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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam

Living Integration: at the Crossroads between Official Policies, Public Discourses and Everyday Practices

Alternative title: Integrering som levd liv: mellom politikk, diskurs og hverdagspraksis

Awarded: NOK 7.4 mill.

The project has developed new knowledge about integration in the Norwegian context. It has explored experiences, practices and understandings related to incorporating immigrants and being incorporated as an immigrant in a new society. Knowledge about how integration, as a complex societal phenomenon, can have both an inclusive and exclusive effect is an important contribution to policy development in the field. The project has explored how immigrants, politicians, employees in the integration services and participants in voluntary work talk about their experiences and practices, and how local newspapers write about integration. The project has focused on the stories and understandings that emerge from such experiences, practices, and writings. Furthermore, it has studied the differences and similarities that are created through such practices and understandings, and how categories related to gender, ethnicity, class may contribute to equality and belonging, but also to sameness and exclusion. The project has been empirically limited to several local communities in Central Norway. A main finding is that integration, as a national political goal and means, is given local interpretations. The interpretations, analyzed through narratives, contribute to self-understandings and understandings of others, and both form inclusive and exclusive processes. In these processes, it is especially the dimensions of gender and ethnicity that are given significance. The project has identified a dominant public majority narrative. This is that the local community has become a diverse society and that immigration is positive because it contributes to population growth, economic growth and to social and cultural enrichment. Social and cultural diversity is emphasized as important for the local community to develop creativity, innovation and avoid stagnation. Correspondingly, there is also a widespread story that the municipalities succeed in integration. Immigrants who settle or are settled in the municipality are perceived as resources for the municipality and the municipalities perceive themselves as skilled in their work towards new arrivals. By comparing how employees in the public integration services talk about their work, it becomes clear that local practices, experiences, and narratives are created in a contradictory but inevitable relationship to national rhetoric. Everyday practices involve dealing with tensions between local political goals and national integration policies, between regulations and local practices, and between professionalism and proximity to the resident refugees. In dealing with these tensions, the sharing of experience between different local services plays an important role and it forms some general narratives about what integration work is and should be. In addition to the fact that local conditions for integration, such as the labor market, are important for how local integration work is understood, the employees in the public services contribute to shaping local integration. The local stories show how place-specific ways of talking about integration not only make the current experiences with local integration work understandable and meaningful, but also create some specific understandings of the given place. What is perceived as integration is that immigrants should become citizens who contribute to the development of the local community through participation in working life, and in other arenas of the society. Becoming and being a citizen can be read both as an expectation and as a requirement for immigrants, as it is expected and required of other citizens. This can be said to underpin an economic and social understanding of equality that produces the categories of the good citizen and the good refugee. The rhetoric of diversity turns into a sameness thinking when it comes to cultural values and norms related to the social order of society. The anticipation of sameness creates and maintains a ranking and hierarchical distinction between majority and minority. This ranking is not reflected upon by the majority population. For immigrants the ranked distinction can be experienced as a lack of belonging, as exclusion, and a feeling of being perceived as dangerous or threatening to the local community. Participation in the activities of the local community can therefore be a way of rendering oneself harmless, while it is perceived as an expression of successful integration on the part of the majority population. For local political authorities and the local press, the effects may be that they do not equip themselves with tools to combat and counter racism, sexism, and economic inequality. At the same time, the explicit narrative of diversity from the local elite can lead to greater openness, tolerance and acceptance of differences and social complexity in the individual local community.

Prosjektet har bidratt til å styrke forskning og undervisning knyttet til feltet "likestilling og mangfold" på Institutt for tverrfaglig kulturforskning, ved Humanistisk fakultet og ved NTNU. Et konkret resultat er etablering av to nye studieemner hvor det ene er et områdeemne for alle BA-studenter ved HF. Prosjektet har bidratt til å styrke feltet "kritisk integreringsforskning" på nasjonalt og nordisk plan, gjennom å initiere og etablere et nasjonalt nettverk, gjennom et nasjonalt bokprosjekt og gjennom et nordisk/internasjonalt nettverk.

The project will explore how integration is perceived, practiced and experienced in political, institutional and everyday practices in two local communities in Norway with a rather different immigration history, but who have both successfully accomplished the overarching aim of integration on the level of labour market participation. The aim of the project is to generate new knowledge on how all parts of Norwegian society, and not only migrant people, are affected by and take part in the complex processes of integration. We will take a cultural analytical approach, focussing on stories and everyday practices regarding access, participation, belonging and equality, as well as difference, exclusion and discrimination. We will have a particular focus on asymmetrical structural and symbolic power dimensions of gender, class, sexuality, age and religion. The contribution of this project thus is to explore the social and cultural complexities involved when the political aim of integration is implemented in a local community and embraced, discussed, challenged, disputed and negotiated at various sites and by differently positioned subjects. The research design is based on qualitative research methods and cultural analytical perspectives. The data will consist of a combination of in-depth individual and group interviews, observation, policy documents and media texts. The methodological approach is inspired by grounded theory and discursive text analysis. The project will establish a national/international network in the field, discussing and comparing findings. This collaboration will result in a number of journal articles that will provide a comparative cross-national and interdisciplinary perspective.

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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam