Ethnography et al.: Doing situated collaborative research on informal networks working in support of refugees coming to Europe

Associate Professor Marie Sandberg, Associate Professor, PhD, Section for Ethnology, Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen


In this talk, I will present a still on-going collaborative research project, which explores different informal modes of volunteer work in support of refugees coming to Europe. Concurrent with moral panics and outbursts of violence and discrimination, a plethora of European citizens’ responses to the 2015 refugee arrivals have mushroomed in Europe, in which help and support are organized either in cooperation with refugee organizations and NGOs, or as privately organized initiatives. These citizens’ initiatives and activities tend to signal that formal political action and decision-making are not enough and can be regarded as a form of mundane border work practiced in informal settings. This everyday border work, I will argue, entails twists and turns of formal roles and power relations making room for questions such as where and how are borders working in practice, and for whom does the border work? And further, which methodological and analytical implications do these twists and turns have for ethnographic research? I will reflect on these questions by considering the everyday border work of volunteering as modes of mattering that blur the usual divisions between researchers and interlocutors, refugees and volunteers, guests and hosts, academic and humanitarian interventions, and that are mobilized in the process of doing ethnography et al.

Marie Sandberg (b. 1975) is an ethnologist with a research focus on everyday life Europeanisation, European borders and migration practices. She is the PI of the research network Helping Hands - Research Network on the Everyday Border Work of European Citizens
funded by the Danish Research Council for Independent Research, and from 2018 Co-PI of the core-group project Diginauts: Migrants’ digital practices in/of the European border regime funded by the Velux Foundations 2018-2020. As a steering group member of the Centre for Advanced Migration Studies (AMIS), UCPH, she is vividly engaged in discussions within international as well as Nordic fields of migration and border studies. She has organized several international research conferences and published a number of peer-reviewed articles in high-ranked journals such as Identities and Journal of Contemporary European Studies, as well as edited volumes such as The Border Multiple (with D.J. Andersen and M. Klatt, Ashgate 2012). Together with Monique Scheer, University of Tübingen, Marie Sandberg is editor-in-chief of the international, A-ranked Ethnologia Europaea – Journal of European Ethnology. Further info, please visit: http://saxoinstitute.ku.dk/staff/?pure=en/persons/165782


Twisting Ethnography: Paraethnographic Film and Disability in Virtual Worlds

Professor Tom Boellstorff, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine


How can ethnographic knowledge production beyond the written text act as data collection and concept building? To explore this question, I will discuss Our Digital Selves: My Avatar is Me, a documentary by Bernhard Drax. This film chronicles my research on disability and virtual worlds, but the filmmaker was given creative control: my collaborator and I appear in the film and helped guide its themes, but made no decisions regarding the film’s final content. The filmmaker’s extensive work included meeting interlocutors in the physical world that the researchers met only online, as well as crafting a narrative about disability and virtual embodiment that comments on rather than replicates the scholarly narrative. In turn, participation in the film shaped my own substantive conclusions and theoretical interventions. How can such work link in new ways the phases of research design, “writing up,” and dissemination? How does such work challenge and “twist” traditional ethnography; how does it instead build on vital traditions of ethnography that twist in their own right, remaining flexibly valid for emerging topics and social contexts? What might this mean for anthropological futures, including but not limited to digital anthropology itself?



-Bill Maurer (Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine, USA)
-Sari Pöyhönen (Professor of Applied Linguistics, University of Jyväskylä, Finland)
-Susanne Österlund-Pötzsch (Docent, Nordic Folklore, Åbo Akademi / Archivist, Swedish Literature Society, Finland)

-Eerika Koskinen-Koivisto (PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher in Ethnology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland)