Researchers and Projects

NORDHOST includes researchers from many disciplines to approach such value issues connected to migration and hospitalities in the Nordic context. Both case studies and conceptual studies and spaces where both approaches meet and discuss are employed.

Core Group Projects

Katja Franko, professor in criminology, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo

Within the NORDHOST project, she will continue her work on the intersections of migration control and criminal justice, with a special focus on the changing nature of the Norwegian criminal justice system and penal culture. Norway is among European leaders in deportation and has developed a series of penal strategies directed exclusively at non-citizens. The objective of this project will be to examine these strategies and present them in a forthcoming monograph "Controlling the Crimmigrant Other: Migration and Penal Power".

Arne Johan Vetlesen, professor of philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas, Faculty of Humanities, University of Oslo

He will publish on why the situation in Europe, and in the Nordic countries today is routinely referred to as one marked by a "refugee crisis". What kind of crisis? And whose? The context has shifted from the people directly affected to the citizens and communities of the nation states willing - or not willing - to receive them. The concerns of would-be helpers - host countries - for their own safety and welfare gained the upper hand over the needs of those seeking refuge. What is exposed about traditions of hospitality in countries like Norway, Sweden and Denmark when attempts to counter the shift in question are rejected as "moralistic", "elitist" or paternalistic?

Trygve Wyller, professor in systematic theology, Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo

He will continue his explorations of a spatial research and interpretation of practices directed toward migrant people with one case study among Ghanaian refugees in Oslo and one church project in Malmø, Sweden. These studies will be part of his planned book on A theology of migration to be published in English during the project. The main idea will be to discuss the kind of spaces that open for a new migrant agency.

Thomas Hylland Eriksen, professor of Social Anthropology, Department of Social Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Oslo

He will, based on research carried out by the project, write a short monograph in English about hospitality and the Other, with an emphasis on Nordic discourses, practices and traditions. He will also draw on his own work on ethnicity and racism, global acceleration and contestations of boundaries, aiming to reach a wide readership, academic as well as non-academic.


Vanessa Barker, docent and associate professor of sociology, Stockholm University

This study will focus on the role of civil society in upholding, challenging, and remaking the borders of the Nordic welfare state in response to mass migration. It will examine how civil society actors have responded to the “refugee crisis”, the ways in which they have been caught up in the criminalization of migration, the ways in which they may be disrupting state monopolies on territorial, political and social membership, but also the ways in which civil society actors may reproduce social exclusions and borders through aid and humanitarianism. An instrumental case study approach is used with multiple sources of data, including field observations, interviews and archival material. Research sites may include Oslo, Göteborg and Malmö.

Rasmus Willig, associate professor, University of Roskilde, Denmark

No Hospitality. Denmark, formerly known as a highly humanistic country, has over the recent years developed a strategic approach to signal to the rest of the world that refugees will not be meet with any form of hospitality. The argument is over and over again that this strategic approach is a national defense - that too many refugees will put the famous Danish welfare state under such pressure that it eventually will lead to a collapse of all welfare benefits and rights. The welfare benefits where however achieved, among other things, through an enormously industrial meat-production, which has dramatically contributed to the climate changes. Looking at the time before the conflict in Syria, the region had a drought that has been linked to the ongoing climate changes. In many ways it would not be wrong to speak of a dialectic backlash. But why is this perspective not part of the public debate? The study will investigate famers in Denmark and their views and ways of justifying their CO2 emission and the lack of connection to the consequences. How is hospitality understood by the farmers?

Hans-Joachim Sander, professor in dogmatics, Department for Systematic Theology and Centre for Intercultural Theology and Study of Religion, University of Salzburg

Between All Powers. A Church-Asylum in Saarbrücken – a Heterotopic Case-Study in Occidentalism. The project has its starting point in the analysis of the mutuality between Orientalism and Occidentalism. In the refugee crisis and in the migrations politics of current European politics Occidentalism seems to be much more virulent than Orientalism. Using spatial concepts from E. Soja, this is interpreted as a secondspace power in the thirdspace experiences of Europe as a major goal of global migration. This case study looks into this secondspace power, interviewing people in a Parish close to France which grant church asylum for migrants who hope to bypass the restrictions of the Dublin-II-agreement. The aim is to explore whether the daily rhythms in a church asylum are confronted with this power or if they are simply unrelated to such an overarching matrix.

