Janet Connor

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Chicago, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9402

Approve Date

April 18, 2017

Project Title

Connor, Janet E., U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'Mobilizing 'Strangers' For Political Change in Oslo, Norway,' supervised by Dr. Susan Gal

Preliminary abstract: Across Europe today, the figure of the stranger is frequently equated with the foreign enemy or terrorist, commonly through the shape of the refugee. Yet in a multicultural neighborhood in central Oslo, Norway, many white Norwegian residents are challenging this standard understanding, claiming all the neighborhood’s residents are strangers in relation to the rest of the city. They base their claims in Norway’s complicated history of stranger relations, and the capital city of Oslo’s ambivalent place in relation to the rest of the nation. By making themselves ‘strangers’ in their own country, these neighbors are trying to bring about political change, critiquing the Norwegian political imaginary and remaking understandings of Norwegian citizenship. Their efforts are not simply a utopian project to create a more inclusive nation, but also a site where anxieties about migration converge with nation-internal divisions and a concern about Oslo’s aspirations to become a ‘world-class’ city. Through twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork among residents, institutions, state officials, and the news media, this project will investigate how the category of ‘stranger’ emerges through social processes of contrast, opposition, and negotiation. It will trace the ways that it is taken up to make political claims and the tensions that emerge from the various perspectives of who can be a stranger. These perspectives are based in conflicting aspirations for the future of the neighborhood and its place within the city, nation, and internationally. As Norway frequently positions itself, and is positioned by others, as a ‘moral leader,’ the way that ‘strangerhood’ is categorized and emerges there will have important effects throughout the rest of Europe and the world.