Between Openness and Closure: Dimensions of Exclusion and Inclusion in the New Norway

Introductory summary

The project is concerned with social and cultural dynamics in contemporary Norwegian society, with an empirical focus on minority–majority relationships. It is based on a relational view of identity according to which groups and individuals define themselves, and are defined from outside, situationally through ongoing communication and social interaction, which in turn must be related analytically to contextual factors such as immigration policies, shifting labour markets and educational policies. Shifting contexts thus determine the social position and self-definition of particular groups and persons. This does not, of course, mean that cultural traits, traditions and collective patterns of action can be neglected, but that their significance for social integration/fragmentation depends on the wider context. Being a Turk in Norway is significantly different from being a Turk in Germany.

It is assumed, as a starting hypothesis, that processes of social integration and cultural homogenisation as well as processes of fragmentation and cultural differentiation take place simultaneously, and that they function differently on different systemic levels (which range from the family to the nation-state) and in different arenas (ranging from education and the labour market to cultural life, political participation and law). The project seeks to identify the forces that lead to these opposing processes, to identify differences between arenas and contexts in this respect, to describe those processes empirically, and to describe and analyse the particular social and political, cultural and religious configurations emerging in contemporary Norway as a result of increased social and cultural complexity. In order for truly new understandings in this area to be achieved, several academic disciplines need to be involved, and thus the HUMSAM concept offers an ideal academic framework. The research organised and funded under this project will commit itself to a few shared theoretical assumptions guiding and coordinating the otherwise very diverse empirical research in question. In fact, such a set of shared notions and preoccupations is necessary for the effort to be sufficiently focused.

The project is two-pronged: On the one hand, it aims towards the coordination and strengthening of ongoing research at the University of Oslo dealing with cultural complexity and the politics of identity. Common activities and joint publications will serve to sharpen and improve extant research. On the other hand, the project initiates new research in the field, through doctoral fellowships, student grants and research funding for senior researchers.

Analytcal framework

A mass of research has been – and is being – carried out regarding the new minorities in Europe. A considerable number of universities, research institutes and think-tanks close to governments are involved in this effort, as well as several dedicated centres of minority, ethnic or “racial” studies – from Warwick to Linköping; from Paris to Frankfurt-an-der-Oder. Moreover, many universities have in recent years decided to make “multicultural society” (or a similar concept) one of their prioritised research areas; and dozens of temporally limited (typically five-year) projects have been undertaken at European universities since the early 1990s. For a new initiative to be worthwhile, it must therefore promise to generate new insights. The comparative advantage of the present project is twofold: Firstly, it enriches and gives an analytical edge to ongoing research through the implementation of a rigorous set of concepts tailored to study group dynamics. Secondly, it initiates new empirical research based on the same analytical dimensions. The effort is designed with a view to generate truly new insights and to consolidate and sharpen ongoing research.

The theoretical premises are the following:

The study of social identity is tantamount to studying relationships. The complexity of identification is reflected in, and largely accounted for by, the complexity of social relationships maintained by any individual. The relationships engaged in by any person are multidirectional to varying degrees, and serve to forge bonds of commitment towards different kinds of others, thereby making everybody a member of more than one group or social category. It is an empirical question which identities become “marked”, how marking affects the emergence of groups based on particular premises, and how the marking of particular categories of persons shifts (e.g. from guest worker via Pakistani to Muslim).

All social groups and cultural systems are open and closed to varying degrees and in varying ways. This entails that entry and acceptance in a group, or exogenic changes affecting a cultural system, are implemented via practices of openness and closure which must be examined empirically. It also implies that failure to access a particular arena may lead to successful attempts to access another arena. The points of entry are, in other words, variable and lead in turn to variable modes of participation.

Among minority members/groups, several options exist regarding their participation in majority culture and society. These options emerge as outcomes of the innate resources of the groups, but also as results of the dynamics between majority and minority. Failure to achieve full and equal recognition, for example, may in some cases result in an identity politics based on contrasting or dichotomisation.

No majority, and no minority, speaks with one voice. Tensions are rife within minority groups concerning the appropriate positioning in greater society and internal (“community”) matters, and sometimes even regarding the criteria for group membership (ethnic origin, religion or other).

