(Late) CfP: Public opinion and (media) representations of “the other”, for 12th Annual IMISCOE Conference (25-27/06/15 Geneva, Switzerland); DL: 14/01/15

Part of the 12th Annual IMISCOE Conference Rights, Democracy and Migration (25-27 June 2015, Geneva, Switzerland), the workshop titled Public opinion and (media) representations of “the other” is organized by Anders Hellström (MIM, Malmö University); anders.hellstrom[at] and Ov Cristian Norocel (CEREN, University of Helsinki); cristian.norocel[at] We are very glad to announce that Gregg Bucken-Knapp will act as discussant again.

There are terrorist attacks against e.g. cartoonists in Paris, mass demonstrations against Islam in several German cities and almost a re-election in Sweden due to the behavior of the anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats (SD), something which was abandoned in the last minute. “The other” is in our face. And the population is divided.

While ethnic and demographic diversification are welcomed by some, there is a growing concern about the effects of immigration on the economy and on welfare, beside a preoccupation that relates to what is seen as the cultural impact of migration on national identity. These positions often translate into a demand for political response and action targeting asylum-seeker and refugees and in general the number of migrants entering the country.

Within this context, popular xenophobic sentiments show different and more dangerous faces. In this workshop we will further develop on the crucial dynamic of representations of “the other” in relation to the natives – in the media, the public sphere and/or the field of party politics – and public attitudes of “the other” in a similar set of spheres.

Different kind of outbursts against people of non-native background (or members of minority groups) are part of the everyday experiences of many minorities in Europe today, e.g. Jews, Muslims and Roma; these groups are subject to various forms of discrimination, exclusionary practices, deprivation and unfair treatment as a result. It is by appealing to anti-immigrant attitudes and to general concerns about immigration among the population that anti-immigration parties across Europe endeavor to mobilize those voters who are more ‘receptive’ to these issues.

But increasingly harsh immigration restrictions, regulations and exclusionary practices are not only advocated by extreme and populist radical right wing parties. Outside the party political sphere, there are a multitude of movements in civil society who mobilize (and counter mobilize) on these issues. On a top down level, European governments and elites have tried to limit both the access to the nation-states and to the welfare benefits by introducing or strengthening hierarchies of stratifications between groups deemed to be entitled/deserving in opposition to those not-entitled and undeserving.

The ongoing economic recession and the steadily growing levels of unemployment have triggered social mobilization of anti-immigration movements, as well as anti-austerity and Euroskeptical activities despite the governments’ attempt to control the situation.

The panel welcomes papers that deal with the consequences of ever-changing socio-economic circumstances and recent dramatic events in Europe in e.g. terms of changing patterns of party-political preferences and/or people´s attitudes towards immigration and the welfare state. We encourage comparative analyses of commonalities and differences between reactions and mobilizations in particular regions, but also in a wider European perspective. We welcome papers that deal with for instance representations of “the other” in terms of voting behavior, with analyses of anti-immigration policies and public discourses and representations and also large-N studies in terms of e.g. popular attitudes towards immigration and the welfare state.

Please, send your abstract (approximately 250 words) to the organizers at anders.hellstrom[at] and cristian.norocel[at] by January 14 2015. The participants will get to know if their papers have been accepted soon after the IMISCOE board has made their decision.

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Thursday, January 8th, 2015 Research No Comments

UPDATE: Workshop at the XLIII FPSA (20-21.01.2011, University of Jyväskylä/ Jyväskylän yliopisto Finland)

The Workshop “Moulding Identity, Trust and Commitment in the Nordic Countries: Balancing between Assimilation and Accommodation in the (Post)Multicultural World?” organized with the occasion of the XLIII Politiikan tutkimuksen päivät/ XLIII Annual Meeting of Finnish Political Science Association (FPSA, conference web-page in Finnish, tässä; English, here) will be taking place at the University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä Finland on 20.01.2011 between 14:30 and 18:00.  The workshop is allocated room AgB201. The room is in the second floor of the Agora building in Mattilanniemi (here).

The following papers are scheduled to be presented within the workshop (the language of the workshop panel will be English):

1. Borders of the Finnish Nation: ‘Gang Rapes’ in the Rhetoric of Anti-Immigration Activists and Politicians
Suvi Keskinen (Department of Social Research/Sociology, University of Turku) (details, in Finnish, tässä; in English, here)

In recent years a European trend, that has been called the ‘backlash against difference’ (Grillo 2007) or the ‘multiculturalism backlash’ (Vertovec & Wessendorf 2010), has gained foothold in Finland too. While multiculturalism was previously considered a positive goal and future vision, it has more recently been subjected to critique and claims of ‘having gone too far’. One sign of this ‘backlash’ is the rise of neo-nationalist and anti-immigration forces in municipal and national elections. In Finland neo-nationalist and anti-immigration rhetoric is used especially by politicians in the True Finns party and by activists on the internet. However, such rhetoric has spread itself through the political field and been adopted by representatives of several political parties.

