The trickster of exiled intellectuals: Arcane opposition to the perceived injustice

Christian Franklin Svensson

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Globally, governments are persecuting intellectuals in their home countries. By employing data from ethnographic fieldwork, the paper has a focus on exiled scholars, artists, and writers hosted in the Nordic countries. Living in exile enables the interlocutors to criticise the regimes’ perceived injustice, and to accuse them of limiting freedom of expression and human rights. In return, the exiled intellectuals are regarded as a threat, and they are personally persecuted in the form of torture, “ideological re-education”, imprisonment, execution or “disappearance”.
Embedded in their opposition is a belief that cultural forms can change, and the equivocal nature of the trickster figure symbolises the interlocutors’ defiance of the perceived homogeneity. Applying trickster analytically provides an opportunity for illuminating normative common-senseness, which can reveal potentials for the cultural transformation of static cultures and identities. The interlocutors’ opposition takes shape by using a diversity of creativity and innovative constellations, which shows that power structures can be contested and that social conditions can be shaped by agency.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberSpecial issue: Anthropology of protest against perceived injustice
JournalAnthropological Notebooks
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)111-128
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2020


  • migration
  • social movements
  • dissent
  • intellectuals
  • Trickster
  • resilience
  • opposition
  • freedom of expression
  • Human rights


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