Ten years after – the Muhammad Cartoons: Perspectives, Reflections, Challenges International Conference, Aalborg University

Ten years after the newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons the Muhammad Carton Crisis continues to be a discursive reference point for new controversies involving artists and threatening Muslims. When the cartoon story (and stories about the cartoons) and the global violence peaked in early 2006, the different actors and events at different times and places were reified into a single event, a global story about a clash of civilizational values. Yet the event had no clear beginning or end, which indicated that underneath the complexity was different and vast.

In this conference five scholars with different relationship to the Muhammad Cartoon Crisis and its aftermath will present their research and additional scholars are invited to contribute to access the development since the cartoon crisis, whether this is issues of integration, the relationship between terrorism, islamophobia and integration, women’s right, racialization, inequality, right wing populism, or polarization.

Ten years have gone since the Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten decided to publish 12 Muhammad cartoons of the prophet Muhammad as cartoonists ‘imagined him’. The cartoons and the stories about them cost the lives of 150 people. Denmark’s reputation abroad and export to Arab speaking countries were severely impacted. In addition, it has affected the opportunities of immigrants, who experience they are being stigmatized and not fully allowed to be Danes. Many Danes have had their ideas of womanhood among Muslims re-enforced, ideas of incompatible values have been strengthened, and the debate about freedom of speech reified. For many non-Western Muslims, the cartoon story has become an icon of Western arrogance and hatred towards Islam. Their anger came from a deep sense that they are not respected, that they and their most cherished feelings are “fair game.”

New research suggest that increased racial discrimination and enforcement of racial-cultural logics of belonging facilitates mobilization of minority youth groups to crime, violence, political activism, carelessness and terrorism. This development exposes a “schismogenetic” process that merits academic attention analysis and solutions.

Read more on the official conference page

New article out: “Cultural War of Values: The Proliferation of Moral Identities in the Danish Public Sphere.”

In Becoming Minority: How Discourses and Policies Produce Minorities in Europe and India, Tripathy, Jyotirmaya and Sudarsan Padmanabhan (eds.), pp. 154-173. New Delhi: Sage Publications, India.

The Muhammad Cartoon Crisis was not the outcome of statements or actions of angry, threatening Muslims, but is best seen as the direct outcome of neo-conservative values and the “cultural war of values?” In the chapter on the “Cultural War of Values: The Proliferation of Moral Identities in the Danish Public Sphere”, I show with reference to editor-in-chief of Jyllands-Posten and the general historization of the War of values idea of how the publication of the cartoons was the predictable outcome of this war. We new something would happen. We didn’t know what form it would take.

The cultural war of values incorporates a neonationalist defense of Danish “cultural values” such as democracy and freedom of speech, which are actually not specific to Denmark. The solutions offered to problems related to immigration, migrant presence, poverty, unemployment, and feminist demands for gender equality often center on restoring authority based on family values, national values, and (to some extent) male power (Hervik 2012b). The emphasis on values, cultural difference, and incompatibility can be seen as a new moral logic of exclusion and inclusion: one that constructs a national, or “Western,” community pitted against a minority of non-western mostly Muslim minorities. In Balibar’s words, the logic behind the use of these categories in the mediated political debates is that a “we-group” emerges by promoting itself through its opposite, which it negates. This group does its identity work by opposing the “cultural other,” or establishing “itself as the other’s other” (Balibar 2005). On their part, these Muslim minority others make up a category of people (not a group), who do not identify with this image (Hervik 2002). One expression of this is the eager military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such activist foreign policy rests on the neoconservative premise that there can be no moral equivalency. The example makes clear that the logic that embraces the neocolonial idea of Western superiority is revived (Huntington 1993, 1996), this time in terms of “cultural superiority” (Blaut 1992, Hannerz 1999).

Yet, building the nation’s psychological bonding through aggressive policy making, confrontational media coverage, military presence in Muslim countries, and framed within a classic populist scenario of elite pitted against ordinary folks is not exclusively a neoracist matter, even though it builds on a hierarchization or inferiorization of Muslim others, which is used to control and deny their presence. Instead, the moral identities proliferating in the Danish public sphere are fundamentally anti-politically correct, antimulticulturalist, and anti-Marxist as confrontation is also directed at political adversaries using the same fighting spirit rhetoric as used when talking about Muslim minorities. The social construction of thick minority identities can only be understood in relation to the cultural war of value strategy aimed at domestic political opponents.



