Finn Sivert Nielsen Anthropologist
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Mellom himmel og jord
Tradisjoner, teorier og tendenser i sosialantropologien
Bergen, Fagbokforlaget 1996
Finn Sivert Nielsen & Olaf H. Smedal (eds.)
Essay by Finn Sivert Nielsen

From Tromsø with love

For a year or so during the mid-1990's my old friend Olaf Smedal and I were colleagues at what at the time was known as Sectjon for social anthropology and Sami studies (I believe that's what they called it, but I may be wrong) at the University of Tromsø (which was what it was called). It was during one of our many and spirited professional discussions at this time that the idea arose of making a collection of articles that dealt with the "great empirical themes" that anthropological research typically concerns itself with. Some of these "themes" were self-evident, we used to call them society's "part systems": religion, economics, politics, kinship... and slightly less iconic: ecology and ethnicity. Others were more contentious. Was gender a "part system," or did it penetrate everything in society so thoroughly that it could not be discussed in a separate chapter?

Fagbokforlaget was enthusiastic about our idea, and slowly, like a great cruise ship making for the sea, our book slipped its secure moorings in the planning stage and started life as reality. We set up a list of potential authors for each of the book's ten chapters, contacted them and got mostly positive responses. The editing process was strenuous, that much can be said, and on the way Olaf moved to Bergen and I to Copenhagen, but the book was finally completed and published in 2000.

Contributors and themes

The book offers a panoramic and authoritative overview of the state of anthropology at the turn of the millenium. The steadily changing themes, theoretical approaches, ethnographies and debates, penned by researchers with long experience in the fields they describe, provide a fascinating and lively portrait of anthropological research. The book consists of ten chapters and an afterword (on internet resources, see below). The themes and authors of each chapter are as follows:

     — 1 - Short background in the history of anthropology — Arve Sørum
     — 2 - Ecological anthropology — Randi Kaarhus
     — 3 - Economic anthropology — Finn Sivert Nielsen
     — 4 - Kinship — Olaf H. Smedal
     — 5 - Language and society — Ingjerd Hoëm
     — 6 - Gender and age — Haral Beyer Broch
     — 7 - Ethnicity and nationalism — Thomas Hylland Heriksen
     — 8 - Anthropology of religion — Kjersti Larsen
     — 9 - Political anthropology — Christian Krohn-Hansen and Halvard Vike
     — 10 - Globalization — Jo Helle-Valle

Chapter 9, Christian Krohn-Hansen and Halvard Vike's eminent chapter on the anthropology of power, may be read here.

Internet resources

An innovative idea in this book was that we (particularly Olaf) went through a thorough sifting and selection of resources on the net with relevance for each of the book's chapters. The book would have its own homepage, where this valuable link resource would be made accessible, constantly updated and hopefully even expanded. The idea was excellent, and we managed to keep it up for a while, but we underestimated the speed of change on the net, and new resources were born and good links died more quickly than we could handle. Finally we just gave up, and today less than half of the links in the collection are active.

A new homepage for this book?

A new homepage for this book will in time be set up. It will contain a drastically shortened links collection (limited to items of as permanent a character as possible). The page will also supply short summaries of each chapter of the book, and touch on some of the problems the chapter raises.