There is no one-to-one relationship between social and cultural processes. Objective cultural mixing does not necessarily lead to a “mixed” social identity (for example, the cultural changes taking place in Norway since the 1950s have not led to a perceptible change in Norwegian national identity).

There are competing interpretions or taxonomies within any social group. Yet, interpretations of the world are not free-floating. The propensity to choose a certain “world-view" is not random; some versions are far more frequent in some groups than in others. Tracing the intersection between cultural framing and social life is thus an important task, and requires both historical case studies (such as life histories) and research in empirical settings such as work places, schools and leisure.

Cross-cutting ties and multiple loyalties are typical characteristics of any complex society. An ethnic or religious label does not provide a satisfactory description of the relevant characteristics of a person or group. Although there are implicit rules and norms regulating group membership, diverse combinations of identities are empirically possible.
Most research on minority/majority relationships in Norway has so far been strongly influenced by normative concerns reflecting the wish among the domestic authorities to “integrate” immigrants. This project, which is independent of government and commercial interests, has no such normative agenda. It seeks to explore varying modes of participation in Norwegian society and culture, and to identify the factors that shape particular modes. It also inevitably incorporates an investigation of the volatile and contested content of Norwegianness and ways in which notions of Norwegianness is used discursively to exclude or include ambiguous persons (i.e. minority members resident in the country, cf. Gullestad 2002). Concerning the issue of diversity versus integration, it is interesting to note that this debate has been opened up very recently in the UK, following an essay by Goodhart (2004), and it has become evident that extant research in this field is patchy and inadequate even there.

It must be added that as a basic research project, this project will generate results that are likely to be much more applicable than most applied research.

A distressing feature of migration studies in general, moreover, has been its relative lack of theoretical innovation and cross-fertilisation with other, arguably related areas of research. This project will actively confront, draw upon and challenge findings and perspectives from research areas such as gender research, studies of indigenous peoples (in Norway, Sami studies are of especial interest) and of sexual minorities, comparative research on human rights, social philosophy, criminology and the sociology of deviance. Put differently: Perceptible tendencies towards institutional and intellectual ghettoisation of minority studies need to be addressed actively.

Empirical framework

Opinion is divided, both in the public sphere and among academic researchers, concerning the current priorities regarding immigrants and their descendants in Norway. While some argue the continued relevance of discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion as key terms in accounting for the situation of immigrants, others have, particularly since the 1990s, concentrated on internal conflicts and tensions in the immigrant population itself. Given the theoretical framework outlined above, such an opposition is false seen from the perspective of this project. The tensions, for example intergenerational or gender-based, within any minority group cannot be understood without an understanding of the wider systemic connections linking it with greater society. Moreover, there has been a clear tendency to reify groups in much research on immigrants (cf. point 4 above). Through a consistent emphasis on the tension between the dual forces of integration and segregation, purity and mixing, group-based security and individual freedom, it is possible to avoid reifying and simplistic accounts. Moreover, it must be emphasised that social integration is not a simple concept. A person may be integrated in his/her family, at work, in school and/or other social arenas. A person may have a secure group identity but feel alienated from greater society; there may be ethnic enclaves e.g. in business which ensure social integration at a subsocietal level, at the possible cost of reducing involvement in greater society.

Some empirical areas of particular interest to the project are the following. They are deliberately described at a general, abstract level since the interest is general and abstract until it crystallises in actual research projects. It will be noted that all these empirical fields relate to the fundamental tension underpinning the research project: centripetal versus centrifugal forces in society and culture – forces of unification, forces of fragmentation operating at several levels of society (from the family or peer group to the nation-state and transnational networks).

Revitalisation versus assimilation. On the one hand, it is easy to observe the widespread adoption of locally hegemonic (“Norwegian”) values and cultural categories and practices among minorities in Norway. On the other hand, an identity politics based on difference can also easily be identified, e.g. among Muslim and African immigrants. The articulation of, and negotiation between, these opposing, or perhaps complementary processes, is still poorly understood. A key question concerns whether the identity politics of minorities chiefly consists in a denial of the majority culture or a plea for democratic pluralism (cf. Turner 1992). The balancing of these considerations in individual lives also needs further scrutiny. Finally, the feedback effects of experiences in greater Norwegian society (for example, exclusion) need further exploration. An obvious hypothesis is that exclusion from key arenas feeds a difference-based identity politics, and as a corollary, that humiliation is the fuel of active resentment.