Racialization, Racism and (anti)Racism in the Nordic Countries

New conference on Racialization, Racism and (anti)Racism in the Nordic Countries

Aalborg University
Kroghstræde 3, 1.119
27 and 28 November 2014, “1 pm to 1 pm”

To participate you need to register:
1) If you come for the two keynotes only, you do not need to sign up
2) If you participate in the event (Thursday and/or Friday) please sign up via this link:  www.racialization.aau.dk



Researchers in the Nordic countries agree that the discrimination of visible different minorities have become more subtle within the last 20 years, which still has serious consequences for many of these minorities as both groups and individuals. Issues of racism have attracted researchers from different disciplines to examine these often hidden and subtle practices of racism and racialization. Such practices rely on polarization of society based on ideas of “incompatibility” and not “natural belonging” while resting comfortably on the proliferation of morality as the basis for understanding “difference” which creates an environment, where violence, confrontation, zero-tolerance and negative dialogue are the chosen forms of expression. Yet, many of these researchers know relatively little about each other. This conference will address the issues of racism and related phenomena, seek grounds for new Nordic network initiatives, through a comprehensive effort to dig deep into the academic experiences and apparatus in order to understand the discrimination, racialization, racism (including Islamophobia), anti-racism, inclusion and exclusion of especially so-called non-Western (co)citizens and adoptees in the Nordic countries.

Yet racism and the naturalization of cultural difference are historical processes and not restricted to the Nordic countries. Therefore, we are joined by two non-Nordic keynote speakers, who are prominent scholarly experts on racism. Evelyn Alsultany, University of Michigan, and Nasar Meer, University of Strathclyde, will bring the conference right into the heart of new research on racism, its varieties, its core features and getting rid of its accidental baggage. During the conference they will help us keep a tighter focus on racism in the responses to presentations by Nordic scholars, who have carried out research with the expressed aim of trying to understand racism and racialization practices that comes with it.

We bring together in this project a core of mainly younger researchers who have taken up highly relevant and difficult issues on the basis of empirically grounded, conceptually strong, and theoretically anchored analysis. Each of these has been ask to reflect on one or more of the following questions:

  • How does racism (and anti racism) relate in theory and practice to the popular resistance to “non-Western” migrants (often synonymous with Muslims and Islam) relate to anti-feminism, anti-multiculturalism, anti-cultural-Marxists and perhaps even pro-animal welfare?
  • How do these different forms of negativity connect in people’s reasoning about newcomers, whether in direct conversations, social media or major media events?
  • Is racism in the Nordic countries an issue that was basically overcome long ago, or are we witnessing new kinds of more subtle racial practices?
  • To what extent can cherished national self-images block effective learning in a new situation?
  • Can the ability to practice critical self-reflection become part of a national self-image?
  • Does the enhanced effort of anti-racism and diversity programs make a difference or do they contribute to the reproduction of mutually exclusive ways of categorization and reasoning?

Keynote Speakers

Evelyn Alsultany is an Associate Professor in the Department of American Culture, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she coordinates Arab and Muslim American Studies. She teaches courses on media representations, U.S. cultural and racial politics, and Arab and Muslim Americans. She received a Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University (2005), an MA in Gender Studies and Feminist Theory from the New School for Social Research (1998), and a BA in Women’s Studies and Political Science from the University of Michigan (1995). She is the author of Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11 (2012). She is co-editor (with Rabab Abdulhadi and Nadine Naber) of Arab and Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, and Belonging (2011), winner of the Arab American National Museum’s Evelyn Shakir Book Award. She is also co-editor (with Ella Shohat) of Between the Middle East and the Americas: The Cultural Politics of Diaspora(2013). She is guest curator of the Arab American National Museum’s online exhibit, “Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Arab Stereotypes,” that can be viewed at www.arabstereotypes.org. In 2012, she was awarded a Jack G. and Bernice Shaheen Achievement Award.

Dr Nasar Meer, is a Reader and Chancellor’s Fellow in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Strathclyde University, and in 2014 he was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Young Academy. He was previously a Reader in Social Sciences and co-Director of the Centre for Civil Society and Citizenship (CCSC), in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Social Sciences at Northumbria University.  During 2013 he was a Minda de Gunzberg Fellow at Harvard University, a Visiting Fellow with the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) at the University of Edinburgh, and a member of the British Council’s Outreach Program. He is currently a Routledge ‘Super Author’ and has previously studied at the Universities of Essex, Edinburgh, and Bristol, and held visiting fellowships with the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Studies, Harvard University, and the University of Aarhus. Nasar’s research spans a number of topics. Firstly, with respect to his over-arching study of citizenship, he is especially interested in arenas of political participation, education policies, approaches to anti-discrimination, public and media representation, and the ways in which collective membership is conceived and operationalised. Secondly, he is engaged in a European reading of the African-American scholar W. E. B. Du Bois, and the relationship between his concept of ‘double consciousness’ and ideas of recognition and misrecognition. Thirdly, he is studying developing international legal frameworks concerning the status of former political elites (and is working on a monograph on this topic Palgrave). Fourthly, he is researching the sociology and politics of racism, Antisemitism and Islamophobia. Fifthly, he is interested in the relationship of journalism to ‘public intellectualism’, and, finally, he is completing a study of Scottish Nationalism and ethnic minorities.

His most recent book “Concepts in Race and Ethnicity” was published August 2014. Other publications include “Racialization and Religion. Race, Culture and Difference in the Study of Antisemitism and Islamophobia” (2012), “Citizenship, Identity and the Politics of Multiculturalism, The Rise of Muslim Consciousness” (2010).


