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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Remembering terror, remobilizing whiteness : Norwegian discourses of nationhood after July 22 Hakvåg, Hedda


On July 22, 2011, a right-wing terrorist killed 77 people in a double terrorist attack in Norway. Presenting a critical discourse analysis of the annual memorial speeches and coverage from 2012 to 2014, this thesis examines how visions of national identity are produced in and through the remembrance of the terrorist attacks. Situated within the framework of feminist intersectionality, the analysis pays particular attention to discourses of racialized, gendered, and religious belonging. While the terrorist’s identity as a white, Christian, Norwegian man seemingly provided a counterpoint to the dominant Western narrative in which terrorism is associated with racialized, Muslim men, the July 22 remembrance largely fails to explore the intersections between the terrorist’s ideology and more common forms of racism, Islamophobia, and gender essentialism. Instead, the attack is decontextualized, and the subtle use of racialized and ethno-nationalist rhetoric reframes terror as a threat posed by dangerous Muslim outsiders to an innocent, white national community. By emphasizing collectivity and assuming a consensus on values, politicians and media erase differences within the nation and construct sameness, ethnic kinship, and Lutheranism as the criteria for inclusion in the imagined community. These gendered, racialized, and religious ideas of citizenship in turn inform public responses to a heightened sense of vulnerability, legitimizing a securitization of state and increased policing of racialized groups despite the rhetorical calls for more openness and more democracy. In investigating the July 22 memorial claims about Norwegianness against the lived diversity of present-day Norway and its histories of violence, this thesis asks us to consider the human costs of positioning sameness as the criterion for belonging. It presents a case study of the complexity of whiteness and its intersections with gender and religion in a smaller European country, thereby adding to an underexplored area of critical whiteness studies.

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