Issues related to gender and sexuality prominently appear in neo-nationalist and anti-immigration rhetoric. References to forced marriages, honour-killings and sexual violence are frequently used to construct dichotomous divisions between ‘us’ and ‘them’. In this presentation I will analyze how the events called the ‘gang rapes in Oulu’ in 2006-2007 were used by anti-immigration activists on the internet and by the politician Jussi Halla-aho to promote neo-nationalist and anti-immigration agendas. Although (or maybe because) the perpetrators of the rapes were never identified, the events were used to construct an overwhelming threat of the ‘other’ man towards both local communities (such as Oulu) and national safety. The boundaries of the Finnish nation were evoked through a threat from the outside, caused by growing numbers of asylum seekers and refugees from non-Western countries, as well as a threat from the inside, embodied by migrant people who were residents of the country but not regarded as belonging to the nation. The border-policing rhetoric was based on a racialization of criminality – a process in which criminal acts were stereotyped and turned into characteristics of certain ethnically or racially defined groups.

Furthermore, the presentation analyzes the blog text of the politician Jussi Halla-aho in which he comments on the ‘gang rapes’. It will be shown how, in his text, the discussion about the threat of the ‘other’ man turns into a discussion about the hindrances that white femininities create for the performance of patriotic masculinity. The gendered and classed figure of the ‘lady in a flowery hat’ (kukkahattutäti) is analyzed as the metaphor for the educated women in the Finnish society who speak for multiculturalism and work with integration or immigration affairs. The rhetoric will be analyzed in relation to how oppositions are constructed in present-day Finnish politics based on distinctions of gender, class and ‘race’/ethnicity.

Keywords: multiculturalism, neo-nationalism, racism, sexual violence, radical right populist parties, criminality

2. Regulation and encouragement of participation by ethnic minorities in Finland and Denmark
Marjukka Weide (Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki) (details in English, here)

Resident foreigners in Finland and Denmark enjoy relatively extensive political rights. The level of political participation by resident foreigners and naturalized immigrants, however, remains low. A question arises as to how the two states are addressing this situation. Societal participation and related areas, such as naturalization, are at least in part governed by different bodies than those responsible for general immigrant affairs. This is why the answer cannot be provided by examining only one branch of government, as many immigrant policy studies do.

My aim in this paper is to identify the various policy locations in the two countries, which contribute to regulating participation by people with migratory backgrounds. On the basis of an extensive institutional mapping, I locate four policies of relevance in the sphere of traditional “immigrant policy”: 1) naturalization policy, 2) state “integration policy”, including language/integration courses, 3) municipal “integration” and minority policy, including advisory boards/integration councils 4) state institutions for minority representation. Furthermore, I find three other policy areas to be in a significant position: 1) electoral policies, 2) state policy of civic participation, and 3) municipal participation policy.

Regulation of immigrant participation can be of restricting character, as in the case of access to nationality, or of “proactive” character, i.e. spurring certain types of activity, as in the case of support to associations or organising elections to integration councils. In Denmark, political citizenship of new ethnic minorities is mainly addressed under the heading of integration policies; in Finland the policy area of “democracy policy” is of increasing importance. While the state level is decisive in the forming of the overall policy framework in both countries, municipal solutions, for example, determine the position of integration councils or multicultural boards.

Keywords: Denmark, Finland, immigrant policy, integration policy, minority representation

3. The Nation (Re)Imagined
Peter Holley (Department of Social Research (Sociology) / CEREN, The Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism, University of Helsinki) (details in English, here)

In recent decades there has emerged a significant debate within Western societies as to the nature of ‘the nation-state’ and the place of the migrant ‘other’ within its borders (cf. Benhabib 2002; Fortier 2008; Goldberg 1994; Modood 2005; Parekh 2006). In fact, in the Finnish context, a comparatively recent opening up of national borders followed by a modest flow of immigration (particularly to towns and cities in the capitol region) implies that a sharp change from a once perceived homogenous culture to a new understanding of a Finnish heterogeneity is now taking place. Such transforms therefore result in a new Finnish multiculturalism in which the migrant ‘other’ seeks to negotiate her belongings and identifications. How then, we might ask, do such migrants make sense of their position(s) within their ‘host’ society? And how do they articulate a space in which they too might be included within the ‘national family’? Moreover, to what extent is a fundamental change in Finland’s national identity currently taking place due to the impact of migration?