To participate you need to register:

1) If you come for the two keynotes only, you do not need to sign up

2) If you participate in the event (Thursday and/or Friday) please sign up via this link

(Catering includes coffee, reception (Thursday) and a sandwich lunch (Friday) for registered participants – NB! Students are welcome but no catering is included for student participants).
Conference website and registration: www.racialization.aau.dk



Preliminary program for the international conference
“Racialization, Racism and (anti)Racism in the Nordic Countries”

November 27
Venue: Kroghstræde 3, room 1.119

13.00 – 13.15 [xx]
Peter Hervik

13.15 – 14.15 Keynote:
Nesar Meer, University of Strathclyde, “How can ideas of racialization help us theorise Islamophobia and Antisemitism?”


14.30 – 16.00 Session One:
Sindre Bangstad. “’The Racism That Dares Not Speak Its Name…’ igjen?”
Tuija Saresma “Racism, sexism, misogyny, and homophobia? The intersections of resentment speech in the Nordic Masculinist Blogs”


16.15 – 17.30 Session Two:
Lene Myong and Iram Khawaja, Århus University, “Teaching Race in the White Classroom”

17.30 – 18.30 Reception

19.30 Dinner for presenters

November 28
Venue: Kroghstræde 3, room 1.119

8.30 – 9.30 Keynote:
Evelyn Alsultany, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. Media after 9/11: Racialization in a “Post-Race” Era”


9.45 – 11.00 Session Three:
Camilla Havista, University of Helsinki, “Anti-what? An overview of anti-racist social movements, non-profit organizations and their mediated claims-making in Finland”
Mahitab Ezz El Din, University of Örebro, “Media construction of the Other in reporting intercultural conflicts.”

Coffee Break

11.15 – 12.30 Session Four:
Christian Stokke, Buskerud College. “Norwegian Muslims’ antiracist activism in the public sphere”
Evin Ismail, University of Uppsala, “The Naturalization of Islamophobia in Sweden, France and the United States after 9/11”

12.30 – 13.00 “Meeting about future initiatives”

END of conference


“Off we can go”


The Moral Blame Game

Apparently we did not learn from “22/7” in Norway. Instead, we continue a moral game of blaming each other. This is what a new study is showing.

Extreme right wing terrorist’s Anders Behring Breivik’s attacks in Norway on 22 July 2011 were the deadliest attacks in the Nordic countries since World War II. In spite of this being such a dramatic and devastating event and its historical depth, Danish media coverage, surprisingly, did not strictly focus on historical and social science facts in relation to “22/7”, but were more busy rehearsing pre-existing political disagreement and entrenched positions.

The Danish radical right politicians and commentators were washing their hands declaring Breivik insane, denying Islamophobia, and blaming domestic adversaries (and “multiculturalism”) for derailing the debate. And that left wing commentators saw the radical right wing as the enemy.
These conclusions come from a new study of the Danish media coverage of the first 100 days since “22/7.”

The study is part of a theme issue on “22/7” of Nordic Journal of Migration Research (Vol 13, 4, published on 15 January 2014), which also includes a study of the Norwegian Media coverage of the first 100 days.

The study of this first wave of media coverage is intriguing in the sense that it shows we had not learned anything from “22/7.” On the contrary, it showed how the “boxing match” style of throwing punches at each other when dealing with the phenomenon of mass-murderer Breivik is a simply a continuation of Breivik’s own message: It is the fault of the other.

The Norwegian study by Elizabeth Eide and her students reveals that in Norway as well the news media debate was roughly divided into two strong positions. One blaming society for not giving enough space for the extreme and radical right wing citizens to express their views on Islam and multiculturalism, and another seeing terror as connected to the high degree of hostility towards migrants and Muslims.

One of the reactions to the 22/7 event is to pathologise Breivik himself, that is to turn him into a mentally ill person or a lone wolf. This reaction does not derive from any analysis of what is known about Breivik but constitutes both a speculation and serve as a rhetoric device to Breivik and 22/7 into an exception or even an accident. If Breivik is mentally ill, history is taken away from him. Attention is diverted away from his basic opinions, which are in fact shared by many people on the far right.
(Susi Meret and Peter Hervik (lead article), Erostratus Unbound: Norway’s 22/7 Converging Frames of War)

Another interesting article in the theme issue about 22/7, written by Gavan Titley, examines the prevailing invocation of “war” in the debate and Breivik’s compendium, which he argues is a condition of counter-jihad networks and serves as the license for mainstream polemics on the “failing experiment” of multiculturalism. (“They Called a War, and Someone Came”)

Finally Jelle van Buuren presents an intriguing study of the “Eurabia” ideology. Van Buuren shows how this conspiracy ideology and performance works as an operational spur – with a quest to act, to embrace urgent, extraordinary or violent action in order to rescue civilization from destruction – thus opening up a nice slot for exposing oneselves as heroes, who only do what needs to be done. (“Spur to Violence?”)