NIBR at the 3rd Nordic Conference for Rural Research 8 – 10 September 2014

By Aadne Aasland, senior researcher, NIBR International Department

NIBR was well represented at the third biannual Nordic Conference for Rural Research. This year Trondheim was the venue of this cross-disciplinary event, dealing with social challenges and policy issues that are currently confronting Nordic rural areas.

The Munkholmen islet in the Trondheimsfjord. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

One of the topics that were high up on the agenda at this year’s conference was immigration to Nordic rural districts. In a key-note speech Susanna Stenbacka from the University of Uppsala used data from the NIBR-coordinated project “The Multiethnic Rural Community – Inclusion or Exclusion of Immigrants?” to discuss how resilience can be sustained in rural areas through international migration. She accounted for both individual strategies among refugees that she had interviewed in Swedish rural areas, and also community strategies for making use of the resources that refugees bring into the community.

Photo: Odd Roger Langørgen, Centre for Rural Research, Trondheim

NIBR researchers Susanne Søholt and Aadne Aasland chaired a working group at the conference with eight prepared papers on the impact of international migration on rural welfare and local development. The papers in the working group reflected the large number of angles that this phenomenon is studied from. It included papers with basis in a variety of disciplines (sociology, political science, geography, anthropology, business studies) and with very different methodological approaches. The papers brought in perspectives ranging from the immigrants’ bodies, via the households to the local communities, national policies and impact of global phenomena.

Four papers by NIBR researchers were presented in this working group. Guri Mette Vestbylooked at variations in place knowledge and place attachment among different types of newcomers in Norwegian rural districts. She stressed that if the municipality wants newcomers to settle, such differences need to be taken into account.

Photo: Odd Roger Langørgen, Centre for Rural Research, Trondheim

Aadne Aasland and Susanne Søholt gave a paper on immigrant segregation and neighbourhood hierarchies in three rural municipalities of Norway using register data and GIS analysis to reveal settlement patterns at local level. Immigrant segregation is rather low, and immigrants appear no less likely than native Norwegians to settle in neighbourhoods reflecting their own socio-economic status.

Kristian Tronstad used register data and statistical analysis to illuminate settlement patterns among Norway’s new immigrants. He found quite different patterns in Norway compared to what has previously been found in Sweden with more emphasis on employment opportunities and less on quality of life and marriage migration.

Photo: Odd Roger Langørgen, Centre for Rural Research, Trondheim

Ottar Brox gave a presentation arguing that immigration to rural areas, which is commonly referred to as a “rural rescue” preventing depopulation in the districts, in reality implies a number of negative effects on the wage structure and work environment with increasing class divisions as a result.

The working group was well attended with more than 30 participants from all Nordic countries. The majority of the papers dealt with immigration to rural Norway. This might be a result of the topic being larger and higher up on the policy agenda in Norway than in the other Nordic countries.

The social programme consisted in a sightseeing and dinner at the island of Munkholmen. In two years the 4th Nordic Conference for Rural Research will be organised in Akureyri, Iceland.

Do indigenous rights claims to natural resources help or hinder democracy in Nepal?

By Peris Sean Jones

The article Powering up the people? The politics of indigenous rights implementation: International Labour Organisation Convention 169 and hydroelectric power in Nepal looks at the role of International Labour Organisation Convention 169 (ILO 169) in struggles for indigenous rights. Nepal is a particularly apposite example, where ILO 169 is currently being invoked and contested in a process of political and state restructuring. The article focuses upon one sector, namely, water resources pertaining to hydroelectric power (HEP) development, with data based upon interviews with key stakeholders at both capital and district and local level, and also visits to three HEP project sites.

Ripuk within the Barun Valley, Nepal. Photo: Dhilung Kirat / Wiki Commons

Two main lessons are imparted primarily about rights-based approaches in general and indigenous rights more specifically. First, while ILO standards can be used to identify a country-level political and institutional vacuum and to promote procedural and substantive standards, implementation is hostage to entrenched political patronage and political culture. Second, rights-based approaches have their own effects particularly when claims are interpreted as absolute group rights, especially in highly diverse societies. An overall dilemma remains for Nepal: while significant political gains have emerged from indigenous rights movement mobilisation there is still a striking absence of (new) constitutional provisions, concrete institutional mechanisms, policy guidelines and delivery of tangible local benefits and with indications of high caste and other groups backlash.

More on ILO 169 and Nepal here on the blog

Will Ukraine Perish? Regional Differences, National Conflict

Ukraine is a divided country. Economically, ethnically, in terms of language and demography. But is Ukraine too divided to survive?
by Mikkel Berg-Nordlie and Jørn Holm-Hansen

“Ukraine has not yet perished”, is the title of Ukraine’s national anthem. A somewhat sombre and defensive statement. Yet, you’ll agree it is fitting if you know some Ukrainian history.

Photo: Trond Vedeld

From Unity to Division
The Medievial Kingdom of Rus, the first “Russia”, was founded in and ruled from Kyiv, the contemporary capital of Ukraine. That power proved difficult to hold: Rus was constantly plagued by internal conflict and invading tribes. The Mongols dealt the final blow. Most of Rus fell under the Khan’s rule, but some regions instead came under Western influence. When Russia rose again, she was centered on Moscow, further north.

From Centre to Periphery
A tug of war now began between Muscovy and its Western neighbors – and the Ottomans and Crimean Tatars to the south. Who would control the old heartlands of Rus? The centre had been reduced to a periphery – a fact even reflected in the name now given to the area:
Ukrayina, meaning “the Frontier”.

Russian and Polish-Lithuanian forces in battle (Painting by Jan Chryzostom Pasek. Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Patchwork State
Fast forward to modern times. Ukraine is now a sovereign state, centered on Kyiv. Yet, present-day Ukraine is a patchwork of regions carrying different historical legacies. In the east and south, Russian language dominates completely – and many people there have a Russian ethnic identity. The northwest is the core area of Ukrainian language and identity. On the southern Crimean Peninsula, the Tatars form a third group. In itself, this does not necessitate conflict – not at all. And yet, politics in Ukraine have come to revolve around the issues of identity and language.

An East-West Political Split
The Party of Regions, which currently holds power in Ukraine, caters to the interests of Russian-speaking Ukrainians. The opposition, conversely, argues that Ukrainian should be the sole official language throughout Ukraine. Under the Party of Regions, several of Ukraine’s southern and eastern regions have been allowed to use Russian as a co-official language. This has infuriated the opposition.

Opposition rally on Independence Day, carrying “the world’s biggest Ukrainian flag” (Photo: Mikkel Berg-Nordlie)

Partisan Celebrations
The political split runs deep, as was evident on this year’s Independence Day celebrations in Kyiv: the Party of Regions and the opposition bloc arranged separate events. The opposition held their rally by the statue of the author and national icon Taras Shevchenko, whereas the Party of Regions organized a concert and political appeals by the statue of the old Cossack chief Bogdan Khmelnitskiy.