Keywords: Finnish identity, (political) belonging, transnational migration, multiculturalism and citizenship.

4. ‘Chauvinism’, ‘Xenophobia’ and ‘Flowered Hats’
Niko Pyrhönen (CEREN, The Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism, University of Helsinki) (details in English, here)

The municipal elections of 2008 marked the inception of the steep rise in the support for the True Finns party and their political agenda – in polls and in public debates the sentiments towards immigration and multiculturalism have become more hostile. However, significant challenges remain in attempts to explain the growth of anti-immigration and anti-multiculturalist (AIAM) voices in the public debate. In the recent scientific work their proliferation has commonly been attributed to relatively abstract developments, such as “work-related precariousness”, “the challenging of traditional ideas on national unity” or “ethnocentric in-group bias”. While these meta-narratives remain coherent, they also leave a crucial aspect of the phenomenon unexplored if they are not linked to actual articulations of AIAM sentiments that narratives seek to explain.

My work in progress seeks to help in filling this empirical gap by looking at the articulations of AIAM sentiments within the most commented news threads on the discussion boards of Helsingin sanomat during the years 2008–2010. My initial findings suggest that AIAM sentiments are not most commonly articulated with reference to concepts of identity and belonging such as “the national unity” or “the Finnish way of life.” Rather, these articulations appear to be outnumbered by references to redistributive issues whose implications go to the core of welfare ideology and its institutional manifestation in welfare state politics. This would suggest that the existing narratives behind the growth of AIAM sentiments need to be complemented with reference to the proliferation of an instrumental discourse whose AIAM underpinnings are regarded as rising from the redistributive demands of the welfare system.

Keywords: immigration, xenophobia, ethnocentrism, welfare policy, public debate.

5. Nationalisms and Europeanness in media discourses on Islam
Karin Creutz-Kämppi (CEREN, The Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism, University of Helsinki) (details in English, here)

The global aspects of media stories bring with them changes in spatial consciousness. This
means not only a greater involvement in events in other parts of the world, but also a
reassessment of one’s own position in the enlarged society. When the individual’s subjective world of knowledge is widened from the immediate surroundings to a global perspective, the self-categorization needs to be redefined to obtain relevance in the new context. In this paper, I examine the concepts that within the discursive othering of Islam
represent the notion of a We-collective. Through discursive polarization the boundaries for collectivity are clarified; these boundaries consist of typifications and routinized perceptions. As collectivity on a global level is distant to the everyday-life of the individual, without attachment to daily practices, it is from a sociological viewpoint interesting to look at how these conceptions of belonging are rhetorically constructed and legitimized as positions for identification. This assessment simultaneously shows articulations of the discursive power of specific institutionalized knowledge forms.

Nationalism is a central ideological aspect of boundary making – the nation, however, has a less important role as factor for identification in connection to global discourses on Islam. Instead the notions of Europe and the West function as the entities where the “own” and “right” values and traditions prevail. By excluding specific values, norms and cultural attributes from these concepts, denominators for collective identifications are constructed. Media rhetoric is a central element in the societal knowledge production; an inquiry in how the notions of collective identification are rhetorically mediated provides insight in the premises and knowledge structures of these positions. The analyzed data in this case study consists of all opinion articles debating the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad from seven Swedish-language dailies in Finland from a six months period in 2006.

Keywords: Othering, Islam representations, nationalisms, Europeanization, sociology of knowledge, media rhetoric

6. The Rhetorical (Re)Constructions of the Swedish Folkhem: A Feminist Reading of Conceptual Metaphors
Ov Cristian Norocel (Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki/ Department of Political Science, Stockholm University) (details in English, here)

Acknowledging that the construction of radical right populism around the metaphorical depiction of the national family at the beginning of twenty-first century is a little researched area, this article explores the discursive redefinitions of Swedishness enabled by the folkhem conceptual metaphor so that to accommodate centrally located heterosexist masculinities at the intersection of gender, class, and “race”, as it is heralded by the main Swedish radical right populist party, the Sweden Democrats (SD) and its leader Jimmie Åkesson.

In order to do so, the main tenets of the conceptual metaphor theory are discussed and criticisms to the present methodologies are presented leading to the suggestion of a new, genealogical approach. The research material is then analyzed with the help of the proposed method, evidencing Åkesson’s use of the national family metaphor over time. The concluding part provides with an overview of the findings and indicates possible extrapolations for studying masculinities in radical right populist discourses with the aid of the suggested methodological apparatus developing conceptual metaphor theory.

