Synnøve Kristine Nepstad Bendixsen


Instituttleder, Professor




My anthropological work relates to migration issues, more specifically to migrants along the Balkan route, irregular migrants in Norway and Islam and Muslims in Europe, with a particular focus on Germany. My research interests include focus on informal labour marked, the refiguration of the subject-citizen, migration dynamics, political mobilisation, marginalization, border processes and technologies of control.

Currently I am involved in two Research Council of Norway (RCN) projects:

2022 – 2025 Tackling Precarious and Informal Work in the Nordic Countries (PrecaNord), led by Lena Näre (University of Helsinki), with Synnøve Bendixsen (University of Bergen), Sara Eldén (Lund University) and Markus Jäntti (Stockholm University) part of the Future Challenges in the Nordics research programme.

2021 – 2024 On Equal Grounds? Migrant Women’s Participation in Labour and Labour Related Activities (EQUALPART)


Until 2022, I was active in the now completed RCN research project Supercamp: Geneologies of Humanitarian Containment in the Middle East based at CMI. As part of this project, I conducted fieldwork with refugees and other migrants at along the Balkan route, specifically in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. I explored how their im/mobility in the Balkan region is shaped by migration policies and practices at different scales. How are the migrant’s journey, their speed, strategies, and imaginaries constituted through a bordering architecture? How do migrants enact mobility and make decisions to move despite or in close interaction with the border management and control practices? Different anticipations of what the region is and should be - a transit zone, an end of the migration journey or a place from which to return - bring along frictional policies, regulations, and practices which create interruption effects for the migrants. These contradictory positions, I argued, generate a labyrinthian border construction.  

In my past postdoctoral fellowship (University of Bergen) that formed part of the Department's ISP prosject: “Denaturalizing difference: Challenging the production of global social inequality” I pursued theoretical exploration of the denaturalizing of difference and the study of social inequality drawing on my ethnographic material on religiously devoted Muslim youth in Germany and irregular migrants in Norway. Since my research interests lie generally in contributing to social anthropological perspectives and theoretical development of how we understand difference and marginalization, inclusion/exclusion, over the long run I hope to use this study as a framework to further investigate processes of social inequality also with methodological implications.

My former fieldwork on irregular migrants in Norway was part of the RCN (NFR) funded project ‘Provision of welfare to irregular migrants’. This project investigates the provision of welfare to irregular migrants in Norway through examining the relationship between law, institutional practices and irregular migrants’ experiences. My own work examines how regulations and policies of the nation-state and at the EU level, as well as local institutional practices, have real and complex effects on the subjective experiences of irregular migrants. Informed by poststructuralist theoretical perspectives, I also focus on the construction of ‘irregularity’ by state power and everyday discourses and migrants experiences of the ‘illegality’ status, which is intricately linked to how ‘illegality’ is constructed. Furthermore, I study not only the politics of exclusion and processes of marginalization, but also discuss the agency of irregular migrants and their political mobilization. 

For my PhD thesis in Social Anthropology (at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sosiales/ Humboldt University, completed in 2010), I studied Muslim youth’s religious identity formation and their engagement with Islam in everyday life in Germany. Through long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Muslim religious organization and their participants I explored the collective content of religious identity formation and processes of differentiation. Engaging with anthropological approaches to Islam as a discursive tradition, I looked at how religious identification among these Muslim youth in Berlin is continuously crafted within social spaces and structures. In particular, I discussed how desires of women (as of men) are socio-historically constructed, arguing against the universalised perspectives of liberal-humanist interpretation of ‘freedom’ and ‘agency’. I further looked at their understanding of what it meant to be a Muslim was informed in various ways by the public representation of Islam and Muslims in Germany. In my thesis and in several published book chapters, I particularly analyzed how local configurations and expressions of religiosity among the women were shaped in relation to processes on various scales. In the book publication of the thesis, I also discussed the changing role of religion in an urban European setting, how religious authority is restructured and the formation of gender identity in relation to religious, societal, and family ideals, ideas and sets of values.

I am the pillar leader of the Migration pillar at Bergen School of Global Studies (BSGS) and a board member of the interdisciplinary network IMER (International Migration and Ethnic Relations), UiB. IMER has been an interdisciplinary unit at UiB for almost 20 years, consisting of experts from many different disciplines, including law and the humanities, but with a predominance of social scientists. As part of IMER, I have contributed to creating an important and inspiring environment for scholars and students with an interest in IMER research at UiB. Through IMER, we have generated several large research projects with funding from RCN and the EU.