The Party of Regions’ Independence Day concert and rally (Photo: Mikkel Berg-Nordlie)

Opposing Parties – To A Certain Extent
Differences aside, the outside observer can’t help but noticing some similarities. Commentators often tend to portray the Party of Regions and their followers as pro-Russian, and the opposition as anti-Russian. However, the similarities in symbolism on this day were striking: Ukrainian colors and ethnic traditional patterns were displayed prominently and proudly, and independence was celebrated as an unquestioned good. These were not rallies by one pro-independence party and one pro-Moscow party.

They do, however, differ when it comes to the role of Russian language and culture. Should the fact that large segments of the population use Russian in everyday conversation be reflected in schools and public administration? After all, 38.6% of the population speak Russian at home, and a further 17.1% use both Russian and Ukrainian in the domestic contexts.

A Battle For Hearts, Minds and Tongues
Outside observers tend to focus on whether or not the country should orient itself more towards Europe/NATO or Russia – and whether or not Ukraine will remain independent.

Arguably, leaders in both of the major political blocs have a vested interest in keeping Ukraine independent – at the end of the day. Fronts are stauncher when it comes to the fate of Russophone and ethnically Russian Ukrainians – and about the status of the Ukrainian language. The latter is, despite its official status, under fundamental pressure from Russian.

Who Is The Minority?
Within Ukraine, Russian is technically a minority language – although not by much. Denying Russophone Ukrainans the right to communicate with the authorities in their mother tongue falls short of certain standards for minority rights. However, if we ‘scale up’, looking at the wider region, Ukrainian is the little brother to the Russian lingua franca. Hence, from the perspective of Ukrainophones there is a pressing need to ensure their language’s survival in the long run. Norway’s historical experience must be a chilling example for the Ukrainophone crowd.

Taras Schevchenko, the father of Ukrainian literature (Image: Wikimedia Commons).

Ukrainian – A Future Minority Language?
When Norway gained independence from Denmark, a language debate broke out here too. On the one hand, proponents of Nynorsk – a new written standard reflecting certain Norwegian dialects. On the other, those who wanted to continue using Danish (Bokmål), which after four hundred years under Denmark had become the language of Norway’s cities and elite.

Both languages were made official. But today Nynorsk is a minority language mainly used in the southwest. The dominant position of Danish gave it a head start, and this fact has made it the language of choice for most Norwegians.

The cases are not completely equal. Firstly, the Ukrainian language is big enough to eat both versions of Norwegian whole – its existence is not as precarious as Nynorsk. Secondly, the success of Bokmål is also due to it having allowed more and more Norwegian traits to ‘seep into’ the written standard.

Still, the similarities are big enough that we may ask: faced with a very similar ‘big brother’, entrenched in the cities and economically dominant areas, will Ukrainian dwindle to become a minority language in the northwest?

Will Ukrainian share that fate, becoming a minority language in the northwest?

The Dominance of the East

The Russophone East is has most of the urban areas, and is both demographically and economically dominant in Ukraine. This is a continuing development which does not bode well for the future of Ukrainian. Also, it is a development that the suppression of Russophones will hardly do anything about.

Ukraine itself does not seem to be perishing. At least not from the language conflict, although the economic crisis is an altogether different matter. The Ukrainian language, in the long run, is a better subject for such a question. Its fundamental problem may, however, lie in the economic and demographic backwardness of the West, not in the fact that people speak Russian in the East and South.

NIBR has had research projects in Ukraine for a long time, for example on the improvement of service delivery in local government.

This year, NIBR’s International Dept. decided to expand our competence by giving the entire department a crash course in understanding Ukraine. Our partners, The Kyiv National Economic University (KNEU), arranged a one-day conference on regional differences in their country.

From left to right: Larisa Leontiivna Antonyuk (KNEU), Vivica Williams (KNEU), Marit Haug (NIBR), Olena Ihorivna Tsyrkun (KNEU)
Photo: Mikkel Berg-Nordlie

In the Wake of Terrorism: Countering Discourses of Ethnic Hatred

On July 22 Norway was hit by a terrorist attack against the Government and the Labor Party’s youth camp. While the perpetrator’s actions are unprecedented in Norwegian history, the ideology that he sought to promote is one that has gained popularity over the past ten years.

By Mikkel Berg-Nordlie

As the psychological shockwave of the attack spread throughout the Norwegian public, it was notable how commentators and politicians were encouraging the public to stay calm, rather than stooping to jingoism and promises of revenge. As we now know, the days that followed were to continue in this pattern. It was demonstrated, among other things through the massive ‘Rose Marches’ that were held throughout the country some days later, that it is possible to react against terrorism in a decent manner.

There were, however, some people in Norway who in those early hours displayed no such decency.

A Militant Minority’s Counter-Reaction

These were the ones who saw the assumed “Islamist terror attack” as a confirmation of long-held beliefs, and were not slow to target Norway’s Moslems and Leftists in the midst of the turmoil.

A local mayoral candidate for the right-wing Progress Party used the opportunity to call for people to vote for him instead of “naïve” left-wingers (NRK.no 01.08.2011). On the Facebook wall of Per-Willy Amundsen, the party’s spokesman for immigration issues, certain of his supporters expressed hopes that “the dead are pro-immigration socialists” or “the Prime Minister himself” (Dagsavisen.no 22.07). These statements caused an outrage among other people writing on the same FB wall, and Amundsen himself shut the debate down not long after.

In more extreme corners of the Internet, however, such sentiments were not censored. At the right-wing website Gates of Vienna, the widely read Norwegian blogger known as ‘Fjordman’ dismissed the government under attack as “the most dhimmi appeasing of all Western governments (…) suicidal and cowardly”, and the youth organization whose members were being massacred was brushed off as “an anti-Israeli, pro-Palestine crowd of young Socialists”. Dhimmi is a catchword in anti-Moslem circles, implying non-Moslems who are considered subservient to the Islamic ‘invaders’.
Header and typical sidebar ads from ‘the Gates of Vienna’ (Screencap montage).

Others manifested their hate on the streets rather than on the Web. There were inhabitants of Oslo who experienced 22.7.11 as a difficult day to be a person of ‘Moslem appearance’ – that is to say, being dressed in traditional Moslem garb, or simply being a dark-skinned person. The newspaper Dagsavisen reported that several people experienced harassment, one man for example being forced out of a subway train by angry co-passengers (Dagsavisen.no 25.07.2011).

As it were, the terrorist attack turned out to be connected not to Islamism, but to the mindset manifested precisely by this aggressive, xenophobic crowd.

