Escalations: A Comparative Ethnographic Study of Accelerating Change – University of Copenhagen

Escalations: A Comparative Ethnographic Study of Accelerating Change


Within the last decade, the world has witnessed a number of escalations sparked by decisive yet often unremarkable events: the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor that prompted the Arab Spring, the bursting of a housing bubble in the US that catalysed a global financial crisis, and the publication of cartoons in a Danish newspaper that triggered an international controversy. Escalations are rarely anticipated and their outcomes are almost always unpredictable. Their tremendous effects, however, are beyond question. This project aims to understand and theorize such escalating processes from an anthropological perspective.

The project is funded by the Danish Research Council for Independent Research Ɩ Humanities.

Project description

The project’s aim is to understand and theorize escalating processes from an anthropological perspective. Through a comparison of different ethnographic settings, it will examine the shared features of contemporary escalations, defined as accelerating and unpredictable changes that involve ripple effects, transformations of scale and intense imaginations of past and future.

In the project, such escalations will be examined from the vantage point of the Mongolian mining boom, Danish Muslims’ engagement in the Arab Spring and the monsoon in India. A comparison of these settings – enabled by a project design of coordinated field methods and shared theoretical concepts – will further our understanding of both the nature of escalations in specific settings and as a general phenomenon. An understanding of this may be crucial for grasping the dynamics of the sudden and rapid changes emerging in the 21st century.

Mining frenzy and escalating economies in Mongolia 
(Senior project, Lars Højer)

Monsoonal Escalations in India and Beyond 
(Postdoctoral project, Stine Simonsen Puri)

The Arab Spring and escalating effects among Muslims in Denmark 
(Postdoctoral project, Anja Kublitz)


Højer, L., Kublitz, A., Puri, S. S. og A. Bandak (2018): "Escalations: Theorizing sudden accelerating change." Anthropological Theory 0(0). 

Kublitz, Anja (2016) “From Revolutionaries to Muslims: Liminal Becomings across Palestinian Generations in Denmark”. International Journal of Middle East Studies 48:67-86.

Kublitz, Anja (2015) “The Ongoing Catastrophe: Erosion of Life in the Danish Camps”, Journal of Refugee Studies. doi:10.1093/jrs/fev019.

Baer, Laura, Ritu Birla and Stine Simonsen Puri (2015) Speculation. Futures and Capitalism in India. In Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East,
vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 387-391.


External partners

Key interlocutors

Researchers (UCPH)

Højer, LarsAssociate professor, deputy head of department +45 27 57 44 24E-mail
Puri, Stine SimonsenAssociate professor  E-mail