PhD defense - Mikkel Rytter

Mikkel Rytter, Department of Anthropology defends his PhD thesis:

Family Upheaval

Generation, Mobility and Relatedness among Pakistani Migrants in Denmark

Evaluation committee:

  • Professor Pnina Werbner, Keele University, U.K.

  • Associate Professor Filippo Osella, University of Sussex, U.K.

  • Associate Professor Helle Bundgaard, University of Copenhagen


The dissertation can be purchased at Boghandelen, O. Farimagsgade 5A, Cph. K


This thesis is about Pakistani migrant families who have been living more or less permanently in Denmark since the late 1960s or early 1970s. After four decades in Denmark, many families have achieved levels of material prosperity, economic security and social mobility that the first generation could only dream of before they left Pakistan; however, their success has come at a price.

Based on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork with Pakistani family networks in Denmark, Sweden and Pakistan from 2001-2008 this thesis focuses on the current ongoing intergenerational and transnational negotiations of what it implies to ‘be' and ‘do' family.

In four parts the Pakistani migrant family is approached from different angles: family mobility and community competition, the changing institution of marriage, the contested notions of ‘homelands' and finally sorcery and afflictions. The four parts constitute different entry points into the complexities of family and kinship relations and concerns the destructive-productive constitution of family life, where neglected responsibilities, obligations and trust not only lead to broken relationships, but also, and inevitably, to the innovative creation of new ones.

Throughout the thesis the micro-politics of the Pakistani migrant family are linked to the macro-politics of the nation state and it is suggested that the insecurity and uncertainty created by internal community dynamics and family upheaval are reinforced by the ongoing external securitization and social engineering, in the name of ‘integration', by the Danish state in relation to the Muslim immigrant population.