Culture and rights. Rights tend to be seen, in public discourse, as universal, culture as particular. Yet a commonly invoked right is the right to culture, and the concept of cultural rights has become widespread in the NGO world and in international law, especially since the rise of the indigenous rights movement from the 1970s onwards (Wilson 1997, Cowan et al. 2001). In Norway, recent conflicts over the establishment of a Muslim school, the new religious subject in schools (KRL, cf. Borchgrevink 2002, Leirvik 2003), heated debates about arranged marriages and dress codes, and concerns over cultural variations in primary socialisation indicate the existence of a problematic frontier area between the public and universal (the world of rights) and the private and particular (the world of culture). All the controversies surrounding the concept of multiculturalism are brought to bear on this field of tension. New research is required on internal group dynamics in minorities, between minorities, on minority–majority relationships, and on interreligious relations.

Hybridity versus cultural purity. The tension between mixing and purity is evident in many discourses in Norwegian society (cf. Modood and Werbner 1997 for international perspectives). Among ethnic Norwegians, powerful interest groups define and authorise folk costumes, folk music etc.; among minorities, there is a continuous negotiation between «their culture» and “Norwegianisation” or “Westernisation”. Studies are needed on relevant boundary markers (skin colour, religion, language, use/non-use of alcohol etc.) and on actual hybrid cultural forms and their bearing on social identification.

The tension between mixing and purity is also evident in the discourse of language and cultural identity. Language and cultural contact is an issue that needs much further attention in Norway. The KUSK project (1998–2002) focused on these issues. However, much more research is needed. Some issues which deserve further attention are acquisition of Norwegian as a second language, bilingualism in the home (cf. Lanza 1997/2004), communication between the majority and minorities in different arenas – in kindergarten, at home and at school, in youth clubs, in police interrogations and court hearings, in public service institutions and in other settings.

Schismogenetic processes. Schismogenesis is a technical term which refers to «vicious circles», in other words escalating, self-reinforcing conflicts (Bateson 1972). A sense of exclusion which is widespread among many immigrants and (perhaps especially) their children can inspire traditionalistic entrenchment and, likewise, an impression among ethnic Norwegians that immigrants are “unwilling to integrate” may lead to important changes in attitudes to cultural difference. Since the territory changes rapidly, fresh research in this area is always called for. This research must not limit itself to discourse analysis, but needs statistical material on participation in various arenas, historical knowledge, and sociological/anthropological research on contemporary social settings.
It should be noted that this project is not explicitly concerned with immigration policy, as it limits itself to the study of group dynamics in Norwegian society, but that the latter cannot be fully understood without an understanding of the former. It should also be noted that this list of empirical fields serves as a set of examples, not as an exhaustive or definite list of priorities. The point is that new research is required in a number of fields, that this research needs a pluralistic methodological foundation (synchronic and diachronic, quantitative and qualitative, micro and macro), and that its intellectual success depends on clearly delineated problem areas or hypotheses as well as a politically neutral (or uncontaminated) terminology. A greater degree of specificity would be premature at this point.