Invited discussant on panel Digital Transformations, 17th EASA Biennial Conference
EASA2022: Transformation, Hope and the Commons, Belfast, 26th -29th of July, 2022 

The challenge of representation: Ethnography as a basis for fictional film, presentation at IMER junior seminar, 2nd of December 2021, Bergen

“Going on the game”. Im/mobility practices and bordering architectures along the Balkan route, presentation at workshop Conceptualising im/mobility: Humanitarianism, camps and borders, , co-hosted by the University of Bergen (UiB), the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), with funding from the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies. Bergen, Norway, Thursday 18 and Friday 19 November 2021

The transnational perspective on migration – anthropological approaches. Invited guest lecturer to opening workshop. Exploring the Archaeological Migration Narrative, Centre of Advanced Studies in Oslo, 2nd -3rd of September 2021

Veien til Europa: Eksternaliseringspolitikk og migranters beslutninger langs Balkan ruten, Guestlecture Senioruniversitetet i Bergen, 20. april 2022

The humanitarian border in Europe, Guestlecture and organizer of unit as part of MOOC on Mental borders, physical borders and the shaping of modern European identity and citizenship, Arqus network, Spring 2022

Individualised health rights and irregular migrants in Norway: the production of a precarious subject and the re-emergence of charity, at 19th IMISCOE annual conference, 29th of June - 1st of July 2022, Oslo

Diversities, invited presenter at New Nordic Anthropology, 21st of May 2021. Available at New Nordic Anthropology: DIVERSITIES (May 2021) - YouTube


The Political Economy of Protracted Displacement. Morten Bøås (NUPI), Tewodros Kebede (Fafo), Synnøve Bendixsen (UiB) and Sarah Tobin (CMI) in conversation with Benjamin Etzold (BICC). 24th of June 2021. Available at: The Political Economy of Protracted Displacement - YouTube


Global School Film & Reflections: Migration, Webinar. Film screening of Mediterranea followed by a webinar discussion with Sine Plambech (Danish Institute for International Studies), Kari Anne Klovholt Drangsland (UiB) and Nando Sigona (University of Birmingham) hosted by Synnøve Bendixsen (Leader of the Migration Pillar, UiB). 7th of May 2021. Available at: Global School Film & Reflections: Migration - YouTube


En verden på flukt, researchers’ interview, 23.06.2021, available at: En verden på flukt | Aktuelt | UiB


Fires in Moria - law, migratory policies and asylum in Lesvos, presenter and discussant, LawTransform Events at Bergen Global, CMI and University of Bergen, 14th of October 2020, Available at

Brannen i Moria: Grenser, migrasjon og politick, presentation and discussant at UIB INNSIKT, 19th of September 2020, available at



The complexities of hope: writing about volunteering at Lesvos. Public Anthropologist Journal Blog, October 4, 2018


I Norge ville vi aldri tillatt det. Interview with Morgenbladet, published 20th  of April 2018, available at

Bendixsen, Synnøve 2017. Menneskene ingen vil ha, Bergens Tidende (op-ed.), 11th of January,


Å være tysk og Muslim. Podcast 2016, produced by UiB, available at


Good mothers don’t protest. Interview with the newsmagazine Kilden 2016. Gender studies, 1st of December, available at


Bendixsen, Synnøve and Hilde Lidén 2016. Mange flykter på nytt, Bergens Tidende (op-ed.), 6th of May


Bendixsen, Synnøve and Halvard Kjærre 2015. Penger følger deg ikke i døden, Bergens Tidende (op-ed.), 3rd of June


Bendixsen, Synnøve 2009. Îslam û çanda ciwanên li bajaran (Mind the Gap. Young Female Muslims Crafting a Religious Self in Berlin), in Le Monde diplomatique Kurdi, available online:


Bendixsen, Synnøve 2008. Der Islam als neuer Identifikationsfaktor? Junge Musliminnen in Berlin, (Portal for migration and issues on Muslims in Germany), available online:, 2nd of July 2008



Birthdayparents (18min. 2018), docu-fiction directed by Savas Buyraz. Based on the research project Parenting Cultures and Risk Management in Plural Norway (ParCul). Developing the script and editing.


