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Learning to be Norwegian : a case study of identity management in religious education in Norway

By Lars Laird Eriksen


My PhD project is called ”Learning to be Norwegian. Religion and national\ud identity in religious education in Norway.” It is a case study of how religion is\ud mobilised in the construction of national identity, both from above and below.\ud The "above" perspective is operationalised as a discourse analysis of Curricula\ud in Norway from 1974 to 2008. The “below” perspective is operationalised as\ud participant observation in classrooms, following 15 teachers in 3 secondary\ud schools in Eastern Norway.\ud In terms of theoretical questions asked of this material, I engage with the\ud literature on multiculturalism in Western Europe (Barry 2001, Baumann 1996,\ud 1999, Eriksen 2007, Fuglerud and Eriksen 2007, Joppke 2004, 2009, Modood\ud 2007, Parekh 2006, Phillips 2007). I identify a distinction between liberalists,\ud multiculturalists and hybridists in terms of the key question: What is the best\ud way to understand groups with identity claims? My main claim to originality in\ud is that people can be described as engaging in fluidising and solidifying\ud practices – making social structures more fluid or more solid through their social\ud activities. This implies that there are different levels of viscosity in how solid or\ud fluid groups with identity claims are. Theorists dealing with groups with identity\ud claims, including the sociology of religion, education and identity, would benefit\ud from a variable social ontology of groups. I propose that the terms “Viscosity” -\ud “boundaries” and “work”, taken together provide one such framework that\ud works well with my data.\ud Significant empirical findings include a shift over time in the meaning of the\ud term “values”. In 1974, the word “values” was connected primarily with ethics\ud in the formal curricula. By the 1990s this had changed. It was now also, and\ud dominantly, connected to notions of identity. Religion is consistently mobilised\ud for identity through metaphors of personal stability, or and through establishing\ud metaphorical connections that make the nation appear as sharing crucial features\ud with the individual self.\ud These ideas are revisited in classroom ethnographic data. The assumptions found\ud in the curriculum are challenged by the practices of teachers and pupils. It is\ud clear that the most important concepts of identity, such as “Muslim” or\ud “Norwegian” are being worked on by defining what and who is on the inside\ud and what and who is on the outside. Nevertheless, the classrooms become\ud effective learning communities, though more through shared actions, shared\ud discussions and well-managed disagreement than through sameness and shared\ud values. Teachers and pupils use the concept of “facts” both to further their own\ud normative arguments, but also to remain out of the reach of accusations of\ud cultural or religious insensitivity. Finally, my study undermines static\ud conceptions of how discourses affect the social world. As an alternative, I try to\ud develop an understanding of actors engaging in fluidising and solidifying\ud practices

Topics: BL, LB
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:4525

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