Lena Näre, assistant professor in sociology, Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki

The project explores the case of hosting asylum seekers as a novel form of hospitality. Hosting migrants in local people’s homes is a new phenomenon in civil activism in Finland. It emerged during the so-called “refugee crisis”, when a large number of migrants arrived to Finland in 2015. The Refugees Welcome network’s member organisations started organising housing for asylum seekers, as reception centres quickly became full and the processing times grew longer. Many have since then found a place to live in the homes of members of the host society.

The project aims to find out what is specific about hosting as form of hospitality and solidarity. Is hosting a form of solidarity or is it driven by a will to resist the current migration policies in Finland and the anti-immigration atmosphere?

The expectations that the hosts and the “hostees” have about living together may be an interesting point of view into these multicultural encounters. What kind of behaviour and agency is expected from both hosts and hostees? What kind of relationship is formed between them? These encounters may belong to the kind of hospitality that challenges traditional binaries related to migration, one that combines agency with hospitality. The project also explores hosting and hospitality as a gendered phenomenon.

Kaspar Villadsen, Professor MSO, Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School

This research is twofold. One follows the Danish Red Cross’ emergency clinic for undocumented migrants in Copenhagen. This clinic, started as a collaboration between the Red Cross, the Danish Medical Association and the Danish Refugee Council, offering fundamental healthcare. The clinic candidly challenges Danish law by referring to universal principles. Their work seems to be founded in the Hippocratic Oath that may be genealogically traced back to Christian values. This study focusses on how the universal demand must equilibrate in relations to the State, legislation and the specific conditions.

Furthermore, there are, in Denmark, several Muslim associations that organise different kinds of social work. Some are religiously oriented, while others are directed more towards the specific activities. In 2011 Dansk Islamsk Center established the first Islamic centre for primarily Danish speaking Muslims. Here the Friday sermon is given in Danish, and the goal is to provide a space for Danish speaking Muslim organisations and their different activities. As a main goal is to be a centre for information and knowledge, this research focusses on the ‘adaption’ or mediation between Islamic values and principles and ‘Danish’ secular values.

Maartje van der Woude, professor of sociology of law, Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Development and associate professor of criminal law and criminal procedure, Institute for Criminal Law and Criminology, University of Leiden 

Professor Van der Woude will carry out comparative research on migration and border matters in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, the UK and the Nordic countries. In doing so she will explicitly focus on the extent to which current border and migration policies and practices as well as the public response to the practices can be explained through the lens of tolerance and hospitality on the one hand and the crimmigration lens on the other.

Cecilia Nahnfeldt, docent, head of research, and Kristina Helgesson Kjellin, phd., researcher, Svenska kyrkans forskningsenhet

Expressions of Hospitality in Culturally Diverse Churches. The aim of this research project is to study the role of ”the cultural broker” for how diversity work and expressions of hospitality is being carried out in the context of two culturally diverse churches in Sweden.  A “broker” is a person that can hold a variety of positions, but it is a person that has cultural and/or language competences, and that is anchored both in the Swedish majority culture as well as in another cultural/national group that is part of the church activities.

Some of the underlying questions guiding the project are; How is hospitality understood by various actors involved in the church? What role does the “cultural broker” play in the church activities and in the meeting with people that come to church, that have another cultural/religious/Christian background than that of the “majority Swede”?

The churches that will be included in this study is one parish in the Church of Sweden and one neo-Pentecostal church (“World of life”). Anthropological field studies, including participant observation and in-depth interviews, will be carried out in these two churches, starting in March 2017.

