Comments on Katrine Fangen’s “Breaking Up the Different Constituting Parts of Ethnicity: The Case of Young Somalis in Norway” (Acta Sociologica, December 2007. pp. 401-414).

This article examines five case studies of Somalis living in Norway: Norwegian-Muslims who are Norwegian-Somalis. None of the five Somalis  see Norwegian identity as desirable, except in so far as it grants them opportunities and welfare. None of Somalis respect Norwegian culture. None of the Somalis feel “stigmatized” by Norwegians because  of their skin color, religion or race: By contrast, each of the five  Somalis appear to have deep and sometimes aggressive racial,  religious and cultural prejudices against Norwegian-Christians.  Despite all this, Fangen only concludes that the definition of ethnic identity can be  parsed into elements including “everyday practice” and “geographic  belonging.”  (See Fangen’s abstract here.)

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The five case studies include:

(1) Ayanna, who considers herself to  be Somali but also appreciates the greater freedom she has in Norway compared to Somalia or even among Somali relatives who live in the fundamentalist Somali colony in East London.

(2) Riyo, who came to  Norway as a small child refugee and grew up in Norway, sees herself as  “100% Somali.” He despises Norwegian institutions such as schools  because the schools, even if subtly, imply that the majority culture is more  important than Somali culture.

(3) Hassan is a cosmopolitan because he likes to date White girls. Increasingly(seemingly because his success in dating White girls has been limited) he has defined  himself as a Muslim more than as a Somali, but definitely does not  see himself as a Norwegian. (He thinks Norwegians are ignorant and  crude.)

(4) Abdulrahim moved from membership in Rastafarian Black [racist, drug] gangs to being a clan-oriented, “politicized” Somali supremacist. He sees his role as rescuing younger Somalis from entrapment and victimization by the inferior Norwegian culture.

(5) Asha, planning to enter law school (through Affirmative Action)  sees herself as 100% Somali and notes that Somalis will be 100%  Somali even after 100 years. Indeed, she plans to raise her future children  as 100% Somalis.

Notably, the author omits a case study of hardline Somali racial supremacists, who live self-segregated, welfare-sustained lives in  Norway away from the Norwegians they hate, although she admits they  exist in large numbers, especially in Oslo.

James Murray is the pen name of an academic sociologist.

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