Keywords: conceptual metaphor theory, feminism, genealogy, heteronormativity, Jimmie Åkesson, Sweden Democrats

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Friday, December 10th, 2010 Research No Comments

Call for Papers: Moulding Identity, Trust and Commitment in the Nordic Countries, at XLIII Annual FPSA (20-21.01.2011, University of Jyväskylä); DL: 03.12.2010

The 43rd Annual Politiikan tutkimuksen päivät/ Meeting of Finnish Political Science Association Conference will be organized at the University of Jyväskylä, January 20-21 2011. The theme of the conference is Epäluulo ja demokratia/ Distrust and democracy.

The potential participants may send their abstracts (max. 150 words) to the workshop coordinator until 3 December 2010. The email address of the coordinator is listed at the end of the workshop’s description below.

Moulding Identity, Trust and Commitment in the Nordic Countries:
Balancing between Assimilation and Accommodation in the (Post)Multicultural World?

On October 17 2010, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel argued that the “[multicultural] approach has failed, utterly failed.” This is just one example among many other political developments that shape the debate around the discursive projection of “Us” and “Others” and the perceived need for forging a common national project around issues of common identity, trust and commitment. Among the Nordic countries, Denmark is oftentimes given as the most drastic example of change in its approach to immigration, while Sweden for quite some time was considered a progressive and liberal acme of immigration and integration policies. In Finland, despite the low level of immigration, an increasingly critical discourse to multiculturalism is monopolizing the public attention. Across the Nordic region, conflicting discourses highlight a desire for a further tightening of immigration control and assimilative demands at the same time with attempts for accommodative efforts. These discourses erect competing hierarchies of citizenship and valorization, underpinned by categories of gender and sexual identity, ethnicity, “race” and religion, in which “Others” are perpetually contained to a second class status.

With this in mind, authors are encouraged to submit papers assessing critically the emerging political climate and the calls for assimilation or for accommodation in the Nordic countries. Are the present demands for the tightening of integration policies or the outright call for more assertive assimilative efforts the signs of an imminent end of multiculturalism? Which political entities articulate such demands for action and how are these met by those groups they are aimed at? Analyses of how gender and sexuality, ethnicity, religion and “race” contribute or undermine the national(ist) projects in the Nordic countries in the new context are particularly welcomed.

The language of the workshop is English.

Keywords: accommodation and/or assimilation policies, immigration, (post)multiculturalism, national(ist) identity discourse(s), Nordic countries.

Ov Cristian Norocel
Department of Economic and Political Studies, University of Helsinki

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Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 Uncategorized 1 Comment

Obsessing about the Other in Finland: mandatory study of Swedish may turn you into a killer, welcoming refugees spells the end of Finnish nation

Being preoccupied with the Other appears as a multifaceted process in Finland, and it stretches to encompass attitudes against Swedish-speaking Finns and mandatory Swedish-language education in Finnish schools, to fears of national dilution with the apparent increase of asylum seekers and other refugees in the country, a consequence of the clandestine activities of the same Swedish-speakers. However, what they have in common is the danger they posit to the Finnish masculinity, or better said to the typology of Finnish conservative heteropatriachal masculinity heralded by the Finnish radical right populists- the True Finns (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna).

A first example is the incident which was mainly discussed on the Finnish Broadcast company’s Swedish language web-pages (här). It is an opinion piece published by Kirkkonummen Sanomat (KS) authored by Voitto Mäkipää (in Finnish, tässä, p. 15). Kirkkonummen Sanomat is, as the name suggests, the local newspaper in Kirkkonummi/ Kyrkslätt, a commune some 30 km away from the Finnish capital. Mäkipää is a local non-affiliated commune councilor on educational matters, who works closely with PS. In his article, Mäkipää argued against the teaching of mandatory Swedish in Finnish schools, the so-called pakkoruotsi/tvångssvenska.  What is surprising, however, is the way Mäkipää claimed in his piece that based on his personal experience of being forced to study a “completely useless” language like pakkoruotsi he has come to understand the frustration of young men that eventually shoot innocent people around them. In this light, he recommended researching which language had to study those who engaged in violent shootings in Finland in the recent past. He then continued unabated that pakkoruotsi is “a relic of the past” and that the Swedish-speaking Finns are the fifth column, which clandestinely undermines the Finnish nation from within.

From a gender-informed perspective, Mäkipää‘s take on the issue of violence in Finnish society obscures completely the widespread gun ownership across the country and focus on stereotypical images of Swedish masculinity (and by means of the common language, transferred over to the Swedish-speaking Finns), as emasculated and weak in comparison to the Finnish heteropatriarchal masculinity in its conservative translation as heralded by the radical right populism of PS. In other words being exposed to Swedish inflicts irreversible damage to Finnish heteropatriachal masculinity and reveals its extreme vulnerability, since violence is the only means to release the frustration of forced-learning and symbolically erase the signs of the less-than-masculine (read Swedish-language exposed). Apparently this is how real Finnish men are crafted: complete resistance to Swedish and everything the Swedish language represents in Finland, and if this is not possible then the only manly solution is indiscriminate violence against innocent bystanders.