Ongoing and recent research at the University of Oslo

There is a wealth of extant research on minorities and cultural complexity at the UiO, both past and present. The applicant group, aware of this but lacking a full overview, hired stud. polit. Anne-Marit Hessevik in Feb/March 2004 to develop a database and a report detailing previous and ongoing research projects. All of this research cannot be described or even mentioned in this context, but Hessevik’s results (more than 1,400 publications) are available from the group upon request and will be available online in the spring. Because of lack of space, only the main research interests of the applicant group – one from each faculty – are outlined below.
However, some current research efforts at the University are of particular relevance for this project, and the researchers in question will be involved in the project to the extent that they are able and willing. At the Faculty of Social Sciences, important resarch on Muslim women both abroad and in Norway has been carried out by Unni Wikan (Social Anthropology), while Odd Are Berkaak (Social Anthropology) examines the arenas of creative arts as fields of cultural complexity; there is a strong interest in minorities and political rights at the Department of Political Science (represented, inter alia, in Anne Julie Semb’s, Hege Skjeie’s and Bernt Hagtvet’s work), sociologist Grete Brochmann studies migration processes, and others could have been mentioned. At the Faculty of Humanities, important research on minority languages and language change has been done at the Department of Linguistics (Elizabeth Lanza and others); Ingeborg Kongslien studies the emerging “multicultural” literature in Norway; musicologists (Tellef Kvifte, Jan Sverre Knudsen, Stan Hawkins) have looked at music as a field of cross-cultural encounters; philosophers (like Arne Johan Vetlesen) discuss rights issues and problems of identity, and there are other projects as well. At the Faculty of Theology, related research groups study both religion in the era of globalisation (Sturla Stålsett), interreligious relations (Notto R. Thelle and Leirvik), and the role of Islam in contemporary Norway (Leirvik). At the Faculty of Education, important research is being done on minority children in schools, language acquisition and related issues (Kamil Özerk, Emel Türker and others). At the Faculty of Law, Hellum’s own work (below) and Kristian Andenæs’ work on the juridical status of foreigners may be mentioned. In addition, researchers at the Centre of Gender Studies (Beatrice Halsaa, Turid Markussen) are involved in studies of multiculturalism and gender, and the Norwegian Centre of Human Rights (Tore Lindholm, Andreas Føllesdal, Njål Høstmælingen and others) are also involved in projects of immediate relevance for this group.


Research projects by the applicants 

Since the application does not at this stage involve research money for the applicant group itself (excepting the project leader), their ongoing research is only indirectly relevant in the present context. This research nonetheless serves to establish the credentials, and credibility, of the applicant group, and their current projects are therefore presented briefly here.

Oddbjørn Leirvik (Theology): The Self and the Other in emerging Norwegian-Islamic discourses.
In research on Islam in Europe, the term “Euroislam” has been coined to characterise the unprecedented blend of moderate Islamism and subscription to Western values in nascent identity discourses among Muslim migrants in Europe (Ramadan 1999 and 2002, Alsayyad 2002). Although Euroislam may contain elements from global Islamist discourses, it also competes with the more confrontational discourse typical of Islamism. But Euroislam also competes with cultural and religious legacies associated with the migrant families’ countries of origin. In the Norwegian context, there is reason to expect that particular forms of Euroislam may emerge, engaging critically with and/or reflecting distinct Norwegian value discourses (e.g., increased invocation of the “Christian cultural heritage” by the majority population, the strong legacy of the welfare state, and the heightened stress on gender equality in the Nordic countries – cf. Leirvik 2004). Rival Muslim discourses should also be expected to take on particular forms in the Norwegian context, reflecting (1) the cultural loyalties of the groups that dominate the Muslim scene and (2) the relative strength or weakness of Islamism in Norway.

The ways in which Norwegian immigrants with a Muslim background have organised themselves, indicate that religious allegiance has become an increasingly important identity marker (over against ethnic background). But the plurality of Muslim organisations probably also reflects the cited tension between (1) imported cultural loyalties, (2) influences from global Islamism, and (3) the “Euroislamic” drive towards formulating a Norwegian Islam. At the individual level, different blends of “integrated plural identity” (Østberg 2003) seem to emerge.

The project sets out to analyse the power balance between the cited rival discourses. An important aim will be to investigate whether it gives sense to speak of a nascent “Norwegian-Islamic” identity discourse. Whereas the cue “Islamic” indicates a normative drive typical of renegotiated religious identities, “Norwegian” signals the cultural context that necessitates a reformulation of one’s inherited identity.

The focus will be set on the perceived relation between the Self and Other in nascent Norwegian-Islamic discourses, with a view to individual as well as communal aspects of selfhood and otherness.

Possible research material and relevant methological approaches will be:

Discourse analysis of the self-presentation of profiled Muslim leaders in Norwegian media.

Content analysis of literature produced and transmitted by Muslim organisations in Norway, with a view to the relation between national ideosyncracies, globalised Islamic discourses, and distinct European experiences.

Discourse analysis of Islamic web-pages in Norway, focusing on how the Islamic self posits itself in relation to significant others in cultural and religious respects. Do virtual identity discourses differ from those expressed in other media and arenas?

