Thomas Randrup Pedersen defends his PhD thesis at the Department of Anthropology – University of Copenhagen

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Thomas Randrup Pedersen defends his PhD thesis at the Department of Anthropology


Thomas Randrup Pedersen


"SOLDIERLY BECOMINGS: A Grunt Ethnography of Denmark’s New ‘Warrior Generation". A copy of the dissertation is available for reading at the Department of Anthropology, room 16.1.50. Please contact Vicki Antosz.

Time and venue

20 September 2017 at 14:00. University of Copenhagen, Centre for Health and Society, Øster Farimagsgade 5, 1353 Copenhagen K,  building 35, room 35.01.44. Entrance from Gammeltoftgade. The defence can last no more than 3 hours, and it will start precisely at the announced time. After the defence the Department of Anthropology will host a reception  in room 33.1.19.

Assessment committee

  • Professor Henrik Vigh Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen (chair)
  • Professor C. Jason Throop UCLA, USA
  • Professor Anna Simons U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, USA


What if Danish soldiers are at heart neither the patriots nor the humanitarians that one might be led to believe by the dominant account of Denmark’s war in Afghanistan? What if, instead, Danish grunts, the low-ranking soldiers in the army’s combat arms, have turned to the distant Afghan ‘theatre of war’ in pursuit of becoming what they potentially could be: ‘true warriors’?

This dissertation explores anthropologically what is at stake, and with what consequences, when young Danish men and women take up the occupation of the professional soldier and deploy with expeditionary forces. Based on twelve months of fieldwork with Danish combat troops, mainly in Denmark but also in Afghanistan, the study offers an ethnographic account of post-9/11 soldiering within the context of Denmark’s recent revival as a warring nation.

The investigation seeks to throw fresh light on contemporary Danish soldiering through a perspective of ‘becoming’ – existentially, morally and socially speaking. The dissertation argues that soldiering can be understood as a continuous struggle for becoming a self in the image of the ‘virtuous warrior’ and shows that, while such struggle might be happily though temporarily fulfilled, it is often challenged from without as well as from within, easily becoming stuck, failing utterly or simply being abandoned.