A Right-Wing Terrorists’ Text Compendium
In the perpetrator’s so-called manifesto, the impending massacres are referred to as its “marketing operation”, an idea both betraying a chilling disregard for human life and an extremely inflated self-image: the ideas promoted in this book did not need publicity – we have heard it all before.

In fact, the book is to a large degree copied from other people’s work – making it more of a text compendium than a ‘manifesto’. Several parts are cut-and-pasted from texts written by the above mentioned Fjordman – whom the terrorist identifies as his “favorite author”. Even the title of the ‘manifesto’ is a nod to an old blog post written by Fjordman – Native Revolt: A European Declaration of Independence, in which the blogger accuses “Muslim states” of deliberately colonizing Europe with the aid of traitors who are trying to dismantle “European culture” by preaching “Multiculturalism”. Fjordman urges his readers to “take the appropriate measures to protect our own security and ensure our national survival”.

This is the ideological milieu from which the terrorism sprang. It was an action based on the conviction that ‘the West’ is experiencing a genuine, although hidden, war – complete with aggressors (Moslems), traitors (the ‘Marxists’, the ‘Multiculturalists’, i.e. the political Left and Liberals), allies (Israel) and heroes (‘Us’ – the ‘Crusaders’ who would protect Christian Europe).


Symbols and rhetoric related to the Crusades are often applied in militant anti-Moslem discourse (Image: Wikimedia Commons).

The belief that it is necessary to kill innocents for one’s political beliefs – what makes a terrorist – is rather unheard of in Norway. The discourse that the terrorist sought to promote through his actions, however, has become increasingly common during the last decade. Rather than being a fringe phenomenon on the darkest corners of the Internet; enemy-imaging of ‘alien cultures’ and accusations of the Left for ‘betraying our culture’ have gradually grown to become an expected part of the Norwegian public debate on minorities. This discursive position has even been allowed to take over certain newspapers’ web debates, establishing a discursive ‘bubble’ in which extreme xenophobes confirm each others’ attitudes and egg each other on.

The Slippery Slope between Islamophobia and Racism
Notable in modern xenophobic discourse is the emphasis on culture rather than race. Speakers often uphold that they are not racist, but instead claim that the ‘others’ collectively possess certain cultural traits that are incompatible with ‘our’ way of life.

Culture-based xenophobia goes beyond merely stating that culture conflicts exist and are a source of social problems: it describes entire social groups as collective carriers of ‘harmful culture’, and assumes that the groups’ members have no intention of integrating into ‘our’ society, or even co-existing peacefully with ‘us’. On the contrary, conspiracy theories are often invoked that point towards the group’s eventual takeover and subjugation/assimilation of ‘us’.
The ‘counter-Jihadist’ movement, to which the terrorist belonged, is a good example of xenophobia based on culture (in this case religion) rather than race. Indeed, Western anti-Moslem activists often claim to loathe Nazism (with which they frequently compare Islam) and display support for Israel; and among their quoted authors you may find people of non-European heritage such as the Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali . Race is not identified as the problem, but the religion Islam – or “ideology” of Islam as it is frequently called .

While islamophobia may distance itself from racism, these mindsets are not necessarily all that much different in effect: the ‘counter-Jihadist’ discourse collectively assigns as enemies all those who have any kind of identity-based or belief-based positive relationship to Islam. Arguably, the spirit of racism survives in the mere fact that people are judged based on the group to which they belong – it disregards all individual opinions and actions displayed by people of Moslem background, except the outright denouncing of Islam.

The aggressive reactions against assumed Moslems seen in the early hours of the terrorist attack also show the degree to which such culture-based xenophobia may form the basis for aggressive behavior against individuals precisely on the basis of their appearance – which completes the circle back to old-fashioned racism.
Another revealing example of the unclear boundaries between ‘counter-Jihadists’ and blatant racists was presented to us at Gates of Vienna on the day of the attack: when one reader ridiculed the fact that a man of “Arab” appearance was referred to on TV as a “Norwegian eyewitness”, the ideologue Fjordman answered
In Oslo they do [look like Arabs]. Arabs, Kurds, Pakistanis, Somalis, you name it. Anything and everything is fine as long as they rape the natives and destroy the country, which they do(cf. Øyvind Strømmen: Betraktningar; VG.no 05.08.2011) …

Overtly race-based xenophobia is only demonstrated by fringe groups in contemporary Western Europe. It would appear, though, that the more popular culture-based xenophobia shares many of its basic traits (Image: Wikimedia Commons ).

‘Cultural Betrayal’ and War Rhetoric
The discourse of culture-based xenophobia has been particularly prevalent in the debate on Moslems, but is not exclusive to it. The same kind of discourse has been frequently represented also when the subject of immigration in general comes up: the framing of contemporary Norway as locked in clash between mutually incompatible cultures, where the Left has betrayed their own and hides the situation under the rhetorical cover of ‘multiculturalism’.

The following example is not taken from any blog-written manifesto published on a website for ‘true believers’, but from a reader’s letter in a major Norwegian daily, authored by the leader of the Progress Party’s Oslo section, Christian Tybring-Gjedde,

What is wrong with Norwegian culture that makes the Labor Party want to replace it with multiculturalism? (…) Will we help the Labor Party replace Norwegian culture with ‘multiculture’? Never! Will we contribute to this cultural betrayal? Not even if warnings are put up saying ‘Shot will be the one who…’ Never! (Andersen & Tybring-Gjedde in Aftenposten.no 27.08.2010)

The phrase “Shot will be the one who…” invokes the efforts of the Quisling regime and Nazi occupation force to quell Norwegian resistance during WWII. Armed struggles of the past are often referred to in order to drive home the seriousness of the threat from ‘multiculturalism’ and immigration. While the Crusades are often the symbol of choice in international forums such as Gates of Vienna, Norwegian right-wing discourse often invokes World War Two, the most recent invasion in Norwegian history.

Another example of such war rhetoric, which also builds on comparisons between Nazism and Islam, can be found in this lecture by the same Tybring-Gjedde – given to ‘Friends of Document.no’, a group based around a right-wing online forum:

Different governments have done their best to undermine our cultural heritage (…) You’re talking about the 1930s, but I think it’s worse today. Back then, you faced an ideology you could crush. You’ll find it harder to crush a religion. (…) It’s going to cost us something to deal with that problem. It is not a comforting thought, neither for our children nor grandchildren, the battle that may come in Europe. But we must be aware of it, and we cannot yield (…)(VG.no 11.08.11; YouTube).


Christian Tybring-Gjedde holding the lecture for ‘Friends of Document.no’ (Screencap from YouTube).

