NATION Updates


Foreign Fighters, Syria Travellers and Difficult Questions about Norwegian Citizenship

Katrine Fangen (Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo) and Åshild Kolås (PRIO) recently published an article in Critical Studies on Terrorism: ‘The “Syria traveller”: Reintegration or legal sanctioning?’. The article analyses Norwegian media discourses, policy documents, and parliamentary debates on Islamist radicalization, with a focus on a new category of people known as ‘Syria travellers’: young Norwegians who go to Syria to fight for the Islamic State.

Foreign fighters returning from Syria have emerged as a looming security threat in many European countries, so also in Norway. As well as preventive measures against radicalization and mobilization by the Islamic State, there have been calls for the withdrawal of citizenship and deportation of returned foreign fighters. This raises a number of questions. Are Norwegians more secure if we send potential terrorists out of the country? Is this even feasible, if Norway wants to stay within the ‘border-free’ Europe? What are the trade-offs between security and civil rights to citizenship, and how can they best be balanced? There would also be issues related to the nature of Norwegian citizenship. Is citizenship essentially something that needs to be earned, or is it an inalienable right? Is withdrawal of citizenship acceptable as a form of punishment? What are the potential implications of opening up such a pandora’s box?


Successful workshop: 'Lived Experiences of the Everyday Nation'

The workshop ‘Lived Experiences of the Everyday Nation’ was held in Oslo, 9-10 June 2016. The workshop was part of the PRIO-led project ‘Negotiating the Nation: Implications of ethnic and religious diversity for national identity (NATION)’. Keynotes were given by Marco Antonsich (University of Loughborough) on the topic ‘The ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘when’ and ‘where’ of the everyday/banal nation’ and by Kirsten Simonsen (University of Roskilde) on the topic ‘(Re)scaling identities: on the possibilities of belonging’.

The workshop gathered international researchers from various disciplines following a call for paper and a competitive process. The common denominator of the participants was the conceptualizations and experiences of the nation in everyday life, although with a myriad of entry points, such as, among others, through migration, first impressions, poetry and popular music, love, affect, and a majority/minority axis and beyond. The workshop also included a session on methodological approaches on studying the everyday nation.

PRIO researchers Marta Bivand Erdal, Cindy Horst, and Mette Strømsø represented PRIO at the workshop.


MA thesis completed: Nation building in the King`s New Year`s Speeches

Sandra Feride Demiri has completed the thesis she wrote in affiliation with the NATION project. In her thesis, she explore how changing notions of “Norwegian-ness” are reflected and negotiated by the Norwegian King in his New Year`s speeches dating from 1960 to 2014.

In Norway, the period from 1960 onward is characterized by increased ethnic, religious and cultural diversity. This has influenced existing notions of who “we” are as a nation, who belongs to it and by which criteria. Because of his unifying role as a national symbol, the King has a unique position in these kinds of negotiations. He must balance multiple, potentially conflicting, notions of “Norwegian-ness” and strive to create consensus. Based on the notions of “Norwegian-ness” that were most prominent, the period from 1960 to 2014 can be divided in three. In the first period, from 1960 to 1985, Norway was constructed as a humanitarian, peace-loving nation. This self-image created notions of a national mission of peace-building and therefore also an important role internationally. In the second period, from 1986 to 2001, the King explicitly defined Norway as a Christian-cultural nation. Outwardly, the nation appeared as a cultural contributor, and consequently “we” could take pride in “our” cultural treasures. In the final period, from 2002 to 2014, Norway was constructed as a multicultural and diverse nation. The King addressed features that can be unifying and shared across ethnic, religious and cultural differences, such as respect, care and understanding. The Constitution, democracy and human rights constitute the national boundary, and are important prerequisites for the King`s nonthreatening notion of diversity.

The thesis was written in Norwegian. Read it here.
A corresponding op-ed was published in Aftenposten. Read it here.


