for the notion of overheating as a master narrative of the near future.



Tunnel vision

God knows we all live in our goldfish bowls. But some have muddier water than others. I read Steven Pinker's Blank Slate years ago, and I'm still vaguely annoyed: he writes well, knows his Darwin from his Chomsky, and nearly makes a number of relevant observations about the human condition. But then he falls in love with his toolkit, loses all inhibition and, at the end of the day, comes across as loud, confident and wrong. The essay, from Social Anthropology, is available as a æ.



What is complexity?

The article from Ethnic and Racial Studies, downloadable as a æ, approaches the question from the perspective of social anthropology, system theory and minority studies. Not much chaos physics here, in other words.



Mind the gap: Flexibility, epistemology and the rhetoric of new work

The article explores Bateson’s definition of flexibility as “uncommitted potential for change”, relating it to contemporary issues and scientific controversies and thereby showing the huge, largely untapped potential of the concept. From Cybernetics and Human Knowledge.



Diversity versus difference:
Neo-liberalism in the minority debate

‘Diversity is good; difference is bad.’ This is the common view in European minority debates. As a result, the class component disappears, and an unacceptably vague catch-all concept of culture is allowed to predominate, even in much of the research literature.


Xenophobic exclusion and the New Right in Norway

This is an extended comment on Joshua Phelps et al.: "Symbolic boundaries and ideology in the Norwegian multicultural society". That article is also, for the time being, freely downloadable.



Sport and transnationalism

Why did football become a global phenomenon while hurling (above) and orienteering never did? This article looks at the ecology of dissemination and confinement in the global ecumene from the perspective of sport (but the argument is a general one).



Not exactly The Ramones

This is certainly about pluralism and a cosmopolitan worldview, but far removed from academic research: The short-lived Norwegian record company Compendium released ten albums in the mid-1970s, among them some classics and hidden gems of progressive rock. I wrote a short essay for liner notes of the memorial disc. Highly recommended!



The perilous identity politics of anthropology

Strangely, anthropologists, who specialise in translation between cultural worlds, are often inept when it comes to translating their own activities to a language accessible and interesting to others. However, it didn't have to be that way. A version of the article appears in Making Sense of the Global.



Other People's Anthropologies explores trends and traditions marginal to the hegemonic regions, and includes chapters on Japanese, Bulgarian, Cameroonian and Russian anthropologies, plus some more. My chapter is on the otherness of Norwegian anthropology. æ



Keeping the recipe: Norwegian folk costumes and cultural capital

The concept of cultural property rights is a recent one and one which raises several sets of analytical problems. Some of them — notably who ‘owns’ a certain tradition, the right to define it, to protect it from infringement and to benefit from its possible commercialization, are discussed here. Published in Focaal.



Gregory Bateson and the North Sea ethnicity paradigm

The influence of Bateson's relational thinking on vintage ethnicity theory is often neglected, commonly ignored, but known and recognised by the people behind the theory. A French version was published in Ethnologie Française in 2009.



Globalization: Introduction

The preface and introductory chapter to my 2007 book on globalization are now available on the site. (But as usual, if you want to know how the story ends, you have to buy the book.




For more articles and book samples, search the indexes.



Globnew Another revised and expanded edition, this 2014 edition of a book first published in 2007 has been updated and ‘overheated’. An interactive website is on its way.



Originally published in 1993, this third edition has been revised and updated, and in a few places, I've even changed my mind. The book covers ethnicity and nationalism studies from a social anthropological perspective. This link leads to the first edition, while this link leads to a presentation of the third (2010) edition.



When I was drafting the first edition of this book in 1992, I had no idea that I'd still be working on the same book eighteen years on. Third, revised and updated editions of both the Norwegian and English editions were publised simultaneously in May 2010. This link leads to a presentation of the first edition, while a sample from the latest edition can be accessed here.




Security is a complex and ambiguous word in English. In this book, edited with Ellen Bal and Oscar Salemink at VU University Amsterdam, we explore its comparative usefulness in anthropology. There is a bit about the book here, and a sample chapter has also been dug out for your discreet perusal.




Globalization – The Key Concepts is an interdisciplinary ‘primer’ covering a lot of ground, but focusing on eight concepts, from disembedding and standardisation to vulnerability and mixing. The publisher's blurb can be read here, and a sample chapter is available here.



Although flags are often mentioned by scholars of nationalism, there are few studies of the significance of flags for national identities. This collection offers case studies and comparisons of flag history, uses and controversies. See the publisher's presentation or download the table of contents and the first chapter.




Paradoxes of Cultural Recognition discusses central issues regarding multiculturalism in today's Europe, based chiefly on studies of Norway and the Netherlands. It presents empirical case studies which offer insights into the dynamics of majority/minority relationships, whilst raising theoretical questions relevant for further comparisons. More on the book here and here, and not least here!



Engaging Anthropology asks why it is that anthropology has not yet conquered the world (which it should have), but instead seems content to stay within the cosy (but somewhat musty) walls of academia.




This is a short introduction to anthropology, written both for students and curious onlookers (of which there are hopefully a few). A sample chapter is available online.



Rather than publishing yet another book about globalisation and anthropology in general, we decided to focus on method. How do people who have been trained to do fieldwork in small communities manage the shift to large-scale societies where people and ideas even have the cheek to move about at will, sometimes crossing oceans and continents while getting on with their business? Read the Introduction here.



Tyranny of the Moment, a book about technology, acceleration and slow time -- was published in English a few months after the Norwegian edition, and was subsequently translated into many other languages. A summary and sample chapter are available here.



My other books are presented here and here-- with links to their homepages.

































































Latest update: April 2012• Sist oppdatert april 2012