Much of Eriksen's work has focused on popularizing social anthropology while also proposing how it should reclaim a position as a central intellectual discipline. His pivotal question is what it means to be human and how the world can be a better place. His textbooks Small Places, Large Issues (1995) and Ethnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives (2010) are used in courses in social anthropology at most Scandinavian universities and have been widely translated.
His public engagement includes a criticism of Norwegian nationalism, based on research designed to "redraw the map of Norway" to make it fit the new transnational, complex and globalised realities. One quote from Eriksen became a focal point of the 1,500-page manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the perpetrator of the 2011 Norway attacks, as well as in Breivik's defence speech during his 2012 trial. Eriksen became a frequently interviewed commentator of the Breivik trial, where he was also called as a defence witness.
Watch the Tema T Exchange 2017
We took the opportunity to discuss Thomas Eriksen experiences as a populariser and public intellectual. The 2017 Tema T Exchange was live streamed via our Facebook page.