Have organised forms of interaction with cultural and religious others in the Norwegian context changed the perception of self and other? This question may be elucidated at two different levels by
Interviews with Muslim pupils of different backgrounds in Oslo schools: How do Muslim pupils perceive the contested KRL-subject as an arena of intercultural and interreligious learning? To what extent do student attitudes correspond with or differ from those expressed by Muslim leaders?
Interviews by Muslim leaders who have been involved in organised dialogue enterprises with representatives of other faith communities. To what extend has dialogue experience in the Norwegian context changed their view of significant others (Christians, Jews, secular humanists)?
Anne Hellum (Law): Law and multiculturalism. Transnationalization of law is taking place through multiple interrelated processes. International human rights conventions are today making their mark on national law. National law is also challenged as immigrants bring their own social, religious and legal norms with them. Mobility of people thus implies mobility of law. For immigrants the state legal order is not the sole regulatory mechanism. Customary and religious norms are sometimes so strong that they take precedence over state-law. An overall legal challenge for law in a multicultural society is to come to grips with legal pluralism in terms of a situation where multiple normative orders interact and intersect in a social field (Moore 1978, Griffiths 1986, Merry 1988). Accelerating mobility of persons implies that people who often operate in multi-sited situations and as such have to deal increasingly complex legal situations (Benda-Beckman and Griffiths 2004). This is also the case for formal legal institutions such as law-makers and the judiciary and public administration. Globalization or transnationalization of law has mainly dealt with these processes from a formal legal perspective (Twining 2000). Fundamental rights, protection against discrimination and choice of law are some of the main issues in contemporary legal debate about law and multiculturalism in Norway and Europe (Loenen 2004)

To make an input to the ongoing legal debate about fundamental rights and multiculturalism this project adopts a pluralistic socio-cultural approach to legal processes. The approach will draw upon the experiences of studies of legal pluralism in Norway related to the Sami (Bull 1998). It engages with local normative perspectives and their integration with or resistance to formal law in different legal arenas and at different legal levels (Hellum 2000). The thematic focus is contestations between the right to gender equality, the right to religious freedom and the right to culture. All these principles are embedded in human rights conventions that have been ratified by the Norwegian state. The public debate concerning legal regulation of headscarves, religious schools, forced and arranged marriages epitomizes the complex relationship between minorities and majorities and between women and men in contemporary Norway. The use of headscarves has been extensively analyzed from different human rights perspectives, children’s rights and discrimination on the basis of sex and ethnicity. Njaal Høstmælingen at Senter for menneskerettigheter at UiO is editing a book on this topic.

The project sets out to explore how conflicting norms and expectations are handled at different levels of problem and conflict resolution, such as in the family, in local conflict mediation and in the courts.

There is a great need of local level studies exploring how girls, parents and local mediators handle their complex/multiple identities in terms of members of transnational families, Norwegian citizens, religious communities and participation in Norwegian schools and workplaces. Studies within sociology of law have focused on immigrants need for legal aid (Broch Graver et al. 2001).Studies of marriage negotiations and decisions to wear headscarves involving women from different groups may contribute to an understanding of how users of law who operate in multi-sited situations make decisions. A relational approach to how daughters, parents and other involved parties’ multiple group and network belongings influence the decision-making process will contribute to an understanding of the working of law in a pluralistic society. It is assumed that we have to deal with uneven and complex processes where the weight of political, personal, cultural and legal factors are situational and contextual. The overall aim is to understand how power relations and identity politics is played out in face to face relationships that are a part of a legal process where norms are changed, reproduced or resisted at everyday level.

Studies that focus on how immigrants multiple normative allegiances are handled in legal decision-making are also needed. There are several studies of communication in the court room but very few studies that explore the normative interplay and how it affects the outcome of the court-case (Andenæs et al. 2000, Grytbakk 2003). The point of departure for this study is an outlook on law as an open system in constant interaction with cultural and religious norms in society (Eckhoff 1993). The hypothesis is that legal institutions handling individual conflicts on a case to case basis under the circumstances may be more situation sensitive than lawmakers. A case to case based approach is by taking individual circumstances into account better equipped to respond the diversity and complexity than wholesale law reform that also plays more directly into identity politics. It is hypothesized that there will be differences between criminal and administrative law and that the degree of autonomy of the decision-making institution makes a difference. Varieties within the institutions themselves are assumed to depend on the age, gender, geographic and professional background of the decision-maker. Empirical operations will look at cases under criminal law, gender equality law and asylum law where the right to culture, the right to freedom of religion and the right to equality are involved. Extended case studies encompassing court records, court observations and interviews with judges/decision makers and parties will be conducted.

