Mats Utas

Professor at Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Cultural Anthropology; Employees

+4618-471 2287
Visiting address:
Thunbergsvägen 3 H
Postal address:
Box 631
751 26 Uppsala

Short presentation

Mats Utas is a cultural/social anthropologist specialised primarily in conflict studies, and secondly urban studies. He is currently working on two projects, one focusing on circular migration and the other on research brokers in conflict studies. Both projects are funded by the Swedish Research Council.

Mats Utas is Head of the department

Keywords: conflict research africa human security democratization ex-combatants liberia west africa sierra leone civil wars post war socities gender and conflict youth and marginality child soldiers urban violence election violence urban poverty social marginalisation radicalisation social marginality

My courses


Mats Utas has primarily researched the civil wars and the post war societies in Liberia and Sierra Leone. He has conducted fieldworks in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kenya and Dubai. He has spent several years in Liberia and Sierra Leone, for instance living and researching in Monrovia and Ganta in Liberia (1997-1998) and two years in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in the near aftermath of the civil war (2004-2006). Utas has predominantly focused on people on the margins of society, the young and poor men (more often boys) picking up arms, the girlfriends of the fighters, the street dwellers of poor and dysfunctional post war cities, but he has also researched affluent Somali businessmen in Nairobi, Kenya and in Dubai who is making a good living on the war in their home country. He has furthermore done research on former rebel generals in the Liberian civil war and their roles in post war society.

Utas is on the editorial board for Africa, Journal of the International Africa Institute, and African Conflict & Peacebuilding Review. He is also advisor for Zed books Africa series. Several times a year he peer review manuscripts for top journals and publishers and frequently writes endorsements on books. Utas has also been on evaluation committees for both the Swedish and the Norwegian research councils. He has given public lectures on four continents for instance at Yale, Oxford and Tokyo Universities.

Utas is keen to involve students in the planning and also in finding new avenues for teaching and examination. He has for instance examined students’ blog presentations and is encouraging visual and graphic forms of work for academic examination and distinction. Utas is running a popular blog and is an avid photographer. He has produced the photographic exhibition “Economy of the Street” and an ethnographic film centring the research he conducted in Sierra Leone. He has also managed a Sierra Leonean hip-hop crew and produced a record with them.

Current Projects:

Circular Nomadism: youth and labor in Sierra Leone and Ghana

Exploring the research backstage: Methodological, theoretical and ethical issues surrounding the role of local research brokers in insecure zones

Additional information:



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