Cathrine Thorleifsson, researcher, Department of Anthropology, University of Oslo

In pursuit of purity: National populism and the indeterminate Other in an age of displacement. Across European contexts, national populists have exploited the issue of displacement in their affective politics of fear, framing migrants from Muslim majority lands as unilateral threats to national identity, culture, welfare and even (Judeo-) Christian civilizations as a whole. This project highlights the distinctiveness of Norway in the European moment of populism and mass displacement, by comparing it to Brexit England and illiberal Hungary. The project suggests that existential insecurities associated with fast-accelerated cultural-economic change, is a driving force for national populism. However, it is not only the moral panic regarding external “strangers at the gate” (Bauman 2016) that inform practices of welcoming and/or populist securitisation of the migrant Other. Moreover, the historical presence of internal others, indeterminate and minoritised bodies, in particular itinerant Roma, has provided a visible, tangible other, through which dystopic imaginaries of chaos and decay that threatened the modern nation-state’s search for purity and order can be projected. In an integrated Europe, the ambivalent, moving strange that freely crosses borders of the sovereign nation-state, produces anxiety and calls for purification but also new forms of solidarity. While the national populists merely reject the Others as disturbing strangers, concerned individuals contested racialised securitisation and suspicion, reinscribing bios to migrants. Moreover, the contradictory interpretations of the displaced as waste or value, burden or benefit, parallel struggles over statehood and identity in globalising Europe between societies open to the newcomer and those that closes its borders to difference, on a sliding path away from liberal values of human rights and minority protection.

Based on multi-sited fieldwork in Oslo, Doncaster and Ozd, the project examines the reconfiguration of grammars of exclusion and inclusion and how these are tied to particular colonial pasts, historical junctures, cultural-material transformations and global flow of ideas.

Synnøve Bendixsen, associate professor, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen

This project focuses on “Dråpen i havet” (“A drop in the ocean.”), a humanitarian non-profit organisation with a purpose to aid refugees, especially children and their mothers. Initiated in September 2015 on the island of Lesvos (Greece), “A drop in the ocean” have coordinators and teams of volunteers in the islands of Chios, Kos, Samos, Athens and Northern Greece (places varies). The organisation seeks to “help people help migrants” and facilitates people in Norway to volunteer in specific refugee centres in Greece where they may assist in the everyday life of refugees, including receiving people who come to the Greek shores, food and cloth distribution, and play with children. The focus of research for this case would be: What motivates people to volunteer in this particular organisation? Does this organisation and its participants represent a new form of social solidarity? How, if at all, does participation shape these people’s awareness of guest/host, ideas of inclusion and equality, and ideas of solidarity? Can we see new forms of alternative identities emerging among the participants? Are there anything specifically Nordic in this form of volunteering and organizing?

NORDHOST phd. and post doctoral fellows

Dorina Damsa, phd. fellow, Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, Faculty of Law University of Oslo

This project explores migrant trajectories in an in/hospitable Scandinavian context. She focuses on the migrant perspective in relation to the criminalization of mobility, more specifically precarity, life strategies and tactics, the embodied consequences of othering, identities, notions of equality, justice and rights, and technologies of mobility. She follows migrants as they seek to advance their prospects through a terrain of in/hospitable governance measures.

The project challenges the static ‘guest/host’ binary and the characterizations of migrants as ‘victims’ or ‘passive’ actors, lacking agency or capacity to circumvent, subvert, or affect governance. As such, it bears relevance to theories of mobility, sovereignty, and resistance, while specifically contributing to debates on ‘Nordic exceptionalism’, by examining in/hospitality in the Nordic welfare state.

Helena Schmidt, phd. fellow, Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo

Perceived Migrant – Lived Citizen. The project will analyse and discuss whether a post-colonial language of subjectivity can be developed and translated into debates on migrant hospitality in a Nordic context. The project title suggests that the language through which ‘we’ perceive ‘them’ might simultaneously confine and make potential for subjectivity development. Perceived migrant implies that categories such as refugee, migrant and religion are being connected to the current refugee crisis. The term lived citizenship combines theories on citizenship and political subjectivities with a spatial focus on the embodied practice of eating, and the body as subjective space.

