Tone Sommerfelt

Senior Researcher

Research Interests

  • ​Social dynamics in areas of out-migration, especially with respect to family, marriage, gender and changing authority structures
  • Transnational migration
  • Urban-rural livelihood adaptions, migration and ties
  • Moral politics of religion and ethnicity
  • Religious reorientation and politics of faith in Muslim societies
  • Children's and youth's mobility, the global governance of child protection

I am an anthropologist and my research focuses on the effects of economic volatility, emigration and changing religious mores on social dynamics in rural and urban areas. I also focus on how contemporary debates on religion, ethnicity and emigration on the African continent shape state-society relations and feed into political processes.

I currently work on the project entitled Future Migration as Present Fact (FUMI). FUMI explores future horizons of migration and consequences of unfulfilled migration desires. With reference to Cape Verde, Ghana and The Gambia, the project asks how people's plans of migration, even if these plans never materialise, affect individuals' life course and the development of societies.

My primary ethnographic focus is on West Africa. I have conducted long-term fieldworks in rural, peri-urban and urban areas of The Gambia, and shorter-term fieldwork in Mali. In research on global child protection, and specifically on youth and child labour, children's street living and child soldiering, I have worked on projects in Haiti, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Morocco and Jordan.

My research is based on ethnographic fieldwork as well as qualitative techniques like semi-structured interviews and focus groups. I also use participant observation and qualitative methods to shape research design of large scale surveys. 


Personal profiles on other sites:

Language skills:

Norwegian: Mother tongue, fluent in oral and written

English: Fluent in oral and written

Wolof (spoken in The Gambia and Senegal): High competence in speaking and transcribing

French: Intermediate in oral and reading, basic writing skills

Working experience

2020-Current: Senior researcher, Social Dynamics Department, PRIO.

2018-2020: Post-doctoral fellow, Department of Social Anthropology, The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). 

2015-2018: Senior researcher, Fafo Research Foundation, Rights and Security Research Group. 

2013-2015: Senior researcher, Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies. Served as Research Director for the Society, Politics and Marginalisation Research Group in 2014.

2002-2008: PhD research fellow, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo.

2000-2002: Researcher, Fafo Institute for Applied Social Science.


2013. PhD (Social anthropology), University of Oslo, Norway.

1999. Cand. Polit (Social anthropology), University of Oslo, Norway

1994. Cand. Mag (Social anthropology, history and political science), University of Oslo. 

Academic visitorships:

2007. Visiting Study Scholar, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford; and Visiting Study Fellow at the International Gender Studies Centre, Department of International Development (Queen Elizabeth House), University of Oxford.


​Peer-reviewed Journal Articles (recent selection)

Hultin, Niklas & Tone Sommerfelt (forthcoming 2020) "Anticipatory tribalism: Accusatory politics in the 'New Gambia'". Journal of Modern African Studies 58(2): 257–279. Doi: 10.1017/S0022278X0000178

Sommerfelt, Tone (2018) "Danger, moral opacity, and outrage: Fear of jihadism and the terrorist threat in southern Mali". Conflict and Society: Advances in Research 4(1): 23–39. Doi:10.3167/arcs.2018.040103

Lindskog, Benedikte V. & Tone Sommerfelt 2017 (with Benedikte Lindskog): "Helse, nasjonalstat og virkelighetspolitikk: Analogier fra Mongolia og Gambia" (Health, nationstate and ontological politics: Analogies from Mongolia and The Gambia). Norsk Antropologisk Tidsskrift 28(3–4): 154–178.

Torheim, Liv Elin, Anne Hatløy & Tone Sommerfelt (2017) "Nutrition, global health and Norway's development policy". The Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association, no. 21 (2017). 

Sommerfelt, Tone (2013) "From cutting to fading: A relational perspective on marriage exchange and sociality in rural Gambia". Social Analysis Vol. 57(3): 58–75.

Book Reviews 

Sommerfelt, Tone (2017) "Bush Bound: Young Men and Rural Permanence in Migrant West Africa/Paolo Gaibazzi (2015)". American Anthropologist, 119(3): 554–555.

Sommerfelt, Tone (2013) "Child migration in Africa/Iman Hashim & Dorte Thorsen (2011)". Forum for Development Studies 40(3): 519–521.

All Publications

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Sommerfelt, Tone (2022) A biographic foreword to Axel Sommerfelt’s 1967 paper – from a daughter’s point of view, History and Anthropology 33(5): 560–571.
Hultin, Niklas & Tone Sommerfelt (2020) Anticipatory tribalism: accusatory politics in the ‘New Gambia’, The Journal of Modern African Studies 58(2): 257–279.

Report - External Series

Aslany, Maryam; Tone Sommerfelt; & Jørgen Carling (2022) Empirical analyses of determinants of migration aspirations, QuantMig deliverable, 5. Oslo: PRIO.
Aslany, Maryam; Jørgen Carling; Mathilde Bålsrud Mjelva; & Tone Sommerfelt (2021) Systematic review of determinants of migration aspirations, QuantMig deliverable, 2. Southampton: University of Southampton.