Tomas Salem


PhD Candidate, PhD fellow


Research groups


I hold a Master's degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Bergen and a Master's degree in Societal Safety from the University of Tromsø, and have researched processes of militarization and policing in Rio de Janeiro for over a decade. I have continued this work as Affiliated Researcher in the NFR-funded research project "Algorithmic Governance and Cultures of Policing" (2021-2024) at Oslo Metropolitan University. My first book Policing in Rio de Janeiro: Cosmologies of War and The Far-Right examines the link between militarization and far-right political projects in Brazil.

My ongoing PhD research is a transnational ethnography of romantic pursuits of happiness in the Anthropocene. Through multi-sited fieldwork in Norway and Argentina, I explore the entanglements of tourism, environmental concerns, and social practices centered around the ideas of the good life in nature. My latest article, Permanent Impermanence in the Anthropocene examines how environmental concerns are weaved into processes of expulsion in Southern Patagonia.

Through my different research projects, I have developed a research agenda that focuses on the intersection of inequality and the environment as the two overarching and co-constituting crises of the 21st century. I have approached these crises and their effects by zooming in on emergent social, political, cosmological and economic tensions. This prism allows me to explore the links between non-dualist ontologies and the re-enchantment of the world in politics and science, the material and symbolic conditions for the re-emergence and growth of illiberal ideologies, and technological change—particularly related to technologies of governance, datafication, and AI.


2023 Permanent impermanency in the Anthropocene. Paper presented at the workshop "Radical Science in the Anthropocene: Prospects and perils" at the Norwegian University Center at EHSS, Paris. 19th April 2023.

2023 Romantic Pursuits of Happiness: Excess and creativity in the Anthropocene. Paper presented at the (British) Association of Social Anthropology (ASA) 2023 Conference "An Unwell World? Anthropology in a Speculative Mode" at SOAS, London. April 14th 2023.

2023 Cosmologies of War: Policing in Rio de Janeiro. Paper presented at the conference "Policing in the Algorithmic Society: Consequences and Critical Perspectives," at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF), Niteroi (Brazil), March 8, 2023.

2023 Policing in the Algorithmic Society: Consequences and Critical Perspectives. Co-organizer of the AGOPOL conference at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF), Niteroi (Brazil), March 6-8, 2023.

2023 Un pueblo en disputa. Photographic exposition hosted by the Municipality of El Chalten, El Chalten (Argentina), February 2023. 

2022 La naturaleza y la felicidad. Presentation of research findings at public debate forum Conversas Barcelona #42, Barcelona, November 2022.

2022 Wilderness enclosures. Paper presented at the workshop "Radical science in the Anthropocene: Prospects and perils" at the University of Bergen, 14th June 2022. 

2022 Norsk friluftstradisjon og det gode liv. Seminar organized by Nordisk Laboratorium. University of Oslo, 10th June 2022. 

2022 Happiness in times of change. Friluftsliv in Svalbard. Photographic exposition and presentation of research findings with Alexandra Meyer (University of Vienna) at Longyearbyen public library, Longyearbyen, 15th May 2022.

2022 Authoritarianism, social media, and militarized policing in Brazil. Paper presented at the conference Algorithmic Governance and Cultures of Policing, Oslo Metropolitan University, Oslo. 8th April 2022

2022 Encerrados, pero como queremos: Experiencias de (in)movilidad en un pueblo de montana en la Patagonia Argentina. Presentation in panel "Teorizar la inmovilidad desde la antropología: experiencias, normalidades y articulaciones" (Conveners: Diana Mata and Fabiola Mancinelli) at Congrés Catalá d'Antropología 2022, Universitat de Girona, 27th January.

2021 The Last Frontiers. Photographic exposition at 2Walls Studio, Barcelona. 9th December.

2021 Miljøvern og urban ulikskap i verdas siste villmark. Presentation in panel "Klima og miljøkamp: etnografiske nyansar" at the Norwegian Anthropology Association's 2021 conference, University of Oslo, 25th November.

2020 La felicidad en la montaña: Una breve historia. Public presentation of research project at the Municipality of El Chalten, Argentina, January 2023.

2019 Happiness in the Anthropocene. Co-organizer of interdisciplinary art workshop at Vatnahalsen Hotel with documentary filmmaker Siri Bråtveit, 2-3. December 2019.

2019 Friluftsliv in transition: first impressions from the field. Presentation at seminar at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen, 9th september. 