By understanding meals as universal and intimate, traditional and contested, the claim is that they make original grounds for investigations of embodied experiences and collective representations of the oppositions belonging and rejection. Through investigations of three meals taking place in Oslo, all of which represent civil society responses to some sort of dissociation and involve migrant actors, the object is to observe limitations as well as developments of belonging that can contribute to deconstructing the traditional (oriental) guest/host-binary.

Paula Merikoski, phd. fellow, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki

Home accommodation of asylum seekers gained popularity as a civic solidarity practice when an unprecedented number of migrants arrived to Finland in 2015 seeking international protection. Many locals have since then shared their homes with asylum seekers during the long asylum process. This project aims to find out what is specific about home accommodation as form of hospitality and solidarity. Are the hosts primarily motivated by a will to respond to the humanitarian crisis and show solidarity, or are they also driven by the will to resist tightening asylum policies in Finland? Home accommodation blurs the public/private divide and brings forth the idea of a private home as a political site where the right to asylum is being claimed. Furthermore, by sharing their homes with asylum seekers hosts take part in the debate over who is welcome to the country. The focus on home allows for analysing the diverse meanings of home as a space of hospitality, resistance, and diaspora. The project also explores hosting and hospitality as gendered phenomena.

This project is also part of the Struggles over Home and Citizenship - Neighborhood Solidarities as Response to Asylum ‘Crisis’ project that combines social scientific research and visual arts (PI Lena Näre, University of Helsinki)

María Hernández Carretero, Department of Social Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Oslo

Immigration, meeting spaces and everyday inclusion at the local community level

This project is an ethnographic study of refugee reception in Norway in the aftermath of the peak in refugee arrivals in 2015. The project is concerned, on the one hand, with how ordinary citizens view and relate to the arrival of newcomers to their communities and how they engage with the phenomenon at large and with persons of refugee background in particular. Furthermore, the project explores how refugees and other immigrants themselves experience being received in their new towns and neighbourhoods. In other words, the aim is to explore attitudes, practices, engagement and experiences related to how refugees and other immigrants are received and how it is to be newly settled at the local community level in Norway. How do newly arrived refugees and other migrants become part of their new neighborhoods and cities? What do people among the receiving society think about the arrival of new neighbors, new countrymen and -women? How is it to be someone on the “receiving” or “welcoming” side and someone who is new in a country and neighborhood? Where do new and old residents meet?

Meeting points and encounters therefore constitute a central point of this research project, and an interest in activities organized by civil society groups and organizations with the explicit aim of welcoming/integrating/including newly arrived refugees and other immigrants, as well as activities and festivals organized by the municipality and boroughs. Who participates in such activities and/or seek out such meeting spaces, and what motivates them to do so? What dynamics take place there? How are they experienced by both parties? In order to explore these questions I conduct ethnographic fieldwork, which involves being present at informal meeting spaces and participating in structured activities, as well as interviewing participants.

Kaia Schultz Rønsdal, postdoctoral fellow, Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo

Magnificent Encounters in Borderlands. The shift of the borders to become the stage of relations has significance for how we approach the migrant as a concrete and theoretical human being. This will be explored through bottom-up insight from Nordic borderlands. The project follows two lines of thought, one emphasising context and the other philosophical development, both starting in the empirical, ‘from below’ and enacted and lived encounters, leading to a challenge and reconfiguration of the guest and the host.

The contextual line relates to how hospitality is lived and enacted when people encounter in borderland spaces. This direction will follow two further lines of questioning. One is exploring what people in civil society practices and public space do, what is lived, enacted and expressed, by the “hosts” and by the “guests”, and together, and furthermore how this can be discussed within the framework of epistemological decentring. The second topic emphasises conceptual and philosophical development, also based in lived encounters. This is that of the Grenzgänger, and the idea of borderlands as a concept thought of as something people are. When starting from the notion of borderlands as places of recognition and exchange between individuals, what does the concept of Grenzgänger entail when based on encounters in real, lived borderland space. This is done by exploring how border encounters are lived spatially. This direction would mainly follow the phenomenological discussion on others and borders, the guest/host, and other border binaries.





Published May 30, 2017 1:42 PM - Last modified Jan. 28, 2021 1:44 PM