Knut Kjeldstadli (History): Pakistani-Norwegian identity through time. Processes of inclusion or exclusion take place in time - a banal, but not trivial fact. In order not to be caught in an "accidental present", or to confuse conjunctures and structural shifts, a longer time perspective is needed (cf. Kjeldstadli 2003). The "new" immigration by now dates back ca. 35 years, when labour migrants arrived in greater numbers. Political refugees arrived particularly in the 1980 and 1990s. An historical investigation of immigrant and minority communities in Oslo, may shed light on cultural tenacity and change. Two groups will be studied: Pakistanis and Iraqi Kurds (or possibly Iranians), both for comparison and in order to understand relations, border drawing and distictions among the minorities.

The project comprises three elements:

An historical narrative based on ordinary historial source material, both on the immigration and the ethnic communities: social and economic positions, demography, internal institutions and representation in relation to the broader society.

In order to include a relational perspective, majority voices will be studied through the press discourse on Pakistanis and Kurds (or Iranians).

The empirical core of the project, however, is an effort to combine quantitative life course (cohort) analysis and qualitative oral life stories from immigrants and first generation Pakistani Norwegians and Kurds (or Iranians. Methodologically there is potential for innovation through this combination: Life stories offer personal interpretations and insights into mechanisms, cohort analyses show more general patterns.
Two hypotheses will be investigated: 1) Despite frequent contacts to the country of origin, the Pakistani–Norwegian culture(s) – and to a lesser degree the Kurdish – should be understood as a separate (although not autonomous) entity, not as mere second order reflection of Pakistani or Norwegian patterns. 2) Particularly among the first generation born in Norway there are several, competing strategies, due both to experiences of rejection in Norway (which may vary over time) or to different prospects of return: active adapation to the majority society, rejection and involution, i.e. an intensification of cultural traits ascribed to an imagined home country, and finally a creation of new composite patterns.

Ivar Morken (Education) Pakistani parents and home-school cooperation
Government schools and the national system of education represent an important arena of inclusion and exclusion, participation and non participation, as well as recognition and non recognition. As long as we are referring to young people as pupils, this seems obvious, but this may also be the case for adults as parents and citizens. Parents’ involvement in the upbringing and education of their own children is part of democracy. In the Norwegian school system, participation and cooperation between school and home is a highly valued ideal, and parents have a legal right to govern their children’s upbringing. The Norwegian Act relating to Primary and Secondary Education (Opplæringslova) establishes the formal role of parents in the school administration with parents’ representatives being part of the school boards. At the individual level, the Norwegian Education Act specifies cooperation between school and home as one of the intrinsic goals of education. But how are these legal rights put into practice? Are parents included or excluded? Do the parents experience these legal rights as instruments for their own involvement and interests? How do Pakistani parents conceive and experience their own possibilities to influence the school system and the education of their own children?

The project aims to investigate the cooperation between parents with a Pakistani background and Norwegian primary school. Starting from the parents’ and the schools’ own experience the project attempts to identify facilitating factors as well as barriers to integration and participation through parental involvement in legal settings (foreldrekonferanser, foreldreråd, FAU and FUG). The research method has been planed both as survey and as case study (observations, interviews, documents etc.). Starting with survey, it may be necessary to supplement with case study to describe and examine the contextual and cultural side of cooperation between school and home.

One hypothesis governing the project is that the schools expect parents to support and follow-up the schools’ work and to see cooperation from the same point of view as the schools (Seeberg 2003). According to Nordahl and Skilbrei (2002) the home-school relationship suffers from an overflow of information and scarce dialogue and cooperative decision-making between the parts. This means that it may be difficult for parents to be critical, articulate divergent opinions and to influence the system in any substantial way. When parents are expected to be involved in accordance to informal, tacit (Norwegian) rules, this may make it even more difficult for Pakistani parents than for Norwegian parents. Do Pakistani parents expect to be involved in cooperative decision making, and how do they experience home-school cooperation?

Theoretically the project may be inspired by theory of citizenship and parental autonomy. Parents and family are seen as a pre-political institution whose integrity cannot be legitimately violated by the state (Levinson 1999). This implies a distinction between private and public spheres. This may be important not only for the cooperation between Pakistani parents and the Norwegian primary school, but also for our conception of a multicultural society, democracy and cooperation between home and school in general.