Indigenous Politics and Ethnic Enemy-Imaging
Ethnic enemy imaging in Norway has not been limited to newly arrived peoples. In connection with conflicts over the indigenous rights of the northern Sámi minority, one has also on occassion seen some speakers apply the same discursive formula of ‘hostile group’ and ‘leftist traitors’ vs. ‘Us (real Norwegians)’. Such as this anonymous debater on the online forum of a major North Norwegian newspaper:

The Sámi remind me of cuckoos, that kick out the eggs of other birds and put their false eggs in the nest (…) The Sámi together with Arild Hausberg [the Labor Party mayor of Tromsø, North Norway’s largest city] are now attempting to make us Norwegians so pissed off at the Sámi demands that we move southwards… (iTromsø.no a, b; cf. Galdu.org)

Other debaters on the same forum accuse “the socialists” of discriminating against ethnic Norwegians by yielding to the “greedy” Sámi, or describe the implementation of bilingual Norwegian and Sámi road signs in Tromsø as a “dictatorship of the minority”. On the whole, web debates on Sámi issues are just as prone to degenerate into xenophobia as debates on Islam or immigration. For this reason, Norwegian Public Broadcasting’s websites in 2009 saw it as necessary to temporarily close the possibility for readers to comment on articles concerning the Sámi (NRK.no 18.10.2009).

In one of the more extreme cases, a Socialist Left Party politician of Sámi ethnicity received an anonymous letter that referred to her as a “Lapp bitch”, claimed that her people were trying to turn the northernmost parts of Norway into a “Scandinavian Kosovo”, and stated that the Sámi should be sterilized (Finnmarken.no 03.03.2008) .

An activist in the anti-Sámi rights’ organization Ethnic Democratic Equality earlier in 2011 launched a conspiracy theory about a planned, hostile takeover: she stated that the Sámi had been plotting to take over northern Scandinavia since 1945, and had been in secret negotiations with the Government during the last decades. She stated that she feared an eventual “ethnic cleansing” of non-Sámi in the north (NRK.no 02.03.2011). This is strikingly similar to the ‘Eurabia’ conspiracy theory, a favorite of the ‘counter-Jihadist’ movement, in which European authorities are accused of having “surrendered” to the Islamic world in 1974/75 , following which they have implemented ‘Arabification’ of Europe.

A version of the ‘future flag of Eurabia’ invented by counter-Jihad activists.

In sum, the debate on Norway’s indigenous minority has been heavily contaminated by xenophobic discourse, complete with accusations against the Left and conspiracy theories, and occasionally sliding back into old-fashioned race-based xenophobia. The normalization of this discourse becomes apparent when we note that in the debate that followed the Ethnic Democratic Equality conspiracy theory , several politicians representing the Progress Party, which is one of Norway’s most popular parties, jumped on the bandwagon – most notably the above mentioned immigration spokesman P. W. Amundsen, who accused Sámi politicians of plotting an eventual secession from Norway (NRK.no 12.03.2011).

Differing between Criticism and Jingoism
What the statements cited here have in common is that which Stuart Kaufman (2001: 16) refers to as ethnically based hostility. Kaufman treats this as distinct from ‘mere’ nationalism (the desire for ethnically based sovereignty) or even chauvinism (the belief in one’s ethnic group’s superiority). Hostility implies that the other group is seen as an enemy, a threat. This kind of rhetoric confounds any attempt to solve conflicts through dialogue or compromise, its logical consequence in the final analysis being the victory of one of the parties.

Kaufman (2001: 34-6) argues that the increasing dominance of such discourse may lead to an ‘ethnic security dilemma’, in which inter-ethnic social trust erodes, the degree of fear and animosity reaching a level which may even cause the inter-group relationship to erupt into violence under certain conditions. Vetlesen (2005: 146, 150-2, 157-9, 168-75) also discusses how the notion that some form of “self-defense” is needed against the other group, serves as “ideological preparation” for committing – or at least accepting – atrocities against the group that ‘threatens’ you.

Unlike the cases studied by Kaufman and Vetlesen – the Balkans and Caucasus of the 1990s – Norway does not suffer under the kind of general social and economic upheaval that is associated with the growth of violent political movements. We have, on the contrary, been fortunate enough to not be burdened with major political parties that advocate or approve of the use of violence. Indeed, crossing that rhetorical barrier would have publicly discredited any politician or activist – also prior to 22.7.11. Nevertheless, the Norwegian debate on minorities have gradually accepted more and more extreme xenophobic discourse, and war metaphors have crept into our language, particularly when it comes to Islam.

It is clear that issues associated with the challenges of living in a multicultural society must be debated. There is nothing illegitimate about f.ex. worrying that immigrants are not being well enough socialized into important norms of Norwegian society, or criticizing the model for indigenous representation in Norway. Indeed, few subjects may be considered illegitimate to raise. But there is a chasm between adressing touchy issues in a down-to-earth matter, and using war rhetoric.

It seems a prudent question if it can be considered legitimate points of view that certain minority groups are collectively bent on harming the majority, or that one half of the political spectrum is to be considered ‘traitors of the nation’.

What If?
The world has lauded Norway for our peaceful reaction to the terrorist attacks, for the way the public and our politicians have not answered the violence with calls for more violence. Statements and actions made by certain people in those few hours before the background and ideology of the perpetrator became known, and the knowledge that their rhetoric had grown to become rather common discursive currency, show us that things may have been very different.

We must hope that that if the terrorist’s ideology had been islamism; the majority, the commentators and the politicians would not have allowed the militant minority to set the agenda. We must hope that decency would have prevailed, even if the terrorist had not been a Christian Norwegian of non-immigrant background.
However, the degree to which culture-based xenophobic rhetoric had become normalized indicates that it would at the very least not have been difficult for such political actors to use the opportunity to push their agenda.


200.000 people took part in the Rose March in Oslo to commemorate the victims and protest against terrorism. Detail from the square between City Hall and the Nobel Peace Centre (pictured). (Image: Wikimedia Commons).

A Crisis of Discourse
Organizations and individuals that do not promote violence as a political tool can never be held guilty for the violent actions of otherwise ideologically close groups and individuals. That statement is valid when it concerns socialists, islamists and conservatives alike.

It remains a fact, however, that culture-based xenophobic ideas are what fuelled the terrorist of 22.7.11. That fact has been realized by many people in Norway, which is why the country is now undergoing a certain crisis of discourse: issues related to minority groups have long held centre stage of the political debate, and now there is a certain uncertainty concerning how to continue that debate, since the status of a whole genre of language on the phenomenon has been weakened.
It is still an open question what will happen to the debate on immigration in the wake of the attacks.

Some people belonging to the ‘Islam-critical’ wing have stated that they will tone down their rhetoric. As a blogger associated with the right-wing forum Honestthinking.org has said, “we cannot anymore use words that have been abused by a terrorist to massacre teenagers” (Dagbladet.no 05.08.2011). Fjordman has made his identity public and stated that he will seize his activity at least for a while (NRK.no 06.08.2011).