Fires in Moria - law, migratory policies and asylum in Lesvos, presenter and discussant, LawTransform Events at Bergen Global, CMI and University of Bergen, 14th of October 2021, Available at

Brannen i Moria: Grenser, migrasjon og politick, presentation and discussant at UIB INNSIKT, 19th of September 2020, available at


Public presentation and dissemination of research

Includes invited lectures at such institutions as Princeton University, Scandinavian Research Council for Criminology, China University, Humboldt University, COMPAS (Oxford), the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies at the University of Montreal, Fordham University (NY), Stockholm Anthropology Roundtable at the Department of Social Anthropology (Stockholm University), Potsdam University (for the E. ON Ruhrgas Scholarship Programme in Political Science), University of Oslo and University of Stavanger.

Includes papers given at a number of national and international conferences, such as the annual conferences of the Norwegian Anthropological Association (NAT), the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA), International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SEIF), American Anthropological Association (AAA), the Nordic Migration Research Conferences (NMR), and Metropolis.

Includes a number of scholarships to give papers and to participate at international seminars and workshops, such as Princeton University, China Society for Human Rights Studies, the Academy of Urban Super-diversity, Irmgard Coninx Foundation (the Social Science Research Center Berlin and the Humboldt-University Berlin), European Fellowships for Training in Urban Studies (Marie Curie Training Course, in Weimar), UCSIA Summer Seminar at the University of Antwerp, the Nordic Network for the Mediatization of Religion and Culture (workshop at Sigtuna), EUROFOR Marie-Curie conference, and Urbino summer school (EUREX grant).

Includes a number of public lectures on my work e.g. Red Cross, the Child Welfare Service (barnevernet), Norwegian Immigration Authorities, Alumnidays, Folkehelsedagen (Public Health day), for teachers at Nygårdsskole, at ‘New Chance’ (education for migrants) in Bergen, Henrich Böll Stiftung (Berlin), and the Fulbright programme (Berlin).



SANT 100: Invitasjon til antropologi (høst 2019, 2020)

SANT 102: Sosialt liv i globalt perspektiv (vår 2020)

SANT 105: Maktens uttrykk og tilsløringer (høst 2014, 2015, 2016)



Multiculturalism in Norway, invited guestlecture at SAS13, Norwegian Culture and History - Scandinavian Area Studies, UiB, 19. October 2022

From 2012 - Annual guestlecturerer at the University of Stavanger, in the Erasmus Mondus programme European Master in Migration and Intercultural Relations. (2 hours lectures and 3 hours group work each spring semester)

Main organiser and Lecturer. Bergen Summer Research School (BSRS). PhD Research Course: Migration Processes and Practices: Theories, methods and ethical conduct

Guest Lecturer. Summer School Migrants, Human Rights and Democracy, organized by the University of Palermo, at Lampedusa. Aimed at master students, academics and young professionals.

Guest Lecturer. Bergen Summer Research School (BSRS). PhD Research Course: Migration and the (Inter-)National Order of Things.

Guest Lecturer, on Ethnicity, in Introduction to Social Theory, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL)

Guest Lecturer, International MA course on Irregular migrants and health organised by the Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care, UiB



Se en full oversikt over publikasjoner i Cristin


2022 – 2025 Tackling Precarious and Informal Work in the Nordic Countries (PrecaNord), led by Lena Näre (University of Helsinki), with Synnøve Bendixsen (University of Bergen), Sara Eldén (Lund University) and Markus Jäntti (Stockholm University) part of the Future Challenges in the Nordics research programme.

2021 - 2024 On Equal Grounds? Migrant Women’s Participation in Labour and Labour Related Activities (EQUALPART)

2019-2022 Supercamp: Geneologies of Humanitarian Containment in the Middle East

2014 - 2018 Denaturalizing difference: Challenging the production of global social inequality (UiB)

2014 - 2018 Parenting cultures and risk management in plural Norway (Uni Research Rokkansenteret)

2016 - 2019 Nordhost: Nordic Hospitalities in the Context of Migration and Refugee Crisis

2015 - 2019 Norwegian Energy Companies Abroad: Expanding the Anthropological Understanding of Corporate Social Responsibility (Energethics)

2011-2014 Provision of Welfare to Irregular Migrants (Uni Research Rokkansenteret)