In a parallel development that echoes the references to the fifth column of Swedish-speaking Finns, PS has lashed out at the  Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors (SFP/ Ruotsalainen kansanpuolue/ Svenska folkpartiet) and demanded her resignation. PS accused her for the allegedly too liberal take on Finnish migration policy, which apparently has resulted in a surge in the numbers of asylum seekers in Finland (tässä, här, here). PS reacted to the 6000 or so family reunification applications received by the ministry, which are considered to be the direct effect of the overly lax immigration policy in the past years. What PS did not mention was the extremely high rejection rate of such applications, but in turn focused on the generous financial support offered by the Finnish state to those very few who are granted asylum and allowed to bring their families to Finland. It is not the first time when PS criticized Minister Thors for her work. At times of economic hardship, their accusations may sound very comforting to the disenchanted jobless and economically struggling Finns across the country. The PS implicit critique is that such an attitude risks to undermine the Finnish national being, since the newcomers, mainly from Somalia and Iraq represent an extreme embodiment of the Other, both religiously (i.e. non-Christian) and racially (non-European). The large non-Finnish families would thus change the population dynamic in the country, and undermine the hegemonic position of the Finnish man by exposing him to competition from the Other men.

One may wonder if learning Swedish, even when it is a mandatory discipline, leads to such frustration that justifies violent manifestations against innocent people around (like in the tragic school shootings in Jokela and Kauhajoki; or in the shooting spree in Espoo/ Esbo)? Is Finnish conservative heteropatriarchal masculinity really threatened by Swedish language abilities? Even more worryingly, is the Swedish-speaking Minister of Migration preparing quietly for an invasion of the country of True Finns (the name of the party after all) by cohorts of asylum seekers and their families from Somalia and Iraq? Is this yet another case of thinly veiled anti-Muslim sentiments against the incoming asylum seekers, or a real concern with an explosive immigration in Finland?

After all, in 2008 there were 467 favorable decisions for family reunification , and some 2 170 people were received by Finnish municipalities; one can imagine their impact on the overall Finnish population of 5 326 314 (the numbers are taken from the Finnish statistical public authority, for different language versions: tässä, här, here).

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Sunday, February 7th, 2010 Miscellaneous No Comments

UPDATE: Workshop at XLII Annual FPSA (11.03.2010 University of Helsinki, Helsinki/ Helsingfors Finland)

The workshop titled Can Others Become Part of Us? Questions of National (Im)Purity,  which I have organized for XLII Politiikan tutkimuksen päivät/ XLII Annual Meeting of Finnish Political Science Association (FPSA, conference web-page in English, here), will be taking place at the University of Helsinki on 11.03.2010 in Helsinki/ Helsingfors Finland. The workshop is scheduled to take place at the University of Helsinki main building, Fabianinkatu 33/ Fabiansgatan 33, Room 4 (3rd floor).

The following papers are scheduled to be presented within the workshop (the language of the workshop panel will be English):

1. Indigenous Subjectivity Challenging Ethnic Particularity
Tanja Joona (University of Lapland) (details in English, here)
Sanna Valkonen (University of Lapland) (details in Finnish, tässä)

The Sámi have constructed national unity since 1950’s by creating their own political institutions and by defining the Sámi symbols and cultural features. Since 1970’s the Sámi unity and subjectivity have been constructed as an indigenous people. The indigenous Sámi discourse is connected to the crowing awareness and political activity of the indigenous peoples globally and to the strengthening of their international position. Nowadays the Sámi of Finland have a constitutionally recognized position as an indigenous people, and they have a cultural autonomy in an area situated in the Northernmost Finland, e.g. Sámi Homeland. The cultural autonomy is implemented by the Sámi parliament. A Sámi definition of the Sámi Act defines the legal Sámi subjects legitimate for instance to vote in the Sámi elections. However, striving to define the Sámi subjects has caused protection of Sámi cultural purity in a situation in which most of the Sámi don’t live in a traditional Sámi way anymore.

Our presentation deals with the problematic related to the indigenous subjectivity both from the viewpoint the ILO convention no. 169, which is the most important international treaty concerning the indigenous peoples, and also from the “Sámi viewpoint”. We examine the ambiguous practices of ethnic and indigenous lining and labeling in regard to an empirical example of so called “Lapp discussion”. The concept “Lapp” refers to people who are no longer recognized as Sámi among the Sámi but who descent from the original/indigenous inhabitants of the region and are thus potential indigenous subjects and right holders according to national and international law.

