I am Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen, where I have worked since completing my PhD at the University of Cambridge in 2002 and my M.Phil at Aarhus University in 1997. I am the principal investigator of two research projects funded by the Danish Research Council: Imperial Potentialities; Chinese Infrastructure Projects and Local Socio-economic Networks in Mozambique and Mongolia (2009-2012) and Optimal Distortion: Ethnographic Explorations of Paradoxical Connections (2012-2014), for which I received a DFF Sapere Aude Research Leader Grant. I am author of Not Quite Shamans. Spirit Words and Political Lives in Northern Mongolia (2011), and co-editor of Inner Asian Perspectivism (2007), Technologies of the Imagination (2009), Comparative Relativism (2011); and Times of Security: Ethnographies of Fear, Protest, and the Future (2013), as well as around fifty book and journal articles in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Anthropological Theory, Critique of Anthropology, Ethnos, Social Analysis, and other journals and presses. I am also co-editing a new book series, Ethnography, Theory, Experiment, published by Berghahn Books.
I have conducted more than four years of ethnographic fieldwork among nomads in Far Eastern Russia, nomads, hunters and villagers in Northern Mongolia, market vendors in Ulaanbaatar, traders in Western China, and workers, officials and pastoralists in South-Eastern Mongolia. My research interests include: shamanism, political cosmology, postsocialist transition, social networks, hope and social creativity; and collaboration and experimentation. Overall, my work has thus covered a wide spectrum of questions, ranging from spirit cosmologies, nomadism, and political imaginaries in Northern Mongolia over forms of livelihood and economic strategies in urban Mongolia and other postsocialist contexts to, most recently, the ramifications of China’s growing global clout. Still, the bulk of my research has fallen within the anthropology of religion (the “new animism” debate), the anthropology of politics (imbrications between politics and religion, and security/uncertainty), and anthropological theory (notably in conjunction with the “ontological turn”).
I am currently completing two co-authored monographs on economic strategies among dispossessed youth in urban Mongolia and on Chinese resource extraction and infrastructure projects in Inner Asia and sub-Saharan Africa: “Urban Hunters: Dealing and Dreaming in Times of Transition” (with Lars Højer) and “Collaborative Damage: an Experimental Ethnography of Chinese Globalization” (with Mikkel Bunkenborg and Morten Nielsen). In a slightly more distant future, I plan to continue my nascent comparative ethnography of Christian believers in Denmark and Mongolia and to contribute to two new collaborative experiments: the “Social Fabric” computational social science project, and a research network/lab I am in the process of setting up called Centre of Experimental Ethnography and Theory (EXPECT).