Karen Fog Olwig

Karen Fog Olwig

Professor, emeritus

Primary fields of research

Regional specialization: The Caribbean; Denmark; transnational networks
Thematic specialization: Migration, family relations, gender, identity

My research has primarily concerned migration in a Caribbean context, but in recent years I have also looked at immigration and integration issues in Denmark. Key topics have been the interrelationship between family networks, gender, mobility and belonging; care relations in institutional and inter-personal settings; constructions of relatedness, identity and boundaries. I am a member of the research group "Migration and Social Mobility."

Current research

Gendered Migration Experiences. Education, Family and Mobility among Caribbean Nurses in Britain

My current research looks at migration for educational purposes in a (post-)colonial context, a form of migration that has attained increasing significance in recent years. More specifically I look at Caribbean migration to Britain in the post-WWII period for the purpose of training in nursing. By investigating this early instance of educational migration, that involved primarily women, the project explores the opportunities and barriers experienced by the migrants both during and upon completion of their education. The project thereby sheds new light on the relationship between physical, social, economic and existential mobility from a long-range time perspective and with particular focus on the role of family, gender and class. Fieldwork in Britain and the Caribbean was funded by the Carlsberg Foundation.

Biometric Borderworlds. Technologies, Bodies and Identities on the Move

In 2016 I will initiate, with three colleagues, a research project that examines the increasing use of biometric technologies to track the movements of migrants and refugees and register their identities. Technology developers and stakeholders often portray biometric technologies as objective, however, from an anthropological perspective the technologies are embedded in specific societal contexts. The project examines these contexts, investigating how new technologies come into being, their social and political significance, the assumptions attached to their use as well as the identities, practices and relations that they enable and/or disable. The project, which is funded by the Velux Foundation, contributes to research on migration, identity, subjectivity and social relations. It also offers an ethnographically grounded contribution to studies of surveillance and technology.

Select recent publications

Mobility, education and life trajectories: New and old migratory pathways. Special issue of Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, edited with Karen Valentin, 22(3) 2015.

Mobilitet og tilknytning: Migrantliv i et globaliseret Danmark, edited with Karen Valentin. Antropologiske Studier vol. 3, Aarhus: Aarhus Universitetsforlag, 2015.

The duplicity of diversity : Caribbean immigrants in Denmark. Ethnic and Racial Studies 38(7): 1104-1119, 2015.

Migration and Care: Intimately Related Aspects of Caribbean Family and Kinship, pp. 133-148 in Transnational Families, Migration and the Circulation of Care: Understanding Mobility and Absence in Family Life, edited by Loretta Baldassar and Laura Merla. Routledge Research in Transnationalism, vol. 29, 2013.

Migration, Family and the Welfare State: Integrating Migrants and Refugees in Scandinavia, edited with Birgitte Romme Larsen and Mikkel Rytter. Milton Park : Routledge, 2012.

The 'successful' return: Caribbean narratives of migration, family, and gender. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 18: 828-845, 2012.

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