ABSTRACT

According to John Pratt (2008a, b), one of the main causes of Scandinavian exceptionalism is a culture of equality typical of the Nordic countries and, related to this culture, homogeneous Nordic societies which historically have had few ‘visible others’. With reference to Norway, the description seems correct; equality, or rather likhet, as a cultural value has been held in high esteem. Even today, after the advent of globalization has made the population more heterogeneous, the culture of likhet is still very much part of the Norwegian way of life. There is, however, a price to be paid. Equality as a general value may be commendable, but it also has a darker side: the related pressure to conform, to be like vanlige folk (regular people), ‘one of us’ and always on ‘our’ terms (Lacey 2008; Pratt and Eriksson, Chapter 13, this book). For those unwilling or unable to conform, this has consequences. In a context with a strong culture of likhet, the playing field is limited, the distance from centre to margins shortened. And margins and borders are, as always, key: any inside needs to be constituted in relation to its outsides (Norton 1988; Connolly 1991; Derrida 2006). Studying strategies of adaptation and resistance to exclusion or ‘othering’ (Jensen 2007) may thus give insights both into the constructions of the resulting Norwegian self, the placement of its margins, and the costs of pushing ‘the others’ to and beyond the margins in just such a way.