Mette Louise Berg

Mette Louise Berg

Departmental Lecturer, Anthropology of Migration

+44 (0)1865 274684

Mette Louise Berg is a lecturer in anthropology of migration. She has a Masters degree from Copenhagen and a DPhil from St Antony’s College, Oxford.

Mette is a social anthropologist with research interests in migration, diasporas and transnationalism; questions of belonging and generation; and the anthropology of education and social memory. Regionally, she specialises in Cuba and its diaspora. She has also recently begun research on diversity in a London neighbourhood.

Her monograph Diasporic Generations: Memory, Politics and Nation among Cubans in Spain (2011) is an ethnographic analysis of narratives of homeland and belonging among Cubans living in Spain. By focusing on diasporic Cubans’ lived experiences of displacement, the book brings to light imaginative and narrative re-creations of the nation from afar. The book argues that the Cuban diaspora in Spain consists of three ‘diasporic generations’, generated through distinct migratory experiences.

Mette is a member of the Flows and Dynamics cluster and the Urban Change and Settlement cluster at COMPAS.

Mette is a native Danish speaker, and also speaks Spanish and German.

Current Research

La Lenin Transnational: Schooling and the Reproduction of Elites in Socialist Cuba

Pilot study, funded by the John Fell OUP Research Fund, April 2011-June 2013

Ethnographic research in capitalist societies has shown that schooling consistently reproduces class privilege despite meritocratic ideals. There is however little research exploring the nexus between social and geographic mobility. This project explores the role of one particular school in linking social mobility, in the form of an elite education, with geographic mobility, in the context of socialist Cuba and its diaspora. The project focuses on the academically selective VI Lenin Secondary School (known as ‘La Lenin’) founded in Havana in 1972.

My previous research on the Cuban diaspora in Spain indicated that some alumni of La Lenin and similar schools in Cuba maintain close networks across borders. This raises interesting questions about the link between education and aspirations to migrate, and the transferability of social and cultural capital between socialist Cuba and capitalist countries in the North. Through education at schools such as La Lenin, the revolutionary government aimed to create a new political subject, the New Man, gendered and racialized in particular ways. Against this background it is intriguing that even those alumni of La Lenin who manifestly do not embody the ideal of the New Man (because they have left Cuba), still feel an attachment to their school as demonstrated through their transnational networks, including an extensive website dedicated to the school, and regular alumni meetings outside the island. The project explores schooling experiences at La Lenin and the links between schooling, mobility and the reproduction of elite status through interviews with alumni.

Welfare, neighbourhood and new geographies of diversity

Pilot study funded by the John Fell OUP Research Fund, May 2013-April 2014

Alain Touraine has argued that the key question of the 21st century might be ‘how do we live with difference?’ This project is based on the conviction that the answer to this question is to be found in the modern metropolis. The project accordingly focuses on encounters with and interfaces between the everyday lives of residents across the life course and local welfare state providers in Elephant and Castle, London. It is a collaborative, ethnographic pilot.

A central tenet in anti-diversity discourses has been that an excess of ‘difference’ is bad for a sense of community. In this context, ‘difference’ is often taken to mean ethnic difference, while class and economic inequality is not addressed. This project by contrast explores differences and affinities that cut across ethnic groups, and how ‘ethnicity’ intersects with age and generation, class, gender, faith, and citizenship / legal status. The project will explore when and where affinities emerge, whether in the form of fleeting and mundane hopeful gestures or in longer-lived alliances e.g. to improve local schools, and when and where ‘difference’ is seen to be problematic or incommensurable, and by whom.

During the pilot phase, the research team will work closely with local welfare providers to build relationships and ensure access. The anticipated follow-on project will focus on capturing the new urban realities of super-diverse neighbourhoods, and offering new methodological and conceptual ideas for social science research. It will produce a collaborative ethnography of the neighbourhood, scholarly articles, a photo exhibition, and practitioner-relevant publications.

Researchers: Mette Louise Berg (PI), Ben Gidley, Caroline Oliver, Nando Sigona, Simon Rowe (photographer)

DPhil Supervision

Areas of interest for DPhil supervision:

  • Diasporas
  • Transnationalism
  • Multiculturalism
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Social memory
  • Generation
  • Cuba, Latin America and the Caribbean

Current students:

Selected Publications

Berg, M. L., Sigona, N. and Gidley, B. (eds) (2013) ‘Ethnography, Diversity and Urban Space’, Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power Special Issue, 20(4).

Berg, M. L. and Sigona, N. (2013) 'Introduction: Ethnography, Diversity and Urban SpaceIdentities special issue, 20(4).

Berg, M. L. (2011) Diasporic Generations: Memory, Politics and Nation among Cubans in Spain, Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Berg, M. L. (2010) 'On the social ground beneath our feet: for a cosmopolitan anthropology', Social Anthropology / Anthropologie Sociale [Special issue on 'A Cosmpolitan Anthropology?', Wardle H. and Rapport, N. (eds)] 18(4): 433-440

Mills, D. and Berg, M. L. (2010) 'Gender, Disembodiment and Vocation: Exploring the Unmentionables of British Academic Life', Critique of Anthropology, 30(4): 331-353. doi: 10.1177/0308275X10372470 

Berg, M. L. (2009) 'Reply to Comments', Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, 14(2): 297-99. DOI: 10.1111/j.1935-4940.2009.01049.x

Berg, M. L. (2009) 'Between Cosmopolitanism and the National Slot: Cuba’s Diasporic Children of the Revolution', Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 16(2): 129-56. DOI: 10.1080/10702890902739246

Full list of publications