However, according to sociologist Lars Erik Berntzen, other parts of the ‘counter-Jihad’ movement has not toned down the rhetoric (Aftenposten.no 07.09.11); and other specialists on the right-wing movements of Norway such as journalist Øyvind Strømmen and Kari Helene Partapuoli of the Norwegian Centre Against Racism – state that the most extreme movements may in fact be experiencing growth in the wake of the attacks (Aftenposten.no 08.09.2011).

The Right Wing in Turmoil
The Progress Party became a target for particular criticism following the attacks, not just because of the similarity between certain of their politicians’ rhetoric to that of the terrorist, but also because the terrorist had in fact been the Vice Chairman of their party’s Oslo youth group for some time – although notably, he quit the party a few years ago, feeling that it was too moderate for his tastes.

Progress Party leader Siv Jensen, who has earlier frequently applied the term “creeping Islamization” about the situation in Norway, has now signaled the need for certain changes in the party’s rhetoric, and stated that she does not consider it even a remote danger that the country will be “taken over by Moslems” (Aftenposten.no 16.08.11).

Other high-ranking party profiles have made it clear that they are in fact basically positive towards multiculturalism, but see the need for certain common values to be held sacrosanct in Norwegian society , an attitude summed up by Progress Party Member of Parliament Tor Lien:

I don’t give a shit if people go to the Mosque or Church, if they eat fårikål or kebab, as long as there’s a consensus on basic, Liberal ideas like freedom of expression and democracy(Klassekampen.no 16.08.11).

As for the frequently cited Tybring-Gjedde, he now states that he has been too “categorical” in his earlier rhetoric, but underscores that he has not changed his mind about anything (BT.no 02.08; Aftenposten.no 11.08.11). Others, again, are adamant that they will not back down on their rhetoric at all – and some few individuals affiliated with the party has ‘blamed the victim’ by voicing the opinion that the Labor Party was ultimately responsible for the act of terrorism themselves, claiming that the ‘madness’ of the perpetrator was a consequence of Leftist immigration policy (DT.no 15.08.11). Former party leader and mayor candidate in Oslo, Carl I. Hagen, upholds that despite recent events (and available statistics) “almost all terrorists are Moslems ” (NRK.no 15.08).

Siv Jensen (left) and C. I. Hagen (right). (Image: Wikimedia Commons a, b).

Wither the Web Debates?
Norway’s first terrorist attack has also given the media reason to consider if they are facilitating the growth of hate-based discourse, and urged them to reconsider the possibility of commenting anonymously.

One of the more controversial online forums, that of the financial newssite HegnarOnline, has deactivated the possibility for anonymous commenting after someone started a thread in relation to the terror attacks called It is difficult not to be able to express one’s joy today. The newspaper VG has made it compulsory for readers who want to comment on articles to log in through Facebook (E24 a, b). The hope is that by removing anonymity, people will debate sensitive issues in a less militant tone.

It remains to be seen whether other newspapers will follow suit, and indeed whether de-anonymization of the debates will actually help much. One may find that what makes ethnic fears and hatred dominate on the forums is not anonymity, but rather the fact that there are few people who will bother to gainsay someone who debates out from simplistic name-calling – and hence, the forums are left to the xenophobes and conspiracy theorists. Or perhaps, that has changed too, in the wake of 22.7.11?

Is the Discursive Change Short-Term of Long Term?
It is difficult to say how the events of July will change the Norwegian debate on minorities in the long run. As we speak, Norway is just coming down from a discursive state of high alert and political actors are still wary of being associated with the terrorist’s ideology.

When normalcy returns – to the extent that it will – will public debate gradually slide back into the track it had fallen prior to the terrorist attack? Will we again get a public debate in which it is seen as permissible to attack minorities as collectively involved in hostile takeovers, and the Left as willing traitors; where conspiracy theories are supported by prominent politicians and the agents of hate speech are allowed to dominate the forums of important newspapers? If so, we will have failed to take an important lesson from the tragedy that befell us.


Quoted books:
Kaufmann, Stuart J. (2001): Modern Hatreds. The symbolic politics of ethnic war.Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press

Vetlesen, Arne (2005): Evil and Human Agency. Understanding Collective Wrongdoing.Cambridge University Press.

Deepening Democracy: International Labour Organisation Convention 169 and Nepal’s Democratic Transition

A NIBR Policy Brief by Peris Jones

Indigenous rights conflicts have become pivotal in democratic states’ accommodation of diverse population groups and economic development’s ever-increasing propensity for sourcing natural resources. Since 1989 International Labour Convention 169 is one particular global instrument used for mapping out indigenous rights standards and corresponding state duties.

This brief argues that ILO 169 is very useful in identifying gaps and promoting standards for indigenous rights implementation. Ratification of human rights conventions (and treaties) can, however, have both beneficial consequences and also those less intended. Divining the impact of rights-based standards especially in highly diverse societies, like Nepal, shows both obstacles to implementation and that introducing them nonetheless has effects.

Key Points
– Ratification of human rights treaties can have both intended and unintended effects

– Nepal’s ratification of International Labour Convention 169 (ILO 169) in 2007 was an important concession to the indigenous peoples’ movement demands for protection and promotion of indigenous rights

– ILO 169 is useful for identifying gaps in and promotion of procedural and substantive standards for indigenous rights

– Implementation, however, is hostage to political culture and a legacy of political party manipulation and centralised state bureaucracy

– Rights-based claims tend to proscribe a ‘rights holding identity’ that when group based can have unintended consequences in a highly diverse society such as Nepal

– There are indications of increased ‘ethnification’ surrounding Nepal’s (delayed) constitutional process, new federal regions and natural resource conflicts

– Several key actors have responsibilities: political parties- to reach consensus urgently; indigenous movement to be wary of pushing ‘maximalist’ claims, and donors and investors too

Background

It has become common place for some time either to describe Nepal as at a political ‘cross-road’, encountering not one but even several transitions. Some observers highlight how since 1996 and championed by the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN-Maoists) initiated armed insurgency diverse indigenous groups, women, other minorities and marginalised regions demands’ became legitimised. The peace settlement of 2006 marked a fundamental shift from an emphasis upon state reforming to that of actual state restructuring. Delineating indigenous rights in particular has become integral to the ‘new’ Nepal’s political landscape.

Maoist symbols in a Nepalese village (Wikimedia Commons)

One highly topical arena of contest concerns implementation of International Labour Organisation Convention 169 (‘ILO 169’). ILO 169 was one of the indigenous movement’s key demands voiced by the umbrella organisation, the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN). Since state ratification in 2007 struggles over its implementation represent a severe disjuncture in post-war transition. ILO 169 implementation is dependent upon political willingness, capacity and not least, perceived effects upon other non-indigenous groups. The role of ILO 169 in one specific sector, namely, hydro electric power, illustrates both the potential and associated problems in implementation.

