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Portrait Henriette Frees Esholt.

Henriette Frees Esholdt


Portrait Henriette Frees Esholt.

Når humor, leg og lyst er på spil : Social interaktion på en multietnisk arbejdsplads


  • Henriette frees Esholdt

Summary, in English

How can we understand the multi-ethnic workplace as a social meeting place? And what happens if we do not 'frame' in advance the social meeting in the widespread anti-racist frame of understanding? These are the questions that are central to this thesis. Starting from a phenomenological methodology, it is the ambition of the thesis to challenge our usual preconceptions and not pre-define how inter-ethnic relations are to be understood, which is why the thesis - expressed in Goffman's terms - asks: ”What is it that’s going

on here?” (Goffman 1974), as a way of finding which framework of understanding should be applied.

Based on the part of the lifeworld that unfolds in a multi-ethnic workplace, the thesis examines the social interaction in inter-ethnic collegial relationships as it spontaneously arises and develops in the inter-ethnic collegial relationships in everyday working life. The thesis is based on fieldwork (consisting of participant observation and interviews) at the Food Factory ("Madfabrikken"), a multi-ethnic workplace in the hospitality sector in Denmark. With an auto-ethnographic point of departure, the researcher brings herself

into play in the relationships under study, and makes herself an object of observation, reflection and study. In addition to the life at the Food Factory, the thesis is also concerned with the research process, and experiments with different methods of grasping and conveying the life lived in the Food Factory in all its complexity and ambiguity.

The thesis explores empirical observations of social interactions, where humour, play and pleasure are on the line. As much as the interplay in the collegial relationships at the Food Factory can be pleasurable and fun, it does, however, bring the risk of danger. It is this duality that is illuminated in this thesis. In the first

instance, the humour, play and pleasure are continually on line in the collegial interaction and this contributes to a range of humour-based and sexualized forms of social interaction, where "ethnicity" is

defused and enjoyed as an aesthetic and sexualised surface. Secondly, it is true in the sense that humour, play and pleasure risk being on the line or jeopardized, if the rules for the interaction are not mastered or respected. What was previously 'framed' as being pleasurable, sexualized play and teasing at work, or what

was set in a humorous frame, is suddenly in danger of being replaced or overtaken by a new 'framing' of the situation as sexual harassment or racism.

The thesis does not end up with definitive answers as to how social interaction in a multi-ethnic workplace should be understood and how we can understand it as a social meeting place, but contributes with the knowledge that social interaction in inter-ethnic collegial relationships is vulnerable, ambiguous, fragile, undecidable, manipulable and redefinable. With an object-sensitive eye, the thesis contributes to other, more nuanced narratives about the social meeting of the inter-ethnic relationships - namely the narratives

about the life lived and its forms.


  • Sociology

Publishing year





Lund Dissertations in Sociology



Document type



Lund University


  • Sociology


  • Ethnicity
  • inter-ethnic relations
  • everyday working life
  • multi-ethnic workplace
  • collegial relationships
  • sexuality
  • humor
  • ethnic humor
  • sexual harassment
  • racism
  • autoethnography
  • Goffman
  • frame analysis.




  • Frees Esholdt, Henriette (2015). Når humor, leg og lyst er på spil: social interaktion på en multietnisk arbejdsplats. Diss. Lund: Lunds universitet.


  • Anders Persson
  • Mehmet Ümit Necef


  • ISSN: 1102-4712
  • ISBN: 978-91-7623-215-6

Defence date

27 January 2015

Defence time


Defence place

Edens hörsal, Paradisgata 5 H, Lund


  • Thomas Johansson (Professor)