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Conference 2011

Anthropology and Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Thomas Hylland Eriksen is a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo, where he has been based since his student days in the 1980s. Some of his most successful anthropology books are the textbooks Small Places – Large Issues and Ethnicity and Nationalism, which have both been translated into many languages and continue to appear in new, revised editions. However, his favourite among his own monographs is Common Denominators: Ethnicity, Nation-building and the Politics of Compromise in Mauritius, based on his doctoral work in the Indian Ocean.
Thomas Hylland Eriksen
Eriksen has increasingly focused his research on globalisation and cultural complexity – Globalization: The Key Concepts appeared in 2007 – and from 2004 to 2010, he directed a major interdisciplinary research programme, Cultural Complexity in the New Norway (CULCOM).

A cosmopolitan outlook
An engaged intellectual, Eriksen regularly intervenes in the media, often arguing against nationalism and other forms of group chauvinism, defending a cosmopolitan outlook where the recognition of difference does not imply withdrawal into multiculturalist ghettoisation. His website,, contains a broad sample of his writing, ranging from book chapters on Darwin and appreciations of progressive rock to musings about the Internet, travel writing from India and the Caribbean, book reviews and writings about culture and identity.

The consequences of modernity
Since the turn of the millennium, he has been busy collecting unintentional consequences of modernity. So far, he has collected four: The paradox of the information revolution (Tyranny of the Moment, 2001), the paradoxes of identity (Røtter og føtter – ‘Roots and boots’, 2004), the paradox of affluence (Storeulvsyndromet – ‘The syndrome of the Big Bad Wolf’, 2008) and waste (Ressurser på avveie – ‘Resources gone astray’, 2011). He is currently finishing a book on competition, co-written with the biologist Dag O. Hessen, and his second novel.

Away from work
In his spare time, Eriksen plays the saxophone and writes columns, essays and books for a non-academic readership. From 1993 to 2001, he edited the cultural bi-monthly Samtiden(Our Age) . Among his many books on diversity and migration, Kulturterrorismen (Cultural terrorism) and Kulturelle veikryss (Cultural crossroads) could be mentioned.

Eriksen lives within walking distance from the University of Oslo with his wife, his two children and a cat.