Impossible presence: race, nation and the cultural politics of ‘being Norwegian’
© 2014 Taylor & Francis. Norwegians of African descent often find themselves at the centre of debates regarding the ‘problem’ of immigrant integration, the challenge of self-identification and the elusive nature of the multicultural promise. This essay examines how Norwegians of African descent perceive and (re)construct the ideological processes through which they are incorporated into understandings of the nation. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2005 and 2011, I analyse two extended interviews that represent key questions raised during discussions with forty interviewees. How does one engage the presumption of solidarity and universal goodness, common to characterizations of the Nordic region, which nevertheless render certain bodies and identities illegible and ‘impossible’? How is race ascribed meaning in the Norwegian context? My interlocutors invoke a particular moral vocabulary of belonging when describing experiences with implicit and explicit forms of racism. These ‘encounter narratives’ reveal national anxieties about race and cultural belonging, situated within historical preoccupations with identity and ‘sameness’.
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