Keywords: Sámi, Lapp, ILO Convention, subjectivity, ethnicity, indigenous people.

2. Orchestrating Integration into Finnishness. Top-down Representations of National Identity through Discourses of Othering in Media, Parliamentary Debates and Legislative Documents
Niko Pyrhönen (CEREN, University of Helsinki) (details in English, here)

European regimes of immigration law, especially in the Nordic welfare countries, are often understood as being increasingly constrained by the international discourse of human-rights and free mobility stressed in treaties of the European Union. I argue, however, that nation-specific identity constructions and the subsequent considerations for political prudentiality play a major part in the formulation and evaluation of policy programmes for regulating immigration and organizing immigrant integration. This is particularly true in Finland, underlined by the fact that a markedly heated political debate has evolved over the phenomenon, even though the country has experienced levels of immigration significantly below that of EU-15 countries.

In my paper, I examine the Finnish Integration Acts of 1999 and 2009 and the Foreigner Act of 2004 in order to assess how Finnishness is reconstructed through a legislative discourse of Othering as presented on three different levels.

Keywords: immigration, integration legislation, national identity, othering.

3. Defending Romanianness and Heteropatriarchy. Masculinity Metaphors in Romanian Radical Right Populism
Ov Cristian Norocel (University of Helsinki)

The present paper investigates the recent history of the Romanian family as a heteropatriarchal matrix for metaphors of masculinity at the beginning of the 21st century, as it is heralded by the main radical right populist party Greater Romania Party (Partidul România Mare, PRM). Focusing on Greater Romania Magazine (RRM, Revista România Mare) – the party’s main media outlet- the analysis focuses on PRM leader’s editorials during a well defined timeframe in recent history of Romanian radical right populism, from the preparations for presidential elections in 2000, which witnessed PRM leader’s surprising run off, through the subsequent presidential elections in 2004, and up EU Parliamentary elections in 2009, that enabled PRM to send three representatives to European Parliament.

The staunchly restrictive definition of the family, portrayed as the exclusive heteronormative domain of the Romanian male, has developed across time with the help of the NATION IS A FAMILY and the STRICT FATHER conceptual metaphors to proscribe the existence of family narratives including ethnically diverse or any sexually different Others. The article accounts for the discursive (re-)definitions of Romanianness enabled by conceptual metaphors so that to accommodate centrally located heterosexist masculinities, and underlines the need for further explorations of the radical right populist narratives of Romanian purity.

Keywords: conceptual metaphors, heteropatriarchal family, masculinities, radical right populism, Romanian purity.

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Thursday, February 4th, 2010 Research No Comments

On the Evil Other and National (Im)Purity: Shkupolli, Finland and All Questions In Between

2009 ended tragically in Finland: six people were killed in the Sello shopping mall shooting in Espoo/Esbo: one woman and three men were shot to death in the mall, another woman was discovered gruesomely killed in her home; the last victim was the gunman himself.  At the time when the police was still searching for the suspect, and the media hardly had managed to publish information about him, comments flooded pointing out at his not being a Finn and being a convicted criminal as the main explanation of the shooting. By the time he was found dead in his apartment in Espoo/Esbo, it was public knowledge that his name was Ibrahim Shkupolli, a 43-year-old Kosovo Albanian that came to Finland at the beginning of the 1990s.

In the aftermath of the shootings it was heatedly argued that Shkupolli should have been deported to Kosovo, and that Finland has too loose a law on deportation of foreign convicts. In a later series of articles ran by Helsingin Sanomat (HS), it was revealed that annually there are deported approximately 70 from among the almost 140,000 people of foreign origin living presently in Finland; moreover, Shkupolli had his Finnish citizenship application rejected, as a result of his “numerous” offenses (in English, here). His criminal offenses, according to the same HS (in English, here) were a conviction of assault (2001), and two firearms offenses (in 2004 and 2007). His former partner, one of the women victims, had a restraining order against him because of his violent behavior and continuous harassing.

In a self-secure tone, Timo Soini leader of the RRP True Finns (PS/Perussuomalaiset), commented that both Finnish PM, Matti Vanhanen from the Center Party (Kesk/Keskusta/Centerpartiet), and the Minister of the Interior, Anne Holmlund from the National Coalition Party (Kok/Kansallinen Kokoomus/Samlingspartiet) are moving ever closer to PS’ line on the question of granting residence permits to foreigners with a criminal background, in the sense of making the legislation even more restrictive (in Swedish, här).

