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Evaluation of Social Anthropology in Norway

The evaluation of Social Anthropology in Norway was commissioned by the Norwegian Research Council in 2009 and was conducted in 2010 by an international panel.

The evaluation concerns a total of nine anthropological units belonging to either the University or the Institute Sector. Within these units a total of 88 researchers submitted publications for evaluation. These were read and assessed by the Panel as an important qualitative supplement to the quantitative analyses of output and level of publications, as registered in the database on research publications in Norway. In addition, meetings were held with representatives from all units and with PhD students from across the institutional landscape.
The Panel concludes that, on the whole, the state of social anthropology in Norway is good, but suffers notable imbalances both between and within the units and generally with room for improvement. Social anthropology is a relatively young discipline in Norway, but notable legacies are conspicuous. The most profound legacy is a strong emphasis on original ethnographic research, which is still remarkable. Another strong feature is the high profile of Norwegian anthropology in the media and other public domains. On the less positive side, there seems to be a certain lack of ambition with respect to contributing to the international development of anthropological theory and methods.

In the University Sector, the departments fall into two sets; on the one hand, the two bigger departments are high profile and generally well performing, even though there is a rather striking differentiation in productivity within the departments. On the other hand, the two smaller departments seem less well functioning; they lag somewhat behind in terms of original research and publication, partly owing to a disproportionate teaching load in one case and a forced restructuring in the other, partly to a lack of a unified anthropological vision for the department.

In the Institute Sector, the units evaluated display a split between the research driven institutes, and the institutes devoted to applied anthropology. Generally, the latter seem to do less well within a general research paradigm. While this is somehow to be expected, there still seems to be an insufficient commitment to keep up with the general anthropological concerns. Generally, the sector needs to open up more towards the larger field.

The Panel finds that in spite of identified weaknesses in particular institutional settings and more generally within the field, the general state of Norwegian anthropology today provides a solid basis for new developments while keeping up with the best achievements of previous years. The international conjunctures and the global developments potentially make anthropology a leading discipline in years to come. The Panel suggests that to meet this expectation, anthropologists in Norway, who are (comparatively) well-funded and have a high degree of professional security (once embraced by the research-system), should make new deliberate strategies for intellectual commitment and development, both within the units whose potential seems under-explored, and between the diverse units, which have so much to offer each other.

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