ILO 169

ILO 169 is a wide ranging convention adopted by member states in Geneva in 1989 (to date only 22 states have ratified it) and intended to respect, protect and promote the rights of IPs. Some of the core principles to this end concern participation and consultation of indigenous peoples at all levels of interventions that affect them. Article 6(2) further provides that the aim of participation is to achieve “agreement or consent” (whereas the emphasis upon consent in the 2007 Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can be more open as to providing a veto function).

ILO 169 is open to contested interpretations in a number of areas. Not least, concerning natural resources, while this is stated as a weak substantive right to ‘use, management and conservation’, when read alongside other articles it can be interpreted as promoting ownership by indigenous peoples. The language of natural resources can therefore be used strategically by indigenous groups to pursue a more ‘maximalist’ agenda (i.e. in calling for ownership of resources).

Indigenous activists and people from the joint Norwegian-Nepalese research team. Damaul in Tanahun, Nepal (photo: Mikkel Berg-Nordlie)

Indigenous Peoples’ Standards and Hydro-Electric Power
While a degree of legal ambiguity arises, ILO 169 does nonetheless spell out a range of standards that are useful in examining impacts upon indigenous peoples’ and implications of policies. Concerning the electricity and water resources in Nepal for example, ILO 169 can be used to detect a distinct lack of attention to indigenous standards in the legal and policy framework. Not only is there near total absence of a procedural (participatory) process and detail of benefit sharing; there is also no mention of indigenous peoples’ standards.

The implication is that the willingness and capacity of local government to accommodate indigenous peoples’ demands (and other minorities) can become very arbitrary. Given the historically limited role of indigenous groups in local governance decision-making more generally, this is of particular concern. Despite international discourse surrounding improving indigenous rights standards it is important to look at this in the context of specific country experiences.

Local experiences of hydro-electric projects
Three local projects were visited – at various stages of development. A dynamic common to all three was the emergence of so-called ‘distributional coalitions’ acting as the interface between communities and the company in question. Political parties were most prominent, however, which tended to capture coalitions along with local bureaucrats and excluding indigenous peoples’ organisations. In addition, there was great variability in participation and consultation. Even in the best case, indigenous communities were passive in view of decisions already taken by the company apparently following central government award of licences.

Communities mentioned that impacts of projects are differentiated depending upon one’s location in relation to it and also in terms of social status and ability to deal with impact. In this case, wealthier members of communities were deemed more versatile, unlike those – particularly indigenous members- dependent upon specific occupations and livelihoods related to natural resources (such as fishing in the river impacted by the project). Although some more recent government reforms have been made to include indigenous groups in local governance, this appears to be still hostage to political party representation rather than community membership per se. In general ILO 169 is not being implemented at local level or district level, nor are there guidelines or impetus provided from central state.

Proposed site for the Arun III Dam (photo: Peris Jones).

Creeping Ethnification
Another dynamic concerns the effects of pushing specifically ‘indigenous rights’. On one level one effect anticipated is the backlash of high caste bureaucrats and hierarchy more generally that seeks to preserve its advantages. Spokespeople from these groups were generally highly opposed to the issue of natural resource ownership for indigenous groups. These same respondents were also representatives, however, of the state and decried state interests. Claims on natural resources and ILO 169 more generally threatened the very fabric of the state, it was said. Several indigenous respondents described how this was a myth constructed by the privileged: the reality was of state bureaucrats who were involved in selling off, or themselves speculating with, Nepal’s ‘national interests’ such as rivers. Some respondents did draw attention to other groups – particularly other excluded non-indigenous minorities – who did feel threatened by talk of indigenous rights, regarding these as ‘zero-sum’ in undermining their own interests.

More generally, interviews in both local, district and the capital, revealed evidence of hardening ethnic identification of groups. High caste organisations are beginning to rally against indigenous claims. Furthermore, disputes over the drawing of new regional boundaries revealed differences between different groups classified as indigenous. Overall, it was striking that a more militant language was evident possibly also coinciding with another impending deadline for acceptance of a new constitution. The militancy can also be seen in relation to an emerging constitution that appears barren in both substantive and even procedural standards for indigenous groups.

Buddhist temple in Kathmandu. Nepal, dominated by Hindu high castes, have a sizeable indigenous population, many of which are Buddhist (photo: Mikkel Berg-Nordlie).

Conclusion
Nepal faces another particularly testing time with its latest acute disjuncture in the run up to deciding a new constitution. Although this mainly reflects heightened lobbying and gamesmanship in negotiations, in a volatile country prone to violence, these tensions need to be taken seriously and require urgent management:

Policy implications
– Political parties need to (re)discover the urgency of prioritising political consensus and delivering the new constitution. This requires concessions on all sides.

– Greater inclusion of substantive and procedural standards in the energy sector, particularly concerning water resources and hydro-electric power, would assist all stakeholders. Clearer guidelines for promoting standards for community participation, consultation and benefit sharing, in particular, should be provided and promoted by government.

– Indigenous standards should be much better defined, detailed and followed in implementation.

– Investors and donors in sectors like hydro-electric power need to incorporate participatory standards, and especially, for affected indigenous communities. Tri-partite agreements between those affected, companies and government should be used to anchor standards in concrete institutional mechanisms.

– But indigenous groups also need to be wary of the knock-on effects of their maximalist strategies for other non-indigenous groups (whether high caste or not) on both resources, group autonomy and reconsider fixed term leadership positions in proposed new regions.

– Seeking a balance in approach requires addressing both specific indigenous historical injustices while creating a common citizenship for all marginalised citizens regardless of identity, which remains a particularly challenging issue for Nepal.

Useful resources

Jones, P. S (2011) ‘Between Demos and Ethnos: The Nepal Constitution and Indigenous Rights’, International Journal of Minority and Group Rights, 18, 2 (with Langford, M.).

Project Homepage:

‘Accommodating, or, Exacerbating Difference? The Politics of Implementation of International Labour Organisation Convention 169 and deeper democratisation in Nepal’.

Nepal in Focus at the NIBR International Blog:

Aasland, Aadne & Marit Haug: Class, caste or location? How do different people assess social change in Nepal?

Jones, Peris: When the lights go down: Struggles over Hydro-Electric Power in Nepal.

Class, Caste or Location? How Do Different People Assess Social Change In Nepal?

by Aadne Aasland and Marit Haug

Nepal has undergone profound political, social and economic change over the past decades. NIBR has now been present in Nepal for six years and has analyzed developments not only as seen from Kathmandu but in many different parts of the country.
In an article recently published by the Journal of Asian and African Studies we have used data from a large household survey conducted in collaboration with Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS) to assess how ordinary people perceive the changes that have taken place in their country. Particular attention was paid to possible differences in the assessments made by people of various castes and ethnic groups, religions and geographic locations. These are all characteristics that are politically salient and commonly referred to in the debates about the crafting of a new constitution, for example as regards to the geographic delimitation of the new federal states, and the division of political power.