Thomas Hylland Eriksen (Social Anthropology): Sources and meanings of human security. The point of departure for this project is a theoretical conceptualisation of human security in relation to the concept of certainty, and to the opposed concepts of insecurity, uncertainty and risk (negative) or freedom and opportunity (positive), and the inherent tensions that exist between these forces at the level of the individual, the groups in which he or she takes part, and greater society.

The main hypothesis in the present context is that among minority and majority members alike in a complex society, ongoing oscillations, compromises and conflicts take place between the opposing requirements of security and freedom, and wide identity repertoires involving gender, age, ethnicity, education and other social identities, are drawn upon. Subjective, hegemonic and culturally specific conceptualisations of freedom and security must be distinguished between here. Empirical operationalisations might look at headscarves, marriage practices and informal social networks in minorities, and at nationalist resurgence, cultural traditionalism and resistance to change (e.g. through immigration) in the majority. The majority/minority distinction is not essential here however, since the duality is seen as an inherent feature of a complex society, and the project aims to look at this complexity.

Drawing on the considerable amount of extant and ongoing research in the field of group identities in complex societies, the project proposes to confront and combine different analytical perspectives, with a synthesis as a possible outcome.

The main research questions are simple and straightforward: (a) Under which circumstances do particular group identities become relevant and operative (“marked”), and (b) how can we best describe the tension between security (seen as group integration) and freedom at the level of the individual? It is crucial here to distinguish between different systemic levels. For example, integration can be strong at the level of the group, yet weak at the level of greater society. Research and debates about migrant minorities in Western Europe and North America rarely raise these issues in an explicit way. Moreover, there is a tendency in the academic literature to give priority to one kind of account instead of developing a more complex model capable of accounting for diversity.

The project will draw on contemporary empirical research (largely sociological and anthropological) and current issues that illustrate dilemmas and trade-offs, indicating that there is no easy way out of the problems posed by strong minority (and majority) group identities. The current debates over hijabs in several European countries illustrate the complexities well: to some Muslim women, wearing a hijab is essential for their well-being; to other Muslim women, the hijab signifies exactly the opposite. The tension between arranged and individualised («love») marriages, issues of citizenship (e. g. in Germany), linguistic minority rights versus drives towards homogeneity, and at a more theoretical level the tension between ethnocultural nationalism, multiculturalism and hybridity, reveal that the problems of identity in culturally complex societies have no unequivocal answer. The present project, although comparativist, gives priority to Norwegian and Scandinavian empirical fields.

In the academic literature, several opposing positions need to be articulated with each other. In the theory of nationalism, constructivism and ethnosymbolism are seen as opposites (e.g. Gellner 1983 versus Smith 1991); in ethnicity research, situationalist and essentialist positions are confronted in a similar way (e.g. Roosens 1989 versus de Heusch 2001); in social theory, liberalism and communitarianism have represented different views of the person and different solutions to the question of integration of minorities (Taylor 1992, Kymlicka 2001 etc.); and in sociology, terms such as multiculturalism and hybridity (and to some extent conceps such as diaspora and transnationalism) denote opposing perspectives on social realities. The main issue at stake in all these cases concerns the relationship between group and individual. Since I have, in much of my earlier work, concentrated on the constructivist, hybrid and fluctuating aspects of social identification, I have recently turned to what I see as the other side of the equation, namely the drive towards groupness, community or social integration at a local, “micro” level. In some of my recent work (e.g. Eriksen 2000, 2001, 2004a, 2004b), I have tried to bridge these opposites. Notably, my recent book in Norwegian (Røtter og føtter, literally “Roots and feet”), begins with an account of social identity seen from the perspective of child development and discusses the “double determinisms” of biological and sociocultural conditioning at some length, before examining dynamics of group identity, causes of group boundedness and conditions for their transcendence.

New research to be initiated

Grant applications will be welcomed by MA or prospective Ph. D. students with a documented interest in cultural dynamics and/or social identity processes in the new Norway, and they need not work in one of the empirical fields represented by the steering group. Academic staff from the University of Oslo will also be encouraged to apply for research fellowships of shorter or longer duration within the thematic framework specified above. The steering group is also not a fixed entity, but will change, expand and contract according to circumstances.

