Bjørn Hallstein Holte

Social anthropologist
Portrait photo.
Photo: Espen Utaker/VID

Welcome

This is Bjørn Hallstein Holte’s page.

I am a social anthropologist based in Oslo, Norway. My main areas of interest are social integration, social exclusion, and socioeconomic inequalities. I have conducted research with youth in Nordic countries and African countries. My most recent research was on youth exclusion and religious organisations in Oslo, and I have also conducted fieldwork at an elite boarding school in Kenya. My research is published in academic journals and in an edited volume on volunteering in Africa. I have also presented research at international conferences and seminars.

Research

My most recent research was part of the Norwegian case study of Youth at the Margins (YOMA), a Nordic-South African research project on marginalised youth and faith-based organisations. The project expired at the end of 2016, but the main results are not yet published. My research took place in what I call a super-diverse city district of Oslo and concerned the relations between excluded youth conceptualised as young people not in education, employment, or training (NEET young people) and the religious organisations in the city district. The empirical research featured two tracks. The first track of the research was aimed at finding and meeting NEET young people for interviews; the second track consisted of interviews in Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist organisations in the city district. Several of the publications listed below are based on this work, including my doctoral thesis.

Publications

Click each reference for abstract and access details.

‘Religion and integration: Religious organisations’ communication in a diverse city district of Oslo, Norway.’ Journal of Contemporary Religion, forthcoming.

This article asks whether and how religious organisations contribute to integration in a diverse city district of Oslo. Drawing on Niklas Luhmann’s theory of society and his work on religion, it argues that the question requires an analysis of how the religious organisations are integrated into different social systems, as well as of how people are included in them. With regards to the inclusion of people, the article suggests that not more than half of the city district’s population were members in local religious organisations and that the religious organisations may not have targeted excluded groups, as Luhmann suggested they might. Focusing on how the religious organisations were integrated into different social systems, the article finds that the religious organisations were engaged in local communities within the city district, with local public authorities and welfare service providers, and in religious networks that spanned the city, the country, and the world. The article concludes that the religious organisations in the city district were part of a global religious system and mostly communicated in non-religious ways locally. The religious organisations’ contribution to integration must be understood in relation to communication on a global scale and across the secular/religious divide.

Please check back later for publication and access details.

‘The NEET concept in comparative youth research: The Nordic countries and South Africa.’ Journal of Youth Studies 22(2): 256-272, 2019. (With I. Swart and H. Hiilamo.)

The NEET concept has become widely used internationally since its emergence in the UK almost two decades ago. This article reviews the adoption of the concept in two extreme contexts in terms of NEET rates, youth opportunities and youth welfare: the Nordic countries and South Africa. The article discusses the situations of NEET young people in the two contexts, and how the concept is used in the wealthy and relatively homogenous Nordic welfare states and in relatively poorer and racially divided South Africa. While the concept has been problematised in different ways in Nordic youth research, it has been more readily accepted by South African researchers. We argue that, in both contexts, the NEET concept can be taken as an invitation to look beyond individual life situations and biographies, and to focus on how structural forces such as the political economy shape young people’s lives. The NEET concept provides a way of discussing changing opportunity structures and how global social forces such as globalisation and neoliberalisation shape young people’s lives in different contexts. The NEET concept is useful in comparative youth research.

Go to the journal’s website to access the published version or download the author manuscript from this website.

Religion and social cohesion: Youth exclusion and religious organisations in a super-diverse city district of Oslo, Norway. Doctoral thesis no. 11. VID Specialized University, 2018.

The thesis reviews and problematises how social scientists have understood social cohesion. Drawing on Niklas Luhmann’s theory of society, the thesis proposes ‘communicational permeability’ as an alternative definition and conceptualisation of social cohesion. This concept is used to discuss my empirical research for the Norwegian YOMA case study, asking how the religious organisations’ activities and engagements for youth in a super-diverse city district of Oslo contribute to social cohesion as communicational permeability. The thesis discusses this in relation to Luhmann’s work on religion and the work of José Casanova and Peter Beyer, as well as recent research on religious organisations’ social role in the Nordic countries.

Download the thesis from VID:Open or read more about it on VID’s website. You can also read about the thesis from Vårt Land (in Norwegian only).