A Truly Developing Country
According to the Human Development Index Nepal ranks 138 out of 169 countries with comparable data. Despite this modest rank, the country has undergone significant economic and social improvements over the past decades. Between 1980 and 2010 Nepal’s HDI rose by 2.4% annually. Educational opportunities have increased, especially for women, and the health situation has improved considerably. Politically, Nepal has gone from being a country ruled by an authoritarian king, to becoming a fragile, but pluralist democracy with many political parties competing for power in competitive elections.

The household survey (2007-8), which was conducted as part of a larger project on social exclusion and inclusion in Nepal obtained representative data about close to 2,900 households (more than 18,500 individuals) in four districts of the country (Banke, Dhanusa, Sindhupalchowk and Surkhet). In the survey the respondents were, among others, asked to compare different time periods, and whether they had experienced progress or deterioration across a set of indicators. Most people have experienced improvements across these different life domains, whether it is household facilities, income, access to services (including health services), and experience of discrimination. A substantial proportion report a feeling of status quo, while very few have experienced a deterioration of the situation. The figure below shows the level of improvements households have experienced for their general economic condition, a picture which is quite representative of other life domains as well.

How do you rate the general economic condition of your household today compared to 20-25 years ago?

Different Groups – Different Perceptions Of Progress?
The article studies whether responses to the seven questions are evenly distributed across the different population groups, according to caste, ethnicity, religion, geographic location as well as a number of social characteristics (sex, age, educational level, occupation, etc.). An index was constructed and multivariate analysis applied. Through factor analysis we were able to show that perception of social change could largely be ascribed to two separate dimensions: socio-economic change and socio-cultural change, each with specific features and differences in terms of population groups having experienced them.
Socio-Economic Change: Geography More Important Than Caste
Regarding socio-economic change, geographical differences are marked and do not seem to follow the Hill/Terai divide. Rather, centre-periphery differences seem more relevant: the more central districts display more social improvements. Interestingly, however, people living in rural districts give a more positive assessment of change than people living in cities.
While we found marked differences between caste, ethnic and religious groups in bivariate analysis, these effects disappear when controlling for other variables in the model. This is a very important finding; to the extent that there are differences between representatives of groups in assessing improvements of their socio-economic conditions, such differences are more a function of their score on other variables (notably socio-economic resources) than a result of which group they belong to.
As could have been expected, present socio-economic resources of the household are closely associated with perceived socio-economic change. It is noteworthy that the most decisive type of resources is the level of amenities and household consumer goods, while food avail¬ability and household income have somewhat smaller effects. Having outstanding loans or debts gives a negative effect on perception of socio-economic change.
Socio-Cultural Change: More Mixed Findings
As regards socio-cultural change, findings differ somewhat: Firstly, much less of the differences observed when it comes to socio-cultural change can be ascribed to the background characteristics of the respondents than was the case with perceptions of socio-economic change. The largest effect is found for whether the respondents observe a traditional way of living (resulting in a less favourable assessment of change). A sense of being excluded from the national mainstream has a negative effect on assessment of socio-cultural change, while civil society and political participation have positive effects. Ethnicity, caste and religion do not have effects on the perception of socio-cultural changes after controlling for other variables. With one exception (Surkhet) the same is the case with geography.
Class Beats Caste?
The article ends with a discussion of the finding, highlighting improvements across group characteristics and stressing the fact that poverty, human resources and region explain more of the variation than ethnicity, caste or religious belonging. While Dalits and Muslims are somewhat less positive in their evaluation of past change than other groups, our multivariate analysis shows that this cannot be explained by their group but rather by a set of other background characteristics, most notably their lower socio-economic status.
To the extent that social mobility has taken place among traditionally disadvantaged groups, Dalits and Muslims perceive social change in a very similar way to other castes and religious groups, and representatives of other groups with the same background characteristics are no more positive in their assessments of change than are Dalits and Muslims. Our findings lend support to those who argue that social mobility cuts across ethnic, caste and religious divides. However, one cannot conclude that ethnicity, caste and religion are irrelevant, because there may well be barriers in society, including discrimination and cultural traditions, that make social mobility less accessible for some groups than others.
Little Trust In Politicians, But Great Expectations
People in Nepal ascribe the positive change to personal agency rather than efforts of govern¬ment, political parties, non-governmental organizations or international donors. This should not, of course, be seen as a sign that political agency is unimportant. The majority of Nepalese people believe that the future will continue to bring progress both in terms of socio-economic improve-ments and socio-cultural integration. The challenge for policy-makers and those with political influence is then to provide opportunities for personal agency and social mobility, in particular among those people who have reaped fewer of the benefits of previous change, regardless of their group belonging and geographic location.
For an electronic copy of the article, please contact the authors (use links in beginning of post).

Picture: Aadne Aasland.

Indigenous Politics in Switzerland

The Russia in Pan-Sámi Politics Project’s ECPR workshop in St. Gallen has now been successfully held, drawing participants from three continents and shedding light on a large set of cases.

We wish to thank our partners in arranging the workshop, Jo Saglie of the Institute for Social Research and Ann Sullivan of the University of Auckland for a fruitful cooperation; the ECPRfor giving us the chance to arrange this event; and last but in no way least the researchers who participated in the workshop.

To read Saglie’s report from the conference, click here.

St. Gallen, Switzerland (Image: Wikimedia Commons).

NIBR project on indigenous rights in Nepal

NIBR researchers Peris Jones, Arild Schou and Mikkel Berg-Nordlie completed their project’s field work in Nepal in March 2011, doing interviews in Kathmandu, Dadhing, Tanahun, Chitwan (Bharatpur) and Dolakha.

Interviewees included, but were not limited to, representatives of ethnic organizations – Indigenous groups, Muslim and Dalit communities, Chhetri and Brahmin organizations; the United Marxist-Leninist, Maoist and Congress parties; administrators at the VDC, district and central level; as well as the hydro-electric company SN Power, and other interest groups.

The field work was coordinated by the Development Consultancy Center (DECC), represented by Raghav Regmi and Hari Regmi. Invaluable field work assistance was provided by Tunga Rai, Sujindra Rai, Rabindra Battarai and Manoj Rijel.

Read more at the ILO 169/Nepal project page.

Migration and National Identity in Russia

Europe is experiencing a new era of mass migration, and its states are facing the challenges brought on by this in different ways. The migration debate in Russia is colored by the fact that this country has not fully succeeded in integrating all of its original peoples.