Acting as a leading opinion maker in Finland, HS addressed the heated debate about Shkupolli not being Finnish but also went further and asked what can be defined as “racist” and inquired openly if his background  had an impact in the unfolding of the tragic event (in English, here). One of the main arguments put forward was that the Kosovo Albanians have suffered a severe collective trauma, as evidenced by research of psychiatrists from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm (Sweden). One of the main findings was that the Kosovo Albanians forced to seek refuge across Europe have an increased sense of marginalization and alienation than other migrant groups. This unfortunately silenced the issue of integration in the Finnish society, since Shkupolli lived almost 20 years in Finland before the tragic event. Despite being convicted for the aforementioned crimes, he lived and worked in Finland, and it is rather difficult to portray him as a blood-thirsty foreigner living at the fringes of Finnish society. Even the Finnish Immigration Services had to admit that his criminal record was not enough to support a potential deportation, and that his later actions could not have been foreseen just from that.

However, another HS article acknowledged the strong resemblance between the domestic violence degenerated into the killings of whole families perpetrated by native Finns, and Shkupolli’s actions. The case of former sportsman Matti Nykänen, who allegedly injured his wife on Christmas Day 2009 with a knife and attempted to strangle her (in Finnish, tässä; in English, here), made headlines not only in Finland but also abroad and was a sad reminder of domestic violence in Finland.

Interviewed by Hufvudstadsbladet (Hbl), the Minister of Migration and European Affairs, Astrid Thors from the Swedish People’s Party (SFP/Ruotsalainen kansanpuolue/Svenska folkpartiet) was one of the few dissenting voices who reacted strongly on the matter and warned that the debate around the Sello killings should not focus on the ethnic background of the perpetrator, but consider the combined impact of high incidence of gun ownership, and domestic violence in Finland (in Swedish, här).

Addressing the issue of family violence, which in Finnish media usually receives a gender-neutral connotation, Pia Puu Oksanen argued in an interview in the same Hbl for the strengthening of policies on the matter, despite the present economic hardships (in Swedish, här). She underlined that in almost 20% of homicides in Finland a man kills his wife, girlfriend or co-inhabiting partner; the most critical moment is when women attempt to put an end to their relationships. Unfortunately, the ideals of Finnish masculinity appear to be constructed around the conviction of ownership of women. In other words, a woman breaking away from a toxic relationship with an abusive man, looses somehow her most basic human rights (the right to live being of utmost importance), and she is to be punished by the man who has a right of life and death over her.

Indeed, it is estimated that approximately 20-30 women die each year in Finland as a consequence of domestic violence. At European level, Finland is only surpassed by such countries as the Russian Federation, Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Albania and Romania in terms of a higher rate of women killed in a relationship. In this context the question that comes forward concerns the Finnish obsession with keeping the country for Finns, when the very Finnish women are refused their most humane rights: who gains from hurrying into making rankings of violence, labeling violence perpetrated by foreigners as “bad”, while not addressing the very issue of violence and its poisonous symbiosis with the ideals of Finnish masculinity? Is not violence, at the end of the day, intrinsically bad, why is there a need to add shades to it, and attempt to find futile justifications for the violence in the Finnish homes? Can the tragic event in Sello mark a more serious questioning of the overall heteropatriarchal relationship between guns, violence against women, and ideas of masculinity?

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Wednesday, January 6th, 2010 Miscellaneous 3 Comments

Call for Papers: Can Others Become Part of Us? Questions of National (Im)Purity. Workshop 19 at XLII Annual FPSA (11-12.03.2010 University of Helsinki & Tallinn University)

In an ever more integrated and diverse Europe, marked by a plethora of interactions between traditions, languages, and ethnic identities, the traditional understandings of nation-states and their role in societal structuring face new challenges. In a world where individuality and flexibility are norm, we witness the twin processes of widening up the traditional definitions of nation, with direct implications on that of citizenship, countered by the inward-looking, conservative attempt to contain and restrict the allowed definitions of the concept. What emerges is a continuous and fluid differentiation of “Us” from the “Other,” emphasized by the dual process of containing the generic “Us” to a coherent, indivisible and monolithic category; at the same time, the “Other” is crystallized to embody its symbolic and ever allusive counterpart.

Distinctions and borders are construed across various dimensions, and “purity” is a poignant concept for the definition of national, in-group belonging. Hierarchies of gender are elaborated to enforce heteropatriarchies as sole domains of national intelligibility. In this context, fears of masculine feebleness or sexual deviancy, thus failure to accomplish the task of national reproduction, are seconded by that of national “pollution,” of allowing the infestation of national body through the inclusion of male immigrant “Others.” Another dimension is that of a vaguely defined common European identity, which comes forth to strengthen European national specificities. These are projected as “European” and thus belonging to a transnational common “Us,” and embody a set of stable “traditions” and a “pure” culture that needs to be preserved against menacing, yet ubiquitous religiously different and racialized “Others.”

