Magne Knudsen

Research Associate


Room: FASS 2.15

Links: UBD Experts pageGoogle Scholar citations


Over the last ten years, Dr Knudsen's research has broadly focused on change and continuity in livelihood, family and community relations in coastal and upland regions of Southeast Asia. In 2010, he was awarded a PhD-degree in social anthropology at the Australian National University. Before taking up the position as Assistant Professor in Sociology and Anthropology at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam in 2015, he was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Sociology at the National University of Singapore. Previously, he studied economics and was particularly interested in the history of economic ideas, political economy and development challenges in the Global South. Outside of academia, he has worked as consultant on environmental issues and been a livelihood and land tenure expert for a humanitarian crisis response team. The focus of the PhD-project was on dynamics of kinship, class and place relations in a highly contested peri-urban coastal location in the Central Philippines. It shows that rising middle- and upper-class demand for ‘beachfront property’ and Marine Protected Areas encouraged particular fishing families to beef up their ‘original people of the place’ settler status. As a result, poor fishing families with peripheral or no kinship links to the ‘original people’ became increasingly vulnerable to displacement pressure. Since 2012, he has been involved in a new research project in the Southern Philippines, in upland villages of north-central Mindanao. This is an area where logging, mining and conservation interests compete and align with diverse local livelihood aspirations. The focus of fieldwork is on the interplay of livelihood diversification, land tenure and kinship, and the aim is to arrive at an improved understanding of the relationships and conditions that enable and undermine smallholder success. Another component of the Mindanao project seeks to explain why there are so many men, perhaps more than a thousand, who carry sultan title in the Lanao provinces of Mindanao. He looks at various ‘internal’ and ‘external’ determinants of local-level leadership and locates the findings within broader debates about the rise and evolution of sultanates in Southeast Asia.  

Research Interests

  • Land and sea tenure; Natural resource management
  • Coastal and upland livelihoods
  • Class, kinship and community relations in urbanising Southeast Asia
  • Indigenous peoples, ethnic identities and agrarian transition in upland Southeast Asia

Publications (Selection)

Knudsen, M. (2016) Poverty and beyond: Small-scale fishing in over-exploited environments. Human Ecology 44(3): 341-352.

Knudsen, M. (2015) The environments of the poor in Southeast Asia, East Asia and the Pacific. Aris Ananta, Armin Bauer and Myo Than (2013 eds.). Singapore: Asian Development Bank and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Reviewed in Asian Journal of Social Science 43, pp. 209-211. Book review.

Knudsen, M. (2013) Beyond clientelism: Neighbourhood leaders on a Philippine island. Anthropological Forum 23 (3): 242-265.

Knudsen, M. (2012) Fishing families and cosmopolitans in conflict over land on a Philippine island. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 43 (3): 478-499.