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  • Diasporic Feeling and Displaced Nostalgia: A Case Study: Import-eksport and Blodsbåxnd
  • Adriana Margareta Dancus

In the last two decades, multiculturalism in Norway has provoked a storm of public feelings that hijack the political sphere as a domain of rational argumentation and decision making. The larger the immigrant population grows, the more polarized and emotional the debate on the future of multicultural Norway becomes. Norwegian films are an integral part of this debate in mobilizing affective power either to solidify the divisions along identity lines or to expand our affective abilities to understand others and ourselves. In this article, I claim that the display of the immigrant body on screen allows for affective performances that often betray pre-modernity, authenticity, and intensity. These performances have nothing to do with historical reality and accuracy, but rather are best understood as symbolic acts of difference that introduce a reading of immigrant affect as pre-modern, authentic, and intense as compared to the official, ethnically Norwegian national affect. This idealization prompts the Norwegian audiences to identify nostalgically with the immigrant. The latter come to represent fiery and untamed feelings that have been dulled by the prosperity Norway has enjoyed following the oil boom in the 1970s. Gangsterland and the practice of arranged marriage are favorite contexts that justify the display of the immigrant body. Against the backdrop of socio-political discourses that connect Norway to peace and gender equality, gangsters and patriarchs work not to demonize the ethnic others, but instead contribute to their exoticization. In order to support these claims, I will look closely at two films: Import-eksport (Import-Export, 2005) and Blodsbåxnd (Mirush, [End Page 247] 2007). Both films were generously sponsored by the Norwegian Film Institute (nfi), and Norwegian film bureaucrats and media held great expectations for each production. Import-Export was enthusiastically advertised as Norway's first truly multicultural film directed by the Norwegian-Pakistani Khalid Hussain with a multicultural cast. Mirush was Marius Holst's third feature, a highly anticipated production by an acclaimed young director who had previously introduced the Norwegian public to heartfelt descriptions and sophisticated imagery. Despite the media's excitement and the nfi's expectations, both films had a modest box office opening, of which Import-Export did notably worse. Although neither film sold as well as their producers hoped, they still merit serious consideration in the context of the Norwegian socio-political debates on multiculturalism and the immigrants' role in the future of the Norwegian social democracy.

According to Statistics Norway as of November 2010, first and second-generation immigrants accounted for 11.4 percent of the total population of Norway ("Innvandring og innvandrere"). Of these, more than half come from Asia, Africa, or Latin America. The county of Oslo has the highest concentration of immigrants: almost 27 percent of the population. While the influx of immigrants from the Western world has been relatively stable, the numbers of immigrants from eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America have almost quadrupled since the 1980s. Anthropologists (Eriksen; Gullestad) and political scientists (Ingebritsen) draw attention to the fact that non-Western immigrants, and Muslims in particular, have had the most difficulty integrating into the Norwegian society. A significant factor at work here is the racist discourses that circulate in the public arena in Norway and that systematically read these non-Western immigrants as potentially threatening to the national project. The media has also helped to reinforce the social, political, economic, and cultural apartheid between the ethnic Norwegians (the taxpayers, "the generous givers," "the adopting parents") and the immigrant groups ("the greedy takers," "the ungrateful adoptees") by obsessively covering stories about immigrant crime and other practices such as arranged marriage and genital mutilation. In response to media debates, some immigrants have turned to literature as a more appropriate site to articulate their own experiences in Norway. Michael Konupek, Khalid Hussain, Nasim Karim, Bertrand Besigye, Kadafi Zaman, Dong He, and Pedro Carmona-Alvarez, to name only [End Page 248] a few, have made important literary contributions to the debate on immigration, multiculturalism, exile, assimilation, and integration (Kongslien). A different situation presents itself in Norwegian feature films produced in the last decade. Despite the fact that...


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