Eldar Bråten





I have two ethnographic foci: Indonesia, in particular Central Java, and the Nordic countries (“Norden”). In my master work (1988), I studied Islam and ritual change in a rural context north of Semarang, Java, while my doctoral thesis (1995) analyzed formations of self and person among underprivileged people in the city of Yogyakarta. Since then, I have focused on a range of topics related to Javanese everyday life: politics, community and violence, microscale entrepreneurship, and cultural heritage in the context of state transformations.

From approximately 2010, I have primarily focused on discourse about the Nordic countries, not least assertions about a peculiar Nordic “egalitarianism”. Adopting a diachronic perspective, my research concentrates on class formations and mobility over time and, in particular, the mutual effects of movements in geographical and social space. I aim at identifying micro mechanisms of social mobility and in particular examine the role of social networks (based in kinship, marriage, neighborhood, work place, and political or religious allegiance) in the formation of social collectives and careers through time. The approach allows a critique of predominant conceptions about continuity in Nordic local communities (based in cultural constructions of “odel”, kinship solidarity, attachments to place etc.). My empirical case studies are Agder, Norway, and Finnskogen (the Finnish forests) of Norway and Sweden.

More generally, I have become increasingly interested in the theoretical basis of anthropology, not least how our insights about human life compare to the knowledge produced by other social and cultural sciences. Anthropology has developed out of a productive tension between the ambition to be the overarching study of humans versus a specialized niche discipline aimed at conveying sociocultural multiplicity (or «alternative realities») ignored by other disciplines. This tension not only reflects the controversy between generalist and particularistic approaches; it raises fundamental questions about renderings of epistemology and ontology. The so-called “ontological turn” in anthropology during the 2000s has revived interest in this dichotomy, but in my view, the “turn” aggravates rather than solves the basic theoretical problems involved. In contrast, I explore possibilities for a Realist Anthropology, based in positions of philosophical realism.


Spring 2013: SANT 215 - Komparativ regional etnografi - Sørøst-Asia (Regional comparisons)

Autumn 2011: SANT 260 - Bacheloroppgave (Bachelor essay)

Autumn 2010: SANT 100 - Invitasjon til sosialantropologi (Introductory course)

Spring 2010: SANT 260 - Bacheloroppgave (Bachelor essay).

Spring 2010: Member of the Department's Teaching Committee; responsible for the bachelor program in Social Anthropology.

2005-2008 (minus Spring 06): Responsible for the Department's Bachelor- and Master programs in Social Anthropology.

Autumn 2007: SANT 101 - Menneske, kultur og samfunn: Innføring i sosialantropologi (Introductory course).

Spring 2007: SANT 203 - Religion, ritual og politiske realiteter (Course on religion, ritual and power).

Autumn 2005: SANT 601 - Menneske, kultur og samfunn: Innføring i sosialantropologi; Fjernundervisning (Introductory course; distant learning).

Spring 2005: SANT 601 - Menneske, kultur og samfunn: Innføring i sosialantropologi; Fjernundervisning (Introductory course; distant learning).


Journal articles

2023. 'Utopian confluences': Final reply. Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale 31(2): 157–160.

2022a. The ‘onto-logics’ of perspectival multi-naturalism: A realist critique. Anthropological Theory 22(2): 201-221. doi.org/10.1177/14634996211072369 

2022b. The “ontological turn” in anthropology: Self-silencing irrealism Public Anthropologist 4(2): 160-183. doi.org/10.1163/25891715-bja10036 

2022c. ‘Utopian Confluences’: A Critique. Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale 30(1): 134-139.

2020. Viruses beyond epistemic fallacy. Social Anthropologyhttps://doi.org/10.1111/1469-8676.12839

2019. «Min haplogruppe» - Biologi, slektskap og kulturell identitet i lys av genetisk genealogi. Norsk Antropologisk Tidsskrift Volum 30.(1) s. 59-77. https://www.idunn.no/nat/2019/01/min_haplogruppe

2018. Critical realist anthropology - exemplification of a non-conflationary perspective. Déjà lu Volum 6. https://www.waunet.org/downloads/wcaa/dejalu/feb_2018/norsk.pdf

2016. Kritisk realistisk antropologi - eksemplifisering av et ikke-konflatorisk perspektiv. Norsk Antropologisk Tidsskrift. 27(2):121-137. [Price for best NAT article in 2016] https://www.idunn.no/nat/2016/02/kritisk_realistisk_antropologi_-_eksemplifisering_av_et_ikk]

2015. Spørsmål om «ontologi»: Momenter til en realistisk antropologi. Norsk Antropologisk Tidsskrift. 26(2):162-176.

2013. Introduksjon - Den gang da: Synkrone og diakrone perspektiver på "fortid". Norsk Antropologisk Tidsskrift. 24(3-4):157-168.

2013. Slekt, jord og odel i Vest-Agder: Bondegods som "hus"? Norsk Antropologisk Tidsskrift. 24(3-4):221-234.

2002. Introduction: Research on Southeast Asia in the Nordic countries. Asian Journal of Social Science, 30: 471-475.

2002. Studentfeltarbeidet i fare? En pragmatisk tilnærming. Norsk Antropologisk Tidsskrift, 13(4): 187-196.

2002. Research on Southeast Asia in the Nordic Countries. Asian Journal of Social Science, 30(3): 471-475.

2001. Stat, marked og det antropologiske rom. Norsk Antropologisk Tidsskrift, 12(1-2): 9-15.

2000. Konstruksjon, destruksjon - og livsmening: Noen tanker fra en konferanse. Norsk Antropologisk Tidsskrift, 11(3): 157-160.