2019 Mannen og fjellet: om å finne lukka i naturen. Presentation at "Nordisk etnografi, hvor står vi?", University of Oslo, 22nd August.

2019 Resisting reform: Gendered dynamics of police reform in Rio de Janeiro. Paper presented in panel Bodies in Crisis: Urgency, resistance, and creativity in spaces in/for change, NORA Conference. University of Reykjavik, 23rd May.

2018 "I am not a cop": Doing fieldwork with the police in Rio's favelas. Presentation in panel Ethnography and Conflict in Latin America, NOLAN Conference. Oslo Metropolitan University, 25th October.

2018 Gender, Race and Urban (in)Securities. Co-organizer of international workshop with Margit Ystanes. University of Bergen, 16th-17th October.

2018 The Spectacular Favela: Violence in Modern Brazil. Moderator in conversation with Erika Robb Larkins. Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen, 16th October. 

2018 Warfare, mountaineering and the gendered dynamics of danger. Presentation in panel “Ethnography in/of Danger”. Bergen Anthropology Day 2018. Bergen.

2018 Kjønnsperspektiv i forskningen. Presentation at the Department of Geography, UoB, 8th mars.

2018 How to integrate gender perspectives in research towards the SDGs. Presentation at workshop on Critical approaches to gender, sustainability and futurity, at the SDG 2018 Conference in Bergen, 9th February.

2018 Scale and police reform in Rio de Janeiro. Paper presented at workshop Gendered and Racialized Urban Transformations in Security Politics. Centre for Women’s and Gender Research, Bergen, 24th January.

2018 Emergent police states and necropolitics in the Olympic city. Paper presented at workshop The Olympic City: Politics, Processes, Transformations. University of Bergen, 23rd January.

2018 The Olympic City: Politics, Processes, Transformations. Co-organizer of international workshop with Margit Ystanes. University of Bergen, 23rd January.

2018 From Armed Peace to Urban War: The Failure of Rio’s Pacification Project. Breakfast forum at Bergen Resource Centre in collaboration with Margit Ystanes and Sebastian Saborio. Bergen, 23rd January.

2018 SKOK-debatten 2018: #MeTooAkademia. Co-moderator with Mari Korsbrekke at public debate on sexual harassment in academia. Litteraturhuset i Bergen 18th January.

2017 Night Snack with SAIH: Olympic Evictions in Rio de Janeiro. Q&A with Margit Ystanes at public screening of Dirty Games: Olympic Evictions in Rio by Janeiro José Alejandro Huidobro Goya and Margit Ystanes. Kvarteret, Bergen 15. november.

2017 Dirty Games: Olympic Evictions in Rio de Janeiro. Panel participant in debate with Margit Ystanes, José Alejandro Huidobro Goya, and Christopher Gaffney. Saná Café, Bergen 7th September.


Fall 2023: Guest lecturer in SANT105 Power: its articulations and disguises at the Department of Social Anthropology, UoB

Spring 2022: Lecturer in SANT215 Comparative Regional Ethnography at the Department of Social Anthropology, UoB

Fall 2021: Guest lecturer in SANT105 Power: its articulations and disguises at the Department of Social Anthropology, UoB

Fall 2020: Guest lecturer in SANT105 Power: its articulations and disguises at the Department of Social Anthropology, UoB

Fall 2019: Lecturer in SANT100 Invitation to Social Anthropology at the Department of Social Anthropology, UoB

Fall 2018: Guest lecturer in SANT150: Academic writing, methods and theory: Anthropological approaches at the Department of Social Anthropology, UoB.

Fall 2017: Seminar-leader and guest lecturer in KVIK 102: Equality and diversity at the Centre for Women's and Gender Research, UoB.

Academic monograph
Academic article
Academic lecture
Popular scientific lecture

See a complete overview of publications in Cristin.


Salem, Tomas. Policing the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro: Cosmologies of War and the Far-Right. (2024)London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Journal articles:

Salem, Tomas. "Permanent Impermanence in the Anthropocene: The Emergence of a Guest-Worker Society in a Patagonian Mountain Village." Periferías 28.2 (2023): 202-228.

Salem, Tomas, and Erika Robb Larkins. "Violent masculinities: Gendered dynamics of policing in Rio de Janeiro." American Ethnologist 48.1 (2021): 65-79.

