PhD Courses in Denmark

What we think about when we think about concepts

PhD School at IT University of Copenhagen


  • Associate Professor Christopher Gad
  • Assistant Professor Thorben Simonsen



  • Professor Steven D. Brown, Nottingham Trent University (external)
  • Associate Professor Christopher Gad, ITU
  • Assistant Professor Thorben Simonsen, ITU


Dates of the course: 

In order to afford students the time to work with their chosen concepts, the course has a slightly different temporal trajectory and runs across three sessions during the spring. 

  • First session 25th of January 
  • Second session 15th March
  • Third session 26th April



Send application to Gad and Simonsen

The application should consist of one, maximum two, paragraphs (one paragraph = approximately 200 words) in which you briefly describe what your PhD is about and why you consider the course relevant to your project. Applicants who have conducted fieldwork and collected data, and who are reflecting on their choice and use of concepts, will be prioritized.

  • Application January 12th
  • Acceptance January 14th
  • First submission of 1 pager, March 8th
  • Second submission, Essay of 5-7 pages, April 19th


Exercise Room:

3A08, depending on the COVID-19 situation, a larger space may be needed.


Aim and course description:

The aim is to offer a PhD course that, on the one hand, considers and grapples with the conceptual as such, and on the other hand, pushes students to work with different dimensions of specific concepts of relevance to their own projects. For the meta-conceptual discussion on the course we draw on such discussions across Anthropology, Social Psychology and STS. Regarding the concepts which students select and bring into coursework, they should chose concepts that are relevant for analysis of the contemporary implications of digital technologies for people, organisations or society. 

The course will consist of three sessions each with a specific point of orientation over the spring semester. Each session will last for 3-5 hours. We would like to invite students to explore ‘what we think about when we think about concepts’, and how we might move from concept to analysis. As such, the three session will be:

1. Explorative approach to concepts

2. Mapping, imploding, and considering individual and specific concepts

3. Using the concept for analysis

The aim is to explore the potential of specific concepts in relation to your research. How might this particular concept strengthen and enrich your research? The goal of the readings, reflections, and the following discussions are, first, to clarify the ways in which concepts might be understood and, second, how you might begin to work with concepts in general and in your PhD work in particular. The aim of the course is furthermore to strengthen, deepen, and nuance the conceptual dimensions of the research and analysis at hand. As such, you will be introduced to discussions and reflections about concepts and we invite you to think about these in relation to your own use of particular analytics. Following, you will also work with concepts that you bring to the course, spawned by your empirical sources or other interests. This will enable us to discuss the purchase of your concepts in light of meta-discussions of concepts and, thus, possibly alter, shape, and/or enable you to challenge your understanding of your own  concepts.


Preparation: Papers and plenary discussions:

Each participant is required to submit a paper of maximum 1 page one week before the second session, outlining select dimensions of their chosen concept. Each participant is required to submit a paper of maximum five pages one week before the third session, that 1) Relates their chosen concept to their PhD project, and 2) offers a piece of analytical work wherein the chosen concept is used to open, understand, or reflect on a piece of data. The choice of concept should be driven by your own curiosity towards its potential relevance for your project. The aim of the written papers should thus be to explore and relate the concept to your own research in a way that can be further elaborated and discussed. Closing arguments and settled statements are not the goal. The papers function as impetus for exploratory, curious and interest-driven discussions, which should qualify and substantiate your further use of concepts in the PhD project. Based on the discussions in the course about concepts will qualify students’ work with their own concepts.


Learning outcomes: 

  • Be able to discuss what a concept is
  • Be able to critically reflect on choice of concepts in relation to your PhD
  • Be able to analytically work with key concepts in relation to your data and research field


Reading list:

The readings are primarily chosen as inspiration and have been thematically ordered in accordance with the three sessions

Day 1

  • Brown, S.D. and P. Reavey 2017. Dark organizational theory. Journal of Cultural Economy, 10(3): 280-295. DOI: 10.1080/17530350.2017.1298533
  • Brown, S.D., A. Kanyeredzi, L. McGrath, P. Reavey and I. Tucker 2019. Affect theory and the concept of atmosphere. Distinktion, 20(1): 5-24 DOI: 10.1080/1600910X.2019.1586740
  • Deleuze, G. and Felix Guattari (1994): What is a concept pp. 15-35 in What is Philosopy
  • Ingold, T. 2020. Thinking through the cello. In J. Bennett & M. Zournazi eds. Thinking in the World. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 202-222.
  • Malafouris, L. 2020. What does the stick do for the blind? In J. Bennett & M. Zournazi eds. Thinking in the World. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 115-128.
  • Serres, M. 1982. Turner translates Carnot. In Hermes: Literature, Science, Philosophy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, pp. 54-62
  • Serres, M. 2018. Metaphysics. In The Incandescent. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 64-85.

Day 2

  • Blumer, H. (1954.) “What Is Wrong with Social Theory?” American Sociological Review 19 (1): 3–10.
  • Bowker, Geoffrey C. 2014. “The Theory/Data Thing Commentary,” 5.
  • Dumit, Joseph. "Writing the implosion: teaching the world one thing at a time." Cultural Anthropology 29.2 (2014): 344-362.
  • Gad, Christopher, and Casper Bruun Jensen. 2016. “Lateral Concepts.” 2016 2 (May): 10.
  • Jiménez, Alberto Corsín, and Rane Willerslev. "‘An anthropological concept of the concept’: reversibility among the Siberian Yukaghirs." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13.3 (2007): 527-544
  • Mol, Annemarie. "Actor-network theory: Sensitive terms and enduring tensions." Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie. Sonderheft 50 (2010): 253-269.

Day 3

  • Becker, Howard S. Concepts pp. 109-146 in Tricks of the trade: How to think about your research while you're doing it. University of Chicago press, 2008.
  • Holbraad, Martin, et al. "What Is Analysis?: Between Theory, Ethnography, and Method." Social Analysis 62.1 (2018): 1-30.
  • Jensen, Casper Bruun. "Continuous variations: The conceptual and the empirical in STS." Science, Technology, & Human Values 39.2 (2014): 192-213.
  • Morita, Atsuro. "The ethnographic machine: experimenting with context and comparison in Strathernian ethnography." Science, Technology, & Human Values 39.2 (2014): 214-235.
  • Riles, Annelise (2000): “Infinity within the brackets” Chapter 3 in The Network Inside Out.



The course is aimed at students working qualitatively with concepts and conceptual development, familiarity with science and technology studies is an advantage.



Based on approval by Gad and/or Simonsen of the two course papers; i.e. the 1 page essay submitted one week before the second session and the 5 page paper submitted one week before the third session.



Upon completion, attending PhD students are invited to evaluate the symposium using the evaluation template offered by the PhD School



2 ECTS for full attendance


Amount of hours the student is expected to use on the course:

Students are tasked with reading the syllabus, writing two short essays, and engaging in peer-to-peer feedback and discussion sessions.

  • Syllabus reading 21 hours
  • Essay preparation 1 page: 5 hours
  • Essay preparation of 5-7 pages: 20 hours
  • Peer-to-peer review preparation: 5 hours
  • Participation in the Course 9 hours.



10 participants