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Sara Lei Sparre

Associate Professor

Sara Lei Sparre

Overall research profile

My overall fields of interest stem from long-term research experience in Egypt/the Middle East and Denmark. My research concerns migrant experiences, interfaith relations, citizenship and the (welfare) state; ageing immigrants, elderly care and migrant care workers; and religion, generations and youth activism.

Current research

Currently, my research focuses on migration, ageing, care work and the welfare state in Denmark. I am research project leader of the collaborative research and innovation project ‘From Migrant to SOSU Aspirant: Welfare innovation through action research on attraction and retention of social and health (SOSU) staff with migrant background funded by Innovation Fund Denmark’ (Grand Solutions). The overall aim of the project is twofold: 1) to provide SOSU schools and municipalities with solutions for how to attract and retain more SOSU students and workers with migrant background by creating attractive and inclusive study and working environments; and 2) to provide SOSU students and workers with migrant background with tools to improve their learning, communication, and collaboration in work situations. MIGSOSU builds on anthropological action research and user driven innovation processes and will contribute with basic research on cultural and linguistic diversity within care work, concrete practice recommendations to SOSU schools and municipalities, and a new interactive learning app for SOSU students with migrant background.

Previous research projects

I was awarded my PhD in 2013 from Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen. My PhD explores religiously-motivated civic engagement and care, political subjectivity and intergenerational relations among young volunteers in a large Muslim civil society organization before, throughout and after the 2011 Egyptian uprising. Addressing existential, subject-near processes as well as more structural societal dynamics, it combines anthropological perspectives and methodologies with discussions from sociology, philosophy, organizational studies and religious studies.

From 2013-2016 I worked as postdoc/assistant professor on the EU-funded project ‘Defining and Identifying Middle Eastern Christians in Europe’ (DIMECCE) at Cultural Encounters, Roskilde University. DIMECCE focused on migrant experiences and cultural encounters of Christian migrants and refugees of Iraqi and Egyptian origin in the UK, Denmark and Sweden. More specifically, my research concerns Iraqi Christian refugees’ experiences of minoritisation and (in)visibility through narratives of religious identification and Muslim-Christian relations; the importance of religious spaces, rituals and communities for memory and belonging in a migration context; and dynamics of local, national and transnational civic engagement within the context of the Danish welfare state. For more information on the project, see https://arts.st-andrews.ac.uk/dimecce/.

From 2017-2020 I was co-investigator in the practice research project ‘Ageing Immigrants and Self-appointed Helpers Initiative’ (AISHA) financed by the Velux Foundation’s HUMpraxis program and headed by Professor MSO Mikkel Rytter. The project explored elderly care and family relations among Arab, Turkish and Pakistani immigrants with a particular focus on the option presented as §94 in the Service Act (Serviceloven), under which municipalities can pay a family member to take care of an elderly citizen in his or her own home. My research focused on considerations of and interventions by different municipal actors regarding care of minority elders in general, and the self-appointed helper arrangement in particular. More specifically, I explored how needs and responsibilities regarding ageing, care and the family are negotiated in encounters (policies, case management and in person) between municipal actors, older immigrants/families and their self-appointed helpers. For more information on the project, see https://projekter.au.dk/aisha/.


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