Ystanes, Margit, and Tomas Salem. "Introduction: Exceptionalism and Necropolitical Security Dynamics in Olympic Rio de Janeiro." Conflict and Society 6.1 (2020): 52-67.

Salem, Tomas, and Bjørn Enge Bertelsen. "Emergent Police States: Racialized Pacification and Police Moralism from Rio's Favelas to Bolsonaro." Conflict and Society 6.1 (2020): 86-107.


2022 Torquil Jones (director) 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible, in Public Anthropologist (forthcoming)

Other texts:

2017 Diplomats or Warriors? The Failure of Rio's Pacification Project. NACLA Report on the Americas, 49(3), 298-302.

2017 The guerrilleros of the State: Pacification, Violence, Policing, and Predatory forms of Accumulation. Report, "Egalitarianism: Forms, Processes, Comparisons", Univerisity of Bergen.

2016 Avsetjinga bør fordømmast. Kronikk, Klassekampen, 3. September 2016.

2015 Seven months of war in the favelas. Report, CMI Fieldnotes, Chr. Michelsens Institutt, Bergen.

2015 Policing the favelas: Reform, Rank, and Resistance. Report, CMI Fieldnotes, Chr. Michelsens Institutt, Bergen.


2016 Security and Policing in Rio de Janeiro: An ethnography of the Pacifying Police Units. M.A. thesis, Department of engeneering and security, University of Tromsø.

2016 Taming the War Machine: Police, Pacification, and Power in Rio de Janeiro. M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Bergen.


Men and the Mountain: Romantic Pursuits of Happiness in the Anthropocene (2018-2024)

PhD-project at the Department of Anthropology, University of Bergen

My PhD project focuses on the romantic pursuit of happiness and the good life in nature. Through multi-sited fieldwork, I have explored how global dynamics and local practices intersect in places that are often described as the world’s last remaining wilderness areas. I have been particularly interested in the friction and collusion between environmental discourse, green economies, and cultural practices organised around the ethos of adventure and exploration. I have carried out fieldwork in Southern Patagonia, in the Argentinean mountain village of El Chalten, and in Svalbard, in the Arctic town of Longyearbyen. Both of these places have attracted Western naturalists and explorers through the centuries, and are currently going through rapid transformations as a result of infrastructural developments, a booming tourist industry, and the impacts of the Anthropocene (as ontology and discourse). In Patagonia, I have focused on how the lives of town-dwellers is increasingly shaped by the affective experience of what I conceptualize as a state of “permanent impermanence” as the rhetorics of environmental protection become entwined with a capitalist logic of expulsion. In Svalbard, I have focused on how public access to the natural landscape becomes increasingly restricted by regulations that emerge as a result of increased tourism, Norwegian geopolitics, and the growing force of environmental concerns, through the development of “emptiness” as an analytical category. I use my ethnographic findings from both of these areas to explore how the romantic fantasy of happiness in nature is currently being reworked in everyday practices, appropriated by the market, incorporated into environmental discourse, and channeled through state dynamics and ask how the romantic notion of excess might shed light on what is lost in this process but also how it might offer a way forward from the current impassé.

Algorithmic Governance and Cultures of Policing (2021-2024)

Project Leader: Christin Thea Wathne

Project Co-Leader: Tereza Østbø Kuldova

Police departments across the globe are embracing artificial intelligence (AI) to support decision-making in preventing crime and disorder. The use of digital technologies and the growing role of private security, tech, and consultancy companies, are reshaping policing and the ways in which we ensure social order and security, enforce law, and prevent and investigate crime. However, this ongoing radical transformation of cultures of policing is little understood. To change that, AGOPOL brings together a team of 15 established scholars and researchers from cultural and area studies, anthropology, criminology, sociology, history, literature, and law. The project is based on qualitative and ethnographic research on policing in Norway, Russia, India, Brazil, and South Africa. Drawing on these cases we will analyze the global cultural transformation of policing as an effect of the intertwined processes of datafication, securitization, and commodification of security. Our analysis will shed light on the diverse consequences of algorithmic governance for society, police forces, and those policed: from the transformation of knowledge cultures and organizations, to algorithmic injustices and their impact on legitimacy and societal trust. We will develop a comparative cross-cultural analysis of policing as a global digitized project. This will produce knowledge on the ways in which advances in artificial intelligence shape policing in different cultural, political, legal, and economic contexts.

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