By Mikkel Berg-Nordlie and Aadne Aasland

Russia has always been multicultural – from its earliest beginnings as a union of Slavic and Finno-Ugric tribes, to the contemporary federation with more than one hundred ethnic groups. Most of these have their homelands within the borders of the state, but Russia has also been a destination for immigrants throughout the centuries. Several iconic personalities in Russian history have had roots in domestic or immigrated minorities, f. ex. as different people as Katherine the Great, Lenin, the poet Pushkin and the rock legend Viktor Tsoy.

The Eastern Immigration Boom
With its multicultural past, one would perhaps assume that Russia has a sound basis for dealing with today’s great influx of people from the South and East. The country has become a ‘magnet’ for labor immigrants, often originating in neighboring countries and seeking employment in a state that has an acute workforce shortage due to a declining population combined with powerful economic growth in certain provinces. The federation’s number of immigrants without Russian citizenship is according to experts more than 10 million – many say higher – in a population of little more than 140 million.
Is Russia going to succeed in including today’s newcomers in its ethnic mosaic? We have analyzed the Russian immigration debate, among other things through a selection of articles from Rossiyskaya gazeta (RG), a newspaper with close connections to the federal authorities.

Immigrants from Within?
Although an immigration debate could be expected to mainly concern the relationship between Russian citizens (rossyane) and immigrants, we assumed that the debate would be utilized by some actors to launch a discussion on the relationship between the country’s majority of ‘ethnic Russians‘ (russkie) and all other minorities – new and old. However, rather few explicit cases of this appeared in the text compendium.

What we did find, was that the debate very often discussed the relationship between a ‘we’ that included ‘natives’ and a ‘them’ that included immigrants from abroad and other parts of Russia: there was often a lack of conceptual differentiation between foreigners and people from remote Russian regions. In short, what we found was a ‘migration debate’ rather than an immigration debate.

The Chechens are one of the many ethnic groups native to the Russian North Caucasus.

The Caucasian ‘Other’
The often used concept ‘Caucasian’ is particularly interesting, in that it fails to separate between people of the Russian North Caucasus and immigrants from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – within this category citizen and foreigner are equally ‘alien’ to ‘us’. This, of course, has a lot to do with culture and ethnicity: although the North Caucasus was made part of the Russian realm, the original peoples there were to a large extent refused entry into the national ‘us’.

Is, then, the ‘migration debate’ just a euphemistic construct masking a debate about russkieand other ethnic groups of Russia – the North Caucasians in particular? Not exclusively: the ‘localism’ displayed by some also affect russkie migrants from other regions, negatively. It would seem that many people in the world’s largest country simply do not appreciate that people from other parts of it move to ‘their’ area.

The Financial Crisis: Hardening Positions on Immigration
A key element in the texts we analyzed was constructions of how the local ‘we’ may benefit or lose economically from the phenomenon of migration – is it for example advantageous for ‘our’ economy that migrants provide cheap labor, or negative for us that ‘they’ take our jobs? The tendency in the RG was rather clear, and possibly not quite in line with tendencies in the general Russian debate: migration was generally depicted as economically advantageous.

However, this changed when the financial crisis began – now, the RG would more often debate migrants as competing with locals over jobs. In Russia, the hardening economic climate also ‘hardened’ the debate on labor migration.

Detail from political pamphlet urging Russians to boycott taxi-operating ‘illegals’. Several campaigns against foreign laborers, particularly illegal immigrants, were started by youth groups as the financial crisis loomed.

Sympathy with the ‘Illegals’
Concern was also expressed that the financial crisis would generate more migrant-related crime, something that leads us over to the <i>second most central subject in the ‘migration debate’: law and order. The main focus of the RG was on challenges related to illegal immigration, and how this phenomenon has negative consequences both for Russia and the ‘illegals’ (nelegaly) themselves. Several articles concerned the harsh conditions nelegaly live under, attacking their employer’s immoral exploitation of their cheap labor, corrupt officials ignoring or facilitating the problem, and ‘failed’ legislation.

Norwegians demonstrating for the rights of illegal immigrants and the release of Maria Amelie Bidzikoyeva, who was born in the Russian North Caucasus and transported illegally into Norway by her parents while underage. The RG’s debate on illegal immigration was generally ‘softer’ than what is usually found in f.ex. Norwegian media.

On the whole, the RG did not often bring up subjects like crime and cultural conflicts, subjects that are not seldom discussed in other Russian fora, in relation to migration. One got the impression that this ‘official newspaper’ of Russia attempted to have a somewhat ‘softer’ debate on the subject than what is seen in several other media. This reflects the desire of Russian authorities to prevent the growth of destabilizing xenophobia.

Racist Violence and Denial of Integration
However, even the ‘soft’ RG version of the Russian migration debate has a problematic undercurrent: it does not contribute to the construction of a strong, national ‘us’ when migrants from remote corners of the country are measured by the extent to which they are ‘useful’ in the place they move to. It is difficult to be a patriot if you are considered a second-class citizen just because you’ve changed your place of residence within the state.

It is particularly troubling when this seems to particularly affect people from the North Caucasus, a part of Russia already having a difficult relationship with the rest of the country and whose peoples have reason to fear racist violence when moving to other parts of the country.

Logo of the DPNI – The Movement Against Illegal Immigration. This organization took actively part in the Kondopoga Incident of 2006, where both immigrants from the South Caucasus and migrants from the Russian North Caucasus were evicted by a large mob of ‘locals’.

The Future of the Federation: Integration or Fragmentation?

In a time of increasing ethnic complexity, Russia is characterized by the fact that it still has not finished the first task of nation-building: the integration of all ethnic groups whose homelands are within the country. Russia hence has the challenge of succeeding in two nation-building missions at once. Of course, Russia is far from the only country in the world that has to integrate new minorities whilst simultaneously working actively to protect and accommodate indigenous peoples and other national minorities that have earlier been excluded or suppressed.

That, however, does not change the fact that the future of the federation depends on the authorities working actively on bothchallenges – and against the ‘localism’ that would be bad news for any state the size of Russia, no matter its ethnic composition.

Earlier published January 19, 2011 at Dagsavisen.no
Based on article published in Sociãlo Zinãtŋu Véstenis 2/2010

All images from Wikimedia Commons.

Can workers shape economic geographies?

If we want to understand how the economic map changes over time, we cannot only look at the strategies of firms and state institutions: workers and their political organisations are also important in making decisions as to where and how the economy is organised.

This was an important idea which labour geography introduced to social sciences in the 1990s. But if we are to understand why some workers’ actions matter more than others, we must develop an understanding of labour agency which takes into account how the politics of workers are embedded in the structures of the global production networks, state apparatuses, community structures and labour market intermediaries.

Read Neil Coe and David Jordhus-Lier’s recently published article in Progress in Human Geography – Constrained agency? Re-evaluating the geographies of labour – via OnlineFirst here.

Please visit the Hotel Project’s webpage.

Picture: David Jordhus-Lier; Design: Anne Marie Korseberg Stokke