Paramount to all these dimensions is a preoccupation with maintaining an illusory “purity,” of a constant fear of “pollution” that is used to justify an ever closer policing of hierarchies, borders and bodies.  These fleshes out problems raised by a type of “second class of citizenship” allotted to immediate “Others,” based on differences of language, religion, ethnicity and race, and last but not least differences of gender and sexual orientation. With this in mind, authors are encouraged to submit papers inquiring into the apparently dichotomous distinction that separates the categories of “Us” as opposed to “Others,” as constitutive lubricant narratives of political discourse. Analyses of how gender and sexuality, ethnicity, religion, race, and obsessions of national preservation and reproduction are intersecting to create (new) mythologies of purity and pollution are particularly welcomed.

Kewords: (im)purity, nation, Other, Us.

The workshop will be part of XLII Politiikan tutkimuksen päivät/ XLII Annual Meeting of Finnish Political Science Association to be hosted by the University of Helsinki (Finland) and Tallinn University (Estonia) (11-12 March 2010). For information on the FPSA conference (updated constantly). The workshop is planed to take place in Helsinki, Finland. The language of the workshop panel will be English. Interested authors should submit their abstract (max. 300 words) accompanied by 5 keywords to the panel organizer by 29.01.2010:

Ov Cristian Norocel:  cristian.norocel(@)

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Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 Research No Comments

Populists of All Faces Beware: The Evil Other Strikes Again!

It is true, the Evil Other (with capitalized letters for reasons to be detailed bellow) strikes again. If one controversial person got onto the city council on a ticket from the True Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna) (PS) mainly exploiting the fears of the local Finns of a possible ‘immigrant invasion’, more recently the Mayor of Helsinki/ Helsingfors Jussi Pajunen expressed his worries about an ever increasing population with an immigrant background in the capital.

Helsingin Sanomat’s article on the matter reveals the mayor’s calculations: from a soon to break the 10% threshold, to a worrying (!?) 24% around 2025. Another interesting point in the article is that the unemployment rate among the people of a migrant background is 2.5 higher than among the Finns. The ‘natural’ conclusion is drawn quickly, the asylum seekers (said by Statistics Finland to be at 1703 for 2007, including ‘refugees by quota, asylum-seekers having received a favorable decision and persons admitted under the family reunification scheme’ for the whole country) are too numerous, and thus Mayor Pajunen recommends a return to the previous gate-keeping.

How really evil is this Evil Other? I will not launch in cross country comparison (if someone will look at the numbers reported by the Swedish Migrationsverket, one may easily understand why). However two questions come forward. One regards the presumed danger that may pose a 10% population of a different background than Finnish. The other is how accurate are Mayor Pajunen’s numbers?

First, this can be a very contentious issue when discussed from the perspective of a mono-cultural landscape. The temptation of purity (the sort of purity that at any other time in history has hardly existed) was/is mainly ventilated by the True Finns Party (PS), since populism appears to be very close to their political soul. (Un)Surprisingly, such populist ideas are taken for granted by other political actors as well. What surprises me though is that it comes from someone from the National Coalition Party/ Kansallinen Kokoomus/ Samlingspartiet (Kok) that was thought to exhibit a liberal agenda. It seems that fear of diversity and  lack of initiative towards a more inclusive city are part of a Finnish liberal agenda. Is the present economic crisis used as some sort of excuse for a job-market of a solely ‘sinivalkoinen’ workforce? Can this realistically be achieved? And at what price? Are we all that evil?

Taking the second question, that of statistical accuracy, according the Minister of Migration and European Affaris Mrs Astrid Thors, quoted in an article in Hufvudstadsbladet, the number of asylum applications will not overpass 5,000 this year, and 2007 witnessed an exceptionally low number of applications. So there is not too much substance to portraying the Finnish capital of 2025 so ‘diverse’ that one in four inhabitants will be foreign. Moreover, I have the inconfortable feeling that Mayor Pajunen is mixing the statistics: I doubt that all those ‘almost’ 10% Others of the total population living under his administration are refugees. They may have a foreign background, yes, but not necessarily unemployed asylum seekers and refugees. So assimilating Others=asylum seekers=unemployed looks very much like a shorthand for something of an outright anti-immigration stance. In this light, is Mayor Pajunen riding on the populist horse? And if he does not, then I wonder what are his comments supposed to mean?

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Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 Miscellaneous No Comments