Call for abstracts: Lived experiences of the everyday nation

We invite abstracts for a workshop on ‘Lived experiences of the everyday nation’. The workshop focuses on the implications of migration-related diversity for lived experiences of the everyday nation, and whether and in which ways negotiations of national identity take place in diverse contexts.

We draw inspiration from studies of nationalism which have dismantled a focus on ‘when’ and ‘what’ and instead turned to ‘how’ and ‘where’, notably including Anderson’s ‘imagined communities’ (1983) and Billig’s ‘banal nationalism’ (1995). Subsequent research has specifically focused on ‘everyday nationhood’ (Fox and Miller-Idriss 2008) and ‘everyday ethnicity’ (Brubaker 2006), including connections between the everyday and banal nationalism (Antonsich 2015), a foregrounding of alternative temporalities of national identity (Edensor 2006), and attention to embodied and material dimensions of reproducing the nation (Halderup et al 2006).

We invite contributions that are based on empirical research, either with a specific case or synthesizing across cases. We encourage contributions with a focus on countries or localities of immigration and diversity, but also of emigration, drawing on cases worldwide that are characterized by ethnic and religious diversity. We welcome contributions based on qualitative and quantitative approaches, as well as comparative studies. Contributions which engage critically with the intersecting concepts of national identity, nationalism, banal nationalism, and everyday nationhood are encouraged.

Marco Antonsich (Loughborough University) and Kirsten Simonsen (Roskilde University) will give key note presentations as part of the workshop.

More information HERE. Please submit abstracts via the online form by 20 January 2016.



Forhandler vi om norskhet?

Et seminar om nasjonal identitet og felleskap

Dette seminaret er en del av prosjektet ‘Forhandlinger om nasjonen: Følger av etnisk og religiøst mangfold for nasjonal identitet’ (NATION) som er ledet av PRIO. Prosjektet utforsker hvordan økt mangfold påvirker opplevelser og forståelser av nasjonen som fellesskap. Vi fokuserer på forhandlinger om nasjonen, nasjonal identitet og tilhørighet i Norge.

Forhandlinger om nasjonen kan foregå på alle plan i samfunnet vårt; i våre hverdagsliv, i barnehagen og på legekontoret. Tilhørighet og fellesskap oppleves og forhandles om lokalt og i hverdagen, på alle arenaer hvor involverte mennesker påvirkes-når man blir kjent på tvers av skillelinjer, når konflikter oppstår, og når forhandlinger foregår. Politikkutvikling er en ramme for de forhandlingene som pågår, enten statlige aktører er med på, eller legger til rette for, forhandlinger om hvem vi er som nasjon, samtidig er den offentlige debatten i tradisjonelle så vel som sosiale media førende.

Seminaret 6 november finner sted midtveis i prosjektperioden, og vi inviterer bidragsytere  innenfor og utenfor akademia til å belyse spørsmålet: «Forhandler vi om norskhet?». Foreløpige analyser, funn og observasjoner fra NATION-prosjektet vil også presenteres. Det er satt av tid til spørsmål og diskusjon.

Les seminarprogrammet og meld deg på her. 

Photo:  © Werner Anderson and Anders Adermark, Jan Richard Tallaksen, Fonna Seidu, Sparebank1 / CCBY from


The immigration rhetoric of right-wing populist politicians in office and in opposition

By Katrine Fangen (University of Oslo) and Mari Vaage (formerly University of Oslo)

