Ildsjæl: Towards an Anthropology of Recognition

Project: Research

Project Details


My Ph.D. project, “Ildsjæl: Towards an Anthropology of Recognition,” explores the relationships and collaborative intentions among representatives from two different religious institutions in Gellerupparken, on the western outskirts of Aarhus in Denmark, as well as their exchanges and relationship with the Danish state. My research aims to deepen our understanding of religious pluralism within Danish secular society. I employ an interdisciplinary methodology, integrating microphenomenological interviews with multimodal approaches, e.g., ethnographic film, alongside traditional anthropological methods. Through this framework, I explore and engage with personal experiences of Recognition through a critical anthropological lens. The focus of my research is on recognition as an intersubjective condition and driving force behind local initiatives that neglect or nurture various notions of Love and community-building dynamics. By integrating subjective experiences as critical inquiries into how personal engagements establish, challenge, and affect connections between different faiths, such as Islam and Christianity, as seen in Gellerupparken, my research examines whether the outcomes of such personal efforts bridge civil society and the Danish welfare state in novel ways. In doing so, I discuss the concept of recognition as way of understanding how passionate individuals, possibly described as Ildsjæle, contribute to shaping and strengthening collaboration, community, and shared experiences of recognition. My PhD project contributes to a larger research project titled “Heart Openings” which includes several projects employing a similar interdisciplinary methodology in studies on Love in Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam in different locations: and in research and educational settings in different locations: Denmark, United Kingdom, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, Egypt, and the USA.The overall aim is to understand the differences and commonalities of the experiences and cultivation of love across religious and cultural contexts and to investigate whether a comparative analysis of the experience of love can lead to new forms of interreligious and intercultural dialogue and understanding.

In addition to this, my project also focusses on questions on methodology, research practice and research design. As an anthropologist I try to actively involve myself within my field and among the people I work with. Our discipline strives to make the anthropologist’ everyday merge with the everyday practices of those people, entities, or social agents with whom we work and learn from, through a meticulous method called participant-observation. This is in many ways a paradoxical research practice where we are to observe while also participating? By applying a multimodal methodology I aim to collaborate with the participants in the folk high school project by inviting them to co-create different audio-visual products, such as film and podcast. Thus, inviting them to be active co-creators and co-authors of the knowledge and insights this project will produce, namely by allowing them to express their own experiences through these different modalities. The aspiration is that a multimodal approach allows for specific situations, events, and descriptions that the participants relate to key concepts such as Altruism narrated as charity or love, Bildung and Democracy, can be articulated in new ways through video and podcasts and thereby become the subject of further reflection through subsequent elicitation and interviews.

My PhD project is independent, i.e., it is PhD scholarship from Aarhus University, funded by Aarhus University, Aarhus Municipality, Aarhus Diocese. The Heart Openings project is funded by the European Research Council (ERC). None of the funders have any influence on the design, analysis, and dissemination of my project or any other project associated with the Heart Openings group.
Effective start/end date01/09/202131/08/2025


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