1997. "Person, time and conduct". Et skråblikk på symbolantropologien. Norsk Antropologisk Tidsskrift, 8(2): 85-95.

1993. Mennesket i den etnografiske beskrivelse: Noen grunnlagsproblemer. Norsk Antropologisk Tidsskrift, 4(1): 28-42.

Chapters in in anthologies

2023. Dynamics of localized social responsibility: A case from Agder, Norway. In: Knudsen (ed.): Corporate Social Responsibility and the Paradoxes of State Capitalism. Berghahn Books. Pp. 92-114.

2018. 'Yogya Inc.': Transformed kingship in decentralizing Indonesia. In: State, Resistance, Transformation: Anthropological Perspectives on the Dynamics of Power in Contemporary Global Realities. Sean Kingston Publishing, p. 119-151.

2016. Reading Holbraad - Truth and doubt in the context of ontological inquiry. In: Bjørn E. Bertelsen and Synnøve Bendixsen (eds.): Critical Anthropological Engagements in Human Alterity and Difference. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p.273-294. 

2015. Sultanen av Yogyakarta: Entifisering, identitetspolitikk og kongemakt på Java, Indonesia. I: Harald Aspen, Malin Noem Ravn og Emil André Røyrvik (red.): Det skapende mennesket: Antropologiske dialoger om tegn, ting og tolkning. Oslo: Scandinavian Academic Press, p.45-63.

2013. Introduction: Cultural Embedding, i: Eldar Bråten (red.): Embedded Entrepreneurship: Market, Culture, and Micro-Business in Insular Southeast Asia. Leiden and Boston: Brill. Pp. 1-28.

2013. Embedded Micro-Businesses: Trust, incorporation and scaling in Javanese 'family firms', i: Eldar Bråten (red.): Embedded Entrepreneurship: Market, Culture, and Micro-Business in Insular Southeast Asia. Leiden and Boston: Brill. Pp.253-274.

2007. [med Margit Ystanes] "Kritisk selvstendighet" gjennom fjernundervisning, medforfatter Margit Ystanes, i Gunnar Myklebost og Olav Skare (red.) Om Re-mediering av Undervisning - og Læring Gjennom Samarbeid. Refleksjoner over Prosjekterfaringer 2006. Tromsø: Norgesuniversitetet, pp. 35-46.

2005. Resurrecting "Java": A call for a "Java"nese anthropology, i Jörgen Hellman og Hans Antlöv (red.) The Java that Never Was: Academic Theories and Political Practices. Münster: LIT Verlag, pp. 21-42.

2002. ‘Kampung' Revenge: Crime, state, and neighborhood retaliation in Java, i Tor H. Aase (red.) Tournaments of Power: Honour and Revenge in the Contemporary World. Aldershot UK: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, pp. 115-142.

2002. Against community, beyond humanity: Grasping "violence" in Java, i Frans Hüsken og Huub de Jonge (red.) Violence and Vengeance: Discontent and Conflict in New Order Indonesia. Saarbrücken: Verlag für Entwicklungspolitik, pp. 11-30.

1999. Hvordan forholde seg til "det nye"? Møte mellom gamle normer og ny virkelighet på Java, Indonesia, i Else Mundal and Ingvild Øye (red.) Norm og praksis i Middelaldersamfunnet. Bergen: Senter for Europeiske Kulturstudier, pp. 206-230.

1999. To colour, not oppose: Spreading Islam in rural Java, i Leif Manger (red.) Muslim Diversity: Local Islam in Global Contexts. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press, pp. 150-172.

1989. Safe is ambiguous. Identity management and conditions of islamization in a Central-Javanese village, i Mikael Gravers (red.) Southeast Asia between autocracy and democracy. Århus : Aarhus University Press, pp. 57-59.

Edited books/journal issues

2013. Eldar Bråten (ed.): Norsk fortid. Temanummer av Norsk Antropologisk Tidsskrift, 24(3-4).

2013. Eldar Bråten (ed.): Embedded Entrepreneurship: Market, Culture, and Micro-Business in Insular Southeast Asia. Leiden and Boston: Brill.

2002. Eldar Bråten (ed.): Research on Southeast Asia in the Nordic countries. Asian Journal of Social Science, 30 (3).

Online lectures

2020. Grunntrekk i en mulig realismeantropologi. [in Norwegian; Basic principles of a possible Realist Anthropology] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnJM-oHXgwrLm1aJNrOg3sw/

Masters thesis
Short communication
Academic chapter/article/Conference paper
Article in business/trade/industry journal
Academic article
Book review
Academic anthology/Conference proceedings
Academic lecture
Doctoral dissertation
Thesis at a second degree level
Multimedia product
Reader opinion piece
Popular scientific lecture
Non-fiction book

See a complete overview of publications in Cristin.



Completed 2008: Migrants and Entrepreneurs in Insular Southeast Asia (21 researchers and students from Norway and Southeast Asia; project leader: Eldar Bråten).

Completed 2010: Magico-political transformations of "Jogja"; individual project under the research group and research project Challenging the State (project leader: Bruce Kapferer).

Ongoing: Class, migration and mobility in Nordic rural communities; individual project under the research group Norske Rom (leader of research group: Mary Bente Bringslid).


Tidligere forskningsfelt knyttet til javanesisk etnografi (Indonesia):
Islam, ritualer, selv og person, vold, entreprenørskap, lokal stat og politisk lederskap.

Nytt forskningsfelt:
Klasse, migrasjon og mobilitet i nordiske bygdesamfunn