Right-wing populist parties have in common the fact that they are anti-establishment. In addition, most support a restrictive immigration policy, and some appeal to xenophobia in their anti- immigration arguments. What happens to the immigrant rhetoric of right-wing populist parties when they become part of a government? It has been possible to study this question in some European countries where right-wing populists have entered government, whereas in Norway it is a new situation, which we have been able to follow since 2013.  We have looked into the differences between statements proffered by current Progress Party politicians in office, compared with statements from Progress Party politicians who do not hold government positions. We are especially looking at strategies that establish national identity and strategies that maintain, defend and reproduce the national narrative (a key focus of the NATION project). With regard to the politicians in office, we see tendencies towards adapting and toning down their radical agenda, and at the same time tendencies toward real efforts to stand by previous policies and emphasise that they have followed up on their voters’ desires. This raises questions about what the party's position on immigration policy should be in the future. Should the position be defined by the disruptive factors that fronts the party’s right to ‘speak its mind on behalf of the people’? Or should the party’s course be defined by a more moderate rhetoric, which contributes to the Progress Party appearing to be a responsible party which still carries out a restrictive immigration policy, but where such policy is based on factual arguments, instead of scaremongering rhetoric? A third alternative is to distinguish between what the Progress Party stands for when they are in government, in contrast to what constitutes the party's actual profile. Such a view may be understood as a legitimisation of contributions made by Progress Party representatives without a position in the government, and may be an attempt to keep voters despite the fact that the Progressive Party in government must moderate itself. In any case, it seems that Progress Party politicians must make some important choices about what their common policy should be in the future. The challenge for Progress Party politicians in office is how to deal with declining support. Putting the immigration issue at the forefront may be a way to seek renewed support. 

See article in Norwegian:


Announcement of two MA projects in connection with NATION

The NATION project invites interested MA students (Norwegian speaking) to write their Master’s thesis in conjunction with the project. The projects have been announced through the ‘Science shop’ at the University of Oslo, where more information can be found. MA project I: A comparative study of negotiations around the construction of religious buildings The study will be comparative, with case-studies of two (or more) different construction processes of religious buildings, one a mosque, and the other, for instance, a temple. The starting point of the study is the claim that the construction of religious buildings in local neighborhoods is likely to have an impact. What sorts of reactions are those? How are such buildings received? How are different reactions managed and negotiated? MA project II: Lived experiences of religious diversity and negotiating Norwegianness. This study should move beyond a singular focus on Islam and Muslims by including a variety of religious and life-stance positions. The MA project should mainly draw on data gathered about everyday lived experiences, which may be supplemented by perspectives on public debates and discourses, organized interfaith activities and projects, or a combination of these. The NATION project’s existing links with the mosque construction project at Mortensrud, and with the Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities, are suggested as possible relevant entry points for the two MA projects.

Photo: richardtallaksen/


#JegErNorsk  -  #IAmNorwegian

Public debate in Norway in the spring of 2015 has involved a lively discussion about Norwegianness, spurred by a web-documentary produced by a leading Norwegian newspaper, Aftenposten. NATION-researchers Marta Bivand Erdal and Rojan Ezzati contributed an op-ed to the debate ‘On becoming Norwegian’ also posted as a blog post in English. This piece discusses national identity by looking at various factors that may suggest inclusion – or exclusion, set within the context of Norwegian debates, but with significant parallels to debates throughout Europe. National identity is now central to public debates on immigration and integration, and managing societal diversity has become highly politicized, with concerns about security and migration often becoming conflated.  The Aftenposten web-documentary featured young minority background Norwegians who reflected on the ambivalence of multi-dimensional identities, in particular those including family migration histories, and their sense of a lacking recognition for their lived experiences within the framework of current articulations of Norwegianness.

