Thomas Hylland Eriksen: "Axel Sommerfelt in the history of social anthropology"

This article published in a thematic section of History and Antrhopology on Axel Sommerfelt, edited by Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Marek Jakoubek and Tone Sommerfelt, traces Alex Sommerfelt's intellectual itinerary.

Image may contain: Font, Red, Facade, Art, Publication.


An unsung alumnus of the Manchester School, Axel Sommerfelt (b. 1926) published little during his career, but has nevertheless had a major impact on contemporary Norwegian anthropology. Following six years as a lecturer in Salisbury, he taught at the University of Oslo from 1966 until his retirement in 1996.

In this article, Thomas Hylland Eriksen traces his intellectual itinerary. Beginning with a re-study of Fortes's Tallensi material, Sommerfelt later carried out fieldwork on inter-ethnic relations in south-western Uganda. He distinguished himself from his Norwegian colleagues through an interest in colonial history, nationalism and structural power which tends to be absent from Fredrik Barth's work.

Sommerfelt's teaching and mainly unpublished writings reveal him as a supporter of a strong empiricist programme and a skilled Africanist who would have been a worthy contributor to the Manchester School, had he only published his work.

Read full article.

Published Mar. 7, 2022 5:42 PM - Last modified Mar. 7, 2022 5:42 PM