The Dark Side of a Culture of Equality: Reimagining Communities in a Norwegian Remand Prison
Thomas Ugelvik (2012): "The Dark Side of a Culture of Equality: Reimagining Communities in a Norwegian Remand Prison". Penal Exceptionalism? Nordic Prison Policy and Practice. Thomas Ugelvik and Jane Dullum (eds). London & New York, Routledge.
22 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2015
Date Written: January 29, 2015
According to John Pratt, 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. 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. Studying strategies of adaptation and resistance to exclusion or “othering” 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.
Keywords: Scandinavian exceptionalism, Norwegian prisons, culture of equality, social exclusion
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