Photo: Rojan Tordhol Ezzati


Second internal project workshop and advisory board meeting

In March 2015 the NATION project team met at PRIO to discuss work in progress. Data collection in Work Package 2 on the macro level – state-  policy documents, speeches, laws, parliamentary debates, as well as interviews with civil servants, is completed spring 2015. Analysis and writing based on the data is starting and will focus on selected entry points into understanding the dynamics of ‘negotiating the nation’ from a state perspective.  Data collection in Work Package 3 on the meso level – media-  opinion pieces, letters to editors, comments and editorials, from five Norwegian newspapers is now completed. The data collected covers the period 1 January 2011  - 31 December 2014, and consist of more than 13 000 items. The data will be selectively analysed, investigating a number of themes and debates, central to questions of nationhood and diversity. Data collection in Work Package 4 on the micro level – individual’s lived experiences – is starting up and is ongoing Summer 2015 – Spring 2016. The data collection consists of two parts – interviews with adults in Oslo, Western and Northern Norway – and upper high school pupil’s essays combined with focus group discussions with the same pupils in 4 upper high schools in different parts of Norway.  The advisory board meeting provided valuable input on approaches, potential and pitfalls for the study involving upper high school pupils, for which the NATION project team is very grateful.

NATION Researchers and Advisory Board members, March 2015


New op-ed:  Always an immigrant, never Norwegian

In this op-ed NATION researchers Marta Bivand Erdal and Rojan Tordhol Ezzati discuss how ethnicity and country of origin are often claimed to be the key factors for determining whether or not integration will be successful. Other important factors, such as gender or temporal dimensions, are seen as secondary. This contributes to the one-track nature of debates about integration, where factors such as age at time of arrival, whether you are born in Norway, your length of stay and where you are in your life, are not given sufficient attention. Politicians, the media and researchers tend to focus on where a person “is from”. But in our research on migration, transnational ties and integration processes – including on the relative strength of sense of attachment to Norway versus sense of attachment to people and places in other countries – we find that three other questions are just as relevant: “When did you come to Norway?”; “How old were you when you arrived?” and “What stage of your life are you at now?”

The op-ed was published in Bergens Tidende, 22 January 2015. Read it here.
An English version was also posted on the PRIO blog, 4 February 2015. Read it here.

Photo: stereotyp-0815/


MA thesis under work in affiliation with the NATION project: Negotiating the nation in the King's New Year's speeches

Sandra Feride Demiri is a sociology student at the University of Oslo, who is writing her master thesis in conjunction with the NATION project. She examines how national identity is constructed in the Norwegian King`s New Year speeches from the year 2000 to 2015. By doing this she focuses on how the King uses his power of definition to create notions of sameness and difference, and thereby is involved as an actor in the negotiation of the nation. Drawing on previous studies of media debates on minorities in Norway, possible tensions between these debates and how the King addresses and incorporates minorities in the national community are also examined. Because the King plays a unifying role as a national symbol, he can be expected to express an inclusive form of national identity through incorporation of “acceptable” aspects of religious and ethnic diversity. A precondition for this, however, is that aspects seen as “problematic” are less emphasized. Examining the King`s speeches in light of media debates can therefore tell us something about aspects of diversity which are seen as problematic or acceptable, in relation to national identity.  

Karin Beate Nøsterud/
Photo: Karin Beate Nøsterud/

Second internal project workshop and advisory board meeting


Op-ed on citizenship in the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv

NATION researcher Marta Bivand Erdal published an op-ed together with Tove Heggli Sagmo on the Norwegian law on citizenship. In the op-ed they suggest that the citizenship law is obsolete, since it in most cases does not allow dual citizenship. 

Read the op-ed at the PRIO Blog here.


NATION internal workshop and advisory board meeting

At the one-day workshop, all researchers involved met at PRIO to discuss the project’s conceptual landscape, share NATION perspectives, planning methodological development and planning the international components of the project. During the NATION Advisory board meeting a discussion was organized on ethnic and religious diversity in order to broaden the participants’ perspectives on diversity. The project participants also presented ideas for a project paper, and the planned methods of data collection to the board members.

Micheal Collyer , Sarvendra Tharmalingam, Espen Thorud, Lise Tørnby, Thomas Lacroix, Mikkel Rytter, Grete Brochmann, Katrine Fangen, Silje Vatne Pettersen, Mari Vaage, Marta Bivand Erdal, Rojan Ezzati, Mette Strømsø, Åshild Kolås, Bjørn Olav Megard.

NATION Researchers and Advisory Board members, February 2014