Morten Nielsen

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I am a social anthropologist working in Mozambique, Scotland, USA and Denmark on socially sustainable urban development. And stand-up comedy. Since November 2018 I have been based at the National Museum of Denmark where I am a research professor.

I am head of two interdisciplinary research projects: “Middle class urbanism: An interdisciplinary study of the physical reordering of urban sub-Saharan Africa” funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research. Humanities (FKK) and ‘Fleksible Fællesskaber: Bæredygtige sociale bymodeller i almene boligområder’ (Flexible Communities: Socially sustainable urban models in social housing estates) funded by Landsbyggefonden and Realdania.

My first major fieldwork project was in Recife, Brazil (2000-2001) among community leaders in poor urban neighbourhoods. Since 2004 I have been working in Mozambique doing ethnographic research on house-building and urban planning in Maputo and on the socio-economic effects of Chinese infrastructure projects in various parts of the country.

A recent fieldwork was carried out in 2017 among stand-up comedians in New York as part of the interdisciplinary research project “Digressions: A cross-disciplinary study of the indirectness of the human imagination”, which I also headed. My subproject explored the art and craft of stand-up comedy as a way of understanding the indirectness of the human imagination.

Based on fieldwork in Brazil, Scotland, Mozambique and USA, I have published on issues such as socially sustainable urban planning, urban aesthetics, time and temporality, creativity, stand-up comedy, materiality, relational ontologies and political cosmologies. I am currently working on two book manuscripts, one with Morten Axel Pedersen and Mikkel Bunkenborg, University of Copenhagen, based on a  comparative ethnographic research project on Chinese infrastructural interventions in Mozambique and Mongolia and one that is based on my recent ethnographic research on stand-up comedy entitled 'Comic at the Core: Stand-up Comedy as Mythic Involution'.


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