ISS: Nonreligion and migration

The religious and nonreligious framing of migrants and their descendants in Nordic public policies and debates.

Nonreligion and migration: Project logo


This project is part of the large international project “Nonreligion in a Complex Future”, which studies nonreligion in the area of law, health, education, migration and the environment in Canada, USA, UK, Australia, Brazil, Venezuela, and the Nordic Countries. The project is based at University of Ottawa, Canada. 

More specifically, this project is within the topic of nonreligion and migration, and the aim is to study the framing of migrants and their descendants when it comes to religion/nonreligion in public policy documents and debates. The study can include Norway only, but preferably two or more Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway).

Research questions

1. Is there a tendency to elide national/ethnic identity with religious identity?

  1. Do these public policies and debates make assumptions about the religious and not religious identities of different groups of migrants? Is there a tendency to assume explicitly or implicitly, for instance, that migrants from certain regions carry the religious identities commonly associated with those regions?
  2. If so, is there an assumption that they are religiously engaged with those religions?
  3. How are migrants from countries that have no commonly recognized religious majority framed in this regard? Is there an absence of any religious framing, or positive nonreligious framing? In that regard, does ethnicity stand in for any religious/nonreligious framing?

2. How are nonreligious identities framed?

  1. Is nonreligious identity positively framed, negatively framed or is it just treated as an absence or as something not mentioned?
  2. Is diversity among the nonreligious observed? If so, how is it understood?

3. Who contests such framings? Are specific groups formed to contest such framings? Do these or other groups, such as humanist associations, atheist societies, etc., engage in debates on these issues? What is that basis of such contestation?

4. In general, do nonreligious migrants identify as such positively? If so, who are they? How do they contrast themselves or relate to possible attributions in debates and policies as default religious according to their ethnic/national origin?

5. Is there a change over time with regard to these questions?


Research questions 1 & 2: Data may consist of public policy documents like governmental whitepapers (Stortingsmeldinger), NoU (Norges offentlige utredninger), action plans (handlingsplaner), etc. If the focus is on public debates, data may consist of traditional mainstream media, like newspaper articles, TV, and perhaps social media.

Research question 3 & 4: Data may consist of pre-existing information about specific groups, interviews with leaders and activists, and traditional and social media.


The student will be involved in the Nordic and international network of the project. There may be student stipends for travels to project meetings, but this will be dependent upon the COVID-19 situation. The findings of the MA thesis will be communicated to the rest of the research team and the MA thesis will be published on the website of the project.

Project period

The project will last for one year.

Project leader

Inger Furseth

Professor, Institutt for sosiologi og samfunnsgeografi


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The principal investigator of “Nonreligion in a Complex Future” is of Professor Lori Beaman at University of Ottawa, Canada. Professor Inger Furseth is a Co-Investigator who directs a Nordic research group. Furseth if professor in sociology at University of Oslo, who has conducted various research projects and written several books and articles in the sociology of religion. Her research focus is on religion and nonreligion, religious extremism, Muslim women, social movements, gender and social theory.

Emneord: Human Geography, Religionsvitenskap, Sosiologi, Samfunnsgeografi, Social Anthropology, Sosialantropologi
Publisert 26. juni 2020 11:45 - Sist endret 26. juni 2020 12:58