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Henrik Erdman Vigh

Henrik Erdman Vigh

Professor, Head of PhD school

Current research

My main research field is within political anthropology with a special focus on generational and gendered dynamics.

Research groups 

Global Development & Conflict, Power, and Politics

Research projects

The faceless opinion (Zachery Whyte & Henrik Vigh)

"Faceless opinion” is an archive, documenting this anonymous political critique. As a part of a larger project, it aims to collect and examine these contemporary forms of political communication, which take place incognito through electronic media, emails, and anonymous letters. Focusing on the Danish immigration debate, the archive collects nameless political utterance aimed at named individuals, as an important element in a wider examination and analysis of the common discourses, concerns, and threat horizons, characteristic of substantial parts of contemporary political debate.

Denmark sees itself as a country with a tradition for free and open political debate, where discussions take place without fear of reprisal, and where people stand by their opinions and convictions – where people agree on the right to disagree. In recent years, something appears to be changing. While we worry about the waning of traditional political engagement, anonymous political critique seems to be on the rise on closed debate forums, anonymous blogs, and in unnamed internet comments, aggressive letters and emails.

Increasingly, current political debate is faceless, written with no named author and with little possibility for in-depth dialogue. This changes not only the form and tone of political communication, but also shapes its content. The debate appears often to be a reaction to an imagined threat as well as threatening in kind, and though much of this critique is anonymous, it often takes specific, named individuals as its object. There is then a paradox, whereby political rhetoric is at once increasingly ad hominem and anonymous.

Youth, Mobilisation and Social Navigation

This research topic is directed towards improving our understanding of processes of mobilisation and the turn to violence. It is the theme of an on-going research project in which I have followed a former militia of urban men in Bissau City, Guinea-Bissau, for the last 6 years. The study builds on extensive fieldwork, using participant-observation, unstructured, semi-structured and structured interviews, and has formed the empirical background for a number of books and articles.

As an analytical optic the concept of ‘social navigation' allows us to illuminate the way people seek to move their lives in a positive directions through a context of political turmoil and instability. It allows us to illuminate the complex interplay between agency and social forces making it possible for us to make sense of the opportunistic, at times fatalistic, and tactical ways in which young people struggle to survive and expand their horizons of possibility by navigating political networks and events. 

Racialization and geno-globality

Though the focus of this research topic is on racialization, i.e. the way people ascribe racial characteristics to social facts and formations, the argument centres on how the flow of dominant ideas and narratives, within our present point of modernity, shape negative stereotypes and inform political and violent praxis. It deals with the shadow side of global awareness.

The point of departure is that there is a correspondence between the surging social Darwinism and bio-determinism, that we are witnessing in many parts of the world, and globally dispersed ideas of genetics. In a world of increasing economic inequality folk understandings of genetics merge with knowledge of globally uneven distributions of wealth and power, colour lines and geo-political formations. Race becomes, in the coalescence of the above factors, seen as determining trait in relation to social actions and formations. It becomes the decisive factor that separates rich societies from poor, stable from unstable and war prone from peaceful. The research builds on field work, using ethnographic methods, in both Europe and Africa.

Crisis and chronicity

The focus on crisis and chronicity aims to improve our knowledge of the processes and formations that emerge from situations of prolonged political, economic or social crisis. Working towards a description of some of the general social and political dynamics of societies caught in prolonged periods of instability and uncertainty the perspective is comparative and seeks to gain an insight into cross-cultural and cross-societal reactions to situations of prolonged crisis.

Illuminations of Illegality

This research project aims at shedding light on the many undocumented migrants in Europe and the way in which their initial status of being illegal comes to shade their entire existence. The project builds on fieldwork in Lisbon and Paris among undocumented West African migrants struggling to make a living through petty crime and drugs dealing. Without loosing sight of the individual lives caught in a position of illegal migration the project seeks to illuminate the structures that make illegality a viable tactic for young Africans as well as the networks that develop and profit from this movement from South to North.  The study contributes to the debate on migration with a simultaneous view on life chances, vulnerability and violent networks.

Primary fields of research

Europe, Vestafrica

Political anthropology, peace & conflict studies, crisis and chronicity, undocumented migration, social becoming, mobility and mobilisation.

Selected publications

  1. Published

    Mobile Misfortune

    Vigh, H. E. 11 Jun 2015 In : Culture Unbound. 7, 2, p. 233-253 21 p.

    Publication: Research - peer-reviewJournal article

  2. Published

    Social Invisibility and Political Opacity: on perceptiveness and apprehension in Bissau

    Vigh, H. E. Oct 2014 Ethnographic of Uncertainty in Africa. Cooper, E. & Pratten, D. (eds.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, Ch. 6, p. 111-129 18 p.

    Publication: Research - peer-reviewBook chapter

  3. Published

    La Marge au Centre: sur les réseaux, la cocaïne et le crime transnational à Bissau

    Vigh, H. E. 3 Sep 2014 In : Socio. 1, 3, p. 289-313 24 p.

    Publication: Research - peer-reviewJournal article

  4. Published

    Origin and Evolution of European Community-Acquired Methicillin- Resistant Staphylococcus aureus

    Stegger, M., Wirth, T., Andersen, P. S., Skov, R. L., De Grassi, A., Martins Simões, P., Tristan, A., Petersen, A., Aziz, M., Kiil, K., Cirkovic, I., Udo, E. E., del Campo, R., Vuopio-Varkila, J., Ahmad, N., Tokajian, S., Peters, G., Schaumburg, F., Olsson-Liljequist, B., Givskov, M., Driebe, E. E., Vigh, H. E., Shittu, A., Ramdani-Bougessa, N., Rasigade, J-P., Price, L. B., Vandenesch, F., Larsen, A. R. & Laurent, F. 26 Aug 2014 In : mBio (Print). 5, 5, p. 1-12 12 p., e01044-14

    Publication: Research - peer-reviewJournal article

  5. Published

    From essence back to existence: Anthropology beyond the ontological turn

    Vigh, H. E. & Sausdal, D. B. 1 Apr 2014 In : Anthropological Theory. 14, 1, p. 49-73 25 p.

    Publication: Research - peer-reviewJournal article

ID: 918461