A recent doctorate in sociology shows that many working class Norwegians are less skeptical towards immigrants after having them as neighbors. Highly educated and highly paid Norwegians are often somewhat more critical after having immigrant neighbors than they were before.
Sociologist Anders Vassenden says these opposing movements surprised him a little. He thinks many of the highly educated change their opinions and distance themselves from formerly naive cultural-relativism when meeting immigrants on an everyday basis.
Vassenden says that the working-class still has the most prejudices against immigrants, but that they are also the ones who say many of their prejudices have disappeared after the neighborhood became multicultural. Many say they withdrew from their former everyday racism.
Vassenden called this "double discrediting". Contact seems to lead to nuancing of simple positions, both by the immigrant critical and by the cultural relativist.
His doctorate studied majority Norwegians' relationship to multicultural neighbors. The study was conducted in two different places on the east side of Oslo. Vassenden interviewed 60 people, ranging in age from 29 to 61.
Vassenden says he hasn't found much direct racism, but rather more immigrant criticism. Prejudices were found at all levels. At the same time, he found a lot of evidence that those who are most immigrant-hostile had already fled the neighborhood. He also found a strong "everyday cosmopolitanism" and appreciation of the place's multiculturality. This appreciation went hand in hand with ambivalence.
Vassenden points out that the working class has not only become less critical but they are also the ones who are more in contact with neighbors of immigrant background. The highly educated middle-class identifies with people from the same class more easily. A Norwegian doctor would identify more easily with a Pakistani doctor than with an ethnic Norwegian on welfare.
He stresses his findings are very complex and that it's important to point out why the working class changed most when meeting immigrant neighbors.
Vassenden thinks that education makes people more critical and analytical in connection to prejudices. At the same time, society had changed in the last years and it's become easier to criticize conditions related to immigrants than in the past. The changes among middle class Norwegians can also be a manifestation of that.
Among working class Norwegians there were also more who saw positive sides in minority cultures, and this wasn't shared by middle class Norwegians. For example, strong family connections among ethnic minorities. He says many were almost jealous of immigrants' close family connections and several were nostalgic of their own youth. That can be interpreted as an expression of traditional working-class values that live on. Middle class interviewees were less impressed. If the issue came up they said it was something that didn't fit them.
Through his interviews Vassenden found that the mosque is a symbol that challenges the Norwegian's view of the multicultural. In one neighborhood he studied there was talk of establishing a minority non-Muslim religious cultural center, but several people spoke about it as a mosque. Vassenden says that most people he talked to didn't want a mosque in their area, but that also here there were clear differences between the social classes.
Source: Dagbladet (Norwegian)