I am an anthropologist specialising in the intersection between migration, aid and security in mainland Southeast Asia. Initially trained in social anthropology at University of Oslo and Asian Studies at Macquarie University in Australia, I worked for the United Nations Development Programme in the Mekong region before returning to the social sciences. After completing my PhD and a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Anthropology at Macquarie University, I was in 2012 appointed lecturer in Anthropology (Development Studies) at the Australian National University. I am the current co-editor of the Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology (TAPJA) and have served in several leadership roles, including the Discipline Head of Anthropology and Research Convenor within the School or Archaeology and Anthropology, The Australian National University.

I have two decades research and programme experience on human trafficking, development and mobility in the Mekong region. In my PhD fieldwork I carried out research on migration and sex commerce along the Lao-Thai border as well as various development organisations which implement anti-trafficking projects. My current research examines how “safe migration” has become an important modality of migration governance in the Mekong region. My overarching research agenda advances the study of the securitisation of aid and mobility in a comparative perspective. Its theoretical contribution is to illuminate how relations and structures of power permeate through development and humanitarian practices as well as how such efforts are mobilised, enacted, and legitimated. I extend my academic research through collaborations with UN agencies and other external partners through consultancies, commissioned research, and other forms of engagements.

I am the author of Safe Migration and the Politics of Brokered Safety in Southeast Asia and  The Perfect Business? Anti-Trafficking and the Sex Trade along the Mekong (University of Hawaii Press).

Research interests

Associate Professor Molland’s overarching research interests examines the intersections between migration, development and security in a comparative perspective, with specific focus on governance regimes and intervention modalities in mainland Southeast Asia.  

There are four analytical domains that are of particular importance:

  • Space-governance relations: how do spatial (and temporal) dimensions of migration policy and interventions come into being, and how do they effect interventions?

  • Biolegitimacy: How does life legitimate interventions and how is life legitimated within aid and migration discourses?

  • Development aid  and migration governance networks: what accounts for continuity and change within trans-institutional networks of aid and migration governance, and how can they be accounted for ethnographically?

  • Intervention modalities in a comparative perspective.

Contact me:

AD Hope Building (#14), G22

School or Archaeology & Anthropology

ANU College or Arts & Social Sciences

Acton ACT 2601, Australia

T: +61 2 6125 1382

E: sverre.molland@anu.edu.au