‘Counting and Meeting NEET Young People: Methodology, perspective, and meaning in research on marginalized youth.’ YOUNG 26(1): 1-16, 2018.

The concept of ‘not in education, employment, or training’ (NEET) has gained wide usage in youth research over the last two decades. This article reviews the concept’s background and discusses how it is linked to population statistics. Drawing on literature within the fields of anthropology, sociology, and educational research, as well as field research conducted in Norway, the article discusses how, by meeting young people categorized as NEET for interviews and participant observation, researchers can address other aspects of their lives than have been counted. Researchers who meet young people find that the concept means different things in everyday speech than in published research. The article concludes by suggesting how research based on meeting young people categorized as NEET can contribute to a body of knowledge that has mainly been produced by counting NEET young people.

Go to the journal’s website to access the published version or download the author manuscript from this website.

‘A third mode of engagement with the excluded other: Student volunteers from an elite boarding school in Kenya.’ Chapter 8 in Volunteer Economies: The Politics and Ethics of Voluntary Labour in Africa, edited by R. Prince and H. Brown. Oxford: James Currey, 2016.

This chapter is based on ethnographic research among students from an international boarding school in Kenya who volunteer at a Bible Club for children from poor families. I show how volunteering as encounters across vast socioeconomic differences feeds into the formation of the students as privileged subjects. I understand volunteering in relation to two other modes of engagement with the ‘people outside the gates’ of the school that are commonly portrayed in the anthropological literature on gated communities: their exclusion as peril and their inclusion as labour. Volunteering works to a very different effect from these. While volunteering, the students relate to the children as members of a public towards which they have responsibilities but of which they are not themselves part. Volunteering thereby affirms the students’ privilege and instils dispositions for loving and responsible exercise of it in them.

Go to the publisher’s website or JSTOR for access options.

Presentations

I have presented papers at international conferences and seminars. Click on each year for details.

2018

‘How can ethnographic studies contribute to a “bottom-up” perspective in research?’ At CODE seminary, VID Specialized University, 29 November 2018.

‘The meaning, identities and inclusion of NEET young people in Norway.’ International Seminar: Young NEETs and the Youth Guarantee Program, Social Sciences Institute, University of Lisbon, 18 June 2018.

‘Research within the YOMA project: New research results from a PhD project - methodological insights.’ At CODE seminary, VID Specialized University, 20 March 2018.

2017

‘Religious organizations’ role for marginalized youth in South Africa.’ At Workshop on African Initiated Churches and Sustainable Development. Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 6 June 2017.

‘Religious organizations and social integration.’ Department of Sociology, UNISA, Pretoria, 28 March 2017.

2016

‘Understanding youth marginalisation through NEET: A South African – Nordic European exchange of perspectives’. ReDi Biannual Conference, Diak, Helsinki, 16 September 2016. (With I. Swart.)

‘Them and us. Reflections about how religious organizations perceive young people at the margins in a multi-cultural city district of Oslo’. ReDi Biannual Conference, Diak, Helsinki, 16 September 2016. (With K.K. Korslien.)

‘Religion as communication.’ Socrel Annual Conference, Lancaster University, 13 July 2016.

Teaching

I am on paternity leave and not teaching in the first half of 2019.

Earlier teaching

In 2018, I taught and supervised students at the bachelor programmes in social work and social studies and the master programmes in intercultural work and global studies at VID Specialized University in Oslo and Stavanger.

Previously, I have held guest lectures in master courses at MF Norwegian School of Theology (2017) and the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Pretoria (2017), been an external examiner for master theses at the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo (2016 and 2017), and a seminar tutor at bachelor courses in social anthropology and development studies at the University of Oslo (2011 to 2013).

Reviews

I do peer reviews for academic journals and publishers; I have reviewed papers for Review of Development Economics, Journal of Youth Studies, PLOS One and Young, as well as other journals and edited volumes.

Contact

I am on paternity leave and not working in the first half of 2019. Personal correspondence and requests to me personally can be sent to my private e-mail address, bjorn.hallstein.holte@hallste.in.

You can also browse and follow my profiles at ORCID, Google Scholar, Academia.edu, Kudos, and Publons.


ORCID Google Scholar Academia.edu Kudos Publons