Bjørn Hallstein Holte

VID Specialized University, Oslo


I am a social anthropologist and an assistant professor at VID Specialized University. I am based in Oslo, but also work in Stavanger, in Norway. My main areas of academic interest are social integration, socioeconomic inequalities, and social exclusion. I have conducted research with youth in Africa and the Nordic countries. My most recent research was on youth exclusion and religious organisations in Oslo and I have previously conducted fieldwork at an elite boarding school in Kenya. My research has been published in YOUNG – Nordic Journal of Youth Research and Volunteer Economies: The Politics and Ethics of Voluntary Labour in Africa, an edited volume published by James Currey.



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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.

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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.

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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).

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