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Porträtt Jens Westerskov Andersen. Foto: Emma Lord.

Jens Westerskov Andersen


Porträtt Jens Westerskov Andersen. Foto: Emma Lord.



  • Jens Westerskov Andersen

Summary, in English

It is evident that the Danish archipelago is at a crossroad today. Since the 1930ties the total number of inhabitants on the 27 small islands in Denmark have decreased by 50% (ca 4.500 in 2021) while at the same time struggling with both some autogenic problems (poor financialization, vulnerable ferry economies, centralization, out-migration, and urbanization) and allogenic challenges (impacts of societal pressure, large scale tourism and displacement of permanent residents by second home owning). Despite of this, the total number of inhabitants began increasing in 2016 as a result of in-migration from especially larger cities in Denmark, and this continued in the following years. However, the distribution of the new islanders where indeed unequal, concentrating roughly in only 1/3 of the small islands, and to such an extent, that it exceeded the continued decrease on the latter 2/3 islands.

A study from the Danish think tank ‘Arbejdernes Erhversråd’ suggested, that the actual crossing time, the size of the community, and the presence of a local school, were of vital importance to whether an island could thrive and be desirable to move to or not, leading to the discussion on how to maintain such infrastructural conditions and social investments or even improve them.

While most Danish researchers engaged in how to come up with solutions to those challenges, the big theoretical framework remained absent and unaddressed: is there a larger segregation process going on, dividing the small islands of Denmark into growth areas and depopulated, abandoned places, and if so, why? The theory of human ecology and the thoughts of the Chicago School, prominently known for its contributions to American urban sociology, is surprisingly applicable in its ability to analyze the ongoing processes as well as disseminating the core factors and societal dangers of socio-spatial segregation. The overall lacking of theory in this field is not only bettered by introducing human ecology as a theoretical framework, but is also widening the analytical depth of such an investigation, helping us to discover new ways and understandings of the data.

Based on a number of qualitative interviews with newcomers and ethnographic fieldwork on 3 different small islands, situated in the same regional area and belonging to the same mainland municipality, the notion of segregating archipelagos materializes empirically. My study showed that not only where the scale of migration extremely unequal on the three different small islands, but also that the social environment, present in the community, are in fact the single most important factor for attracting newcomers; not abolishing the meaning of infrastructure and administrative services and systems, but that the specific social environments, identifiable and desirable to a potential newcomer or not, is the most important reasoning in the individual’s residential selection as a prominent feature of nowadays’ small island migration and small island living in Denmark.


  • Sociologi






Konferensbidrag: abstract


  • Sociology


  • Small Islands
  • Migration
  • Counter urbanisation
  • Rural sociology
  • Human ecology

Conference name

Islands of the World Conference XVII

Conference date

2022-06-13 - 2022-06-17

Conference place

Zadar, Croatia