The scale of the project depends on its funding and longevity. It will in any case lead to a theoretical sharpening of extant research, providing a certain degree of common direction, and offering productive friction to a variety of diverse and hitherto uncoordinated efforts scattered around the University, as well as funding needed research within the framework outlined above.


A bi-monthly seminar series will be organised, alternating between closed (internal) and open seminar form. The internal seminars will be used for internal presentations, literature reviews and planning of future activities; the open seminars will showcase the research carried out in the group, occasionally featuring invited speakers from abroad. Given that most of the people involved are scattered, the seminar will be the lifeblood of the project.

The project will also organise major conferences presenting both University of Oslo researchers and foreign invitees. In some cases, these conferences may be policy oriented.

Instead of producing an internal series of Working Papers, the project will actively encourage all its participants to publish in the appropriate Norwegian- and English-language journals.

(Working papers will be published on the Web according to need.) A contract for a monograph series may be negotiated with an international publisher. Regarding the predominant language of publication, it must be acknowledged that the disciplines involved often have sound reasons for choosing differently. Publishing in English will nevertheless be encouraged strongly.

In 2004, the five signees of this proposal – one from each of the five faculties – will form the steering group, which is responsible for awarding grants, applying for external research funding, and organising activities.


Organization and funding

The project will be managed by the Department of Social Anthropology. This department has a long and internationally acclaimed history of ethnicity studies (beginning with the seminal work of Barth 1969 and Eidheim 1971), and several members of staff and Ph. D. students are involved in research on intergroup relationships and cultural dynamics in complex societies. Of all the social sciences, anthropology is arguably the one closest in methodology and intellectual tradition to the humanities, and it is thus well positioned for the kind of interdisciplinarity envisioned here.

Prof. Thomas Hylland Eriksen will function as project leader. He has contributed academic and popular writings to various domains in the field since the 1980s, and his textbook on ethnicity and nationalism (Eriksen 1993/2002) is used at universities in many countries. The project will, moreover, require some administrative support, but hardly more than 50% of a position devoted to maintenance of the web site and the everyday running of the project. In addition, project management, including evaluation of applications, the practical organisation of seminars and other forms of networking have to be assigned. Some of these tasks will be given to the Ph. D. students.

The staff is envisioned to comprise two Ph. D. students, up to ten MA students on one-year grants, a project leader conferences, and four to six researchers on fellowships of variable duration – from a few months (typically for writing up) to three years (typically for a postdoctoral project). It is, moreover, our intention to solicit additional funding for research projects from the Norwegian Research Council and the public sector (ministries, UDI etc.).

Apart from the project leader, who will work full-time on his own research, coordination and external fundraising, no staff members have been named so far in the process.

A note on location

Most of the people involved in the project will be dispersed all over the University. Since this is an interdisciplinary project which emphasises networking and intellectual cross-fertilisation, that is no disadvantage. However, it is desirable that whoever constitutes the full-time project staff at any time are physically located to one place. Co-localisation with IMER/MiFA would help further in attaining a critical mass, that is to say a small but functioning academic community devoted to a delimited cluster of problems.


External networks 

There are several clusters of scholars in Norway, particularly in Oslo and Bergen, who are involved in research on immigration and the ensuing minority issues. At NOVA, important research is being carried out on identity processes in the “second generation”; FAFO has produced numerous reports on conditions of life and the labour market; researchers at ISAF have studied, inter alia, immigration policy, the multiculturalism debate and discrimination in the labour market; and at NIBR, Oslo University College and IMER/Bergen, likewise, substantial work is being done. Collaboration, complementarity and synergy with regards to these groups are inevitable and desirable.

It should also be noted that three of the applicants (Eriksen, Morken and Kjeldstadli) have been involved, since its start in autumn 2003, in the UiO project MiFA (Minoriteter i Forskning og Akademia; Minorities in Research and the Academy), which aims to facilitate academic studies for people with minority backgrounds, and which is also developing a BA programme in IMER studies. Close collaboration between MiFA/IMER and the present project is envisioned.

At the level of international collaboration, individual scholars connected with the project have extensive global networks, which will be drawn upon situationally when circumstances deem it necessary. Some are also involved in international research projects dealing with these issues.


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Publisert 18. mai 2011 13:59