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Conference dates:

  • 12-14 August 2019


About the seminar

We all make choices every day. They range from the habitual and often unreflected actions of daily life, like what to eat or wear, to life-changing decisions such as keeping a baby or migrating across borders. People argue, dispute and mobilize; politicians deliberate and bargain, leaders are elected, resources allocated and futures shaped. Through choices, plans are made, the future is envisioned and uncertainty is managed; individuals, families, communities and indeed nations are constantly confronted with  what might be. As anthropologists, we too make decisions about how to conduct ourselves and represent our field. These ideas bear deep political and ethical implications. How do we treat the fact that our choices in the field and beyond may impact the lives and futures for those we work with? What are our responsibilities as anthropologists and what are the effects of our decisions?  


In spite of its clear pragmatic omnipresence in social life and in our work, choice and decision-making constitute a surprisingly underexplored theme in anthropology. This seminar is therefore an invitation to develop anthropological approaches to choice and decision-making that move beyond classic debates around structure versus agency, economic theories and psychology, and explore the structural, phenomenological and epistemological aspects of choice that shape social life: the range of options an individual faces in moments of making a choice, the social and cosmological elements involved in the process, how choice is conceived and regarded, and what it does - to a person and to her world.


We, the seminar organisers, are excited to announce that Paige West, Unni Wikan and Faye Ginsburg will be giving keynotes on their own work on choice!

Keynote Speakers

The three keynotes will be delivered by:

Paige West

Columbia University


Paige West’s broad scholarly interest is the relationship between societies and their environments. More specifically, she has written about the intersections between indigenous epistemic practices and conservation science, the linkages between environmental conservation and international development, the material and symbolic ways in which the natural world is understood and produced, the aesthetics and poetics of human social relations with nature, and the creation of commodities and practices of consumption. She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Australia, Germany, England, and the United States. (Read more: https://paige-west.com/)



Unni Wikan

Oslo University


Unni Wikan was awarded the prestigious Norwegian Fritt Ord Award in 2004 for "her insightful, openhearted and challenging contributions to the public debate on the value conflicts in multicultural societies". She has worked extensively on the Middle East, from Egypt to Oman, but has also conducted fieldwork and written books about her work in Indonesia, Bhutan and the Nordic Countries. She has been very vocal about immigration issues in Norway, and used her experience to argue against racism. (Read more: https://www.sv.uio.no/sai/english/people/aca/uwikan/)



Faye Ginsburg

New York University

​Faye Ginsburg has worked with a wide range of topics; from gender, terror, indigenous media to the politics of reproduction in the both U.S., Canada and Australia. She is a David B. Kriser Professor at NYU and has also deeply engaged with the Margaret Mead Hall and collections at the American Museum of Natural History. She is currently working on a book, Mediating Culture, on indigenous film makers, while Co-directing the NYU’s Council for the Study of Disability, which is inspired by her latest work on disability in the digital age. (Read more: https://as.nyu.edu/content/nyu-as/as/faculty/faye-ginsburg.html)