Value-talk after terrorism: Articulating a united 'we' and a divided 'us'

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Ezzati, Rojan Tordhol (2020) Value-talk after terrorism: Articulating a united 'we' and a divided 'us', Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 47(1): 130–147.

Whether Muslim immigrants can adapt to Western values is a recurring theme in European contestation over diversity. Yet, a review of literature that engages with ‘values’ in studies of race, ethnicity, and nationalism reveals a dominant and narrow conceptualisation: values as core trait of groups. This conceptualisation reinforces an idea that values mark strict boundaries between homogenous and dichotomous ‘us’ and ‘them’. ‘Values’ figure particularly prominently in post-terror public debates. An analysis of value-talk after the 2011 terror attacks in Norway shows a prevailing narrative of value-based unity: an enlarged ‘we’ that supersedes ethnic and religious divisions. Simultaneously, the post-terror setting shows an ‘us’ articulated in contrast to the extremist Other who attacks ‘our values’, the immigrant Other that threatens those ‘values’, and the multiculturalist Other who fails to protect them. Drawing on well-known insights on the complex dynamics of racial, ethnic, and national relations, this article untangles the variability in ‘us’ and ‘them’ articulated through value-talk. It thus challenges widely accepted approaches to values as core traits that divide cultural or political groups. Instead, it brings attention to how value-talk works as expressions of multiple and changing constellations of ‘we’, ‘us’, and ‘them’ in contestation over diversity.​

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