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Always a Foreigner? Ethnic Identity Construction and Belonging among Youth of Immigrant Origin in Norway

Living in Two Homes

ISBN: 978-1-78635-782-3, eISBN: 978-1-78635-781-6

Publication date: 10 April 2017


This chapter compares four dimensions of ethnic identity construction among youth in two ethnically diverse schools, one in the inland city of Lillehammer and one in Oslo, Norway. In Lillehammer children of immigrant origin are in the minority, while at the place Furuset in Oslo they are in the majority. The first dimension deals with how children of immigrant origin experience having “one foot in two cultures.” The second dimension concerns the importance of appearance regarding skin color, while the third concerns the importance of appearance through clothing. The last dimension concerns proficiency in the Norwegian language. The chapter suggests that the answer to the question “Always a foreigner?” is not a clear “yes” or “no,” it depends on the social context. Most children of immigrant origin, at both schools, try to act out Norwegian identities in some contexts and foreign ethnic identities in others. However, it appears that belonging and social inclusion in Norwegian contexts are best achieved by children of immigrant origin who are in the minority and who apply assimilation strategies – that is, who try to act and pass as Norwegian. If assimilation strategies are needed for experiencing belonging and inclusion, more knowledge and education is needed in Norwegian schools on values of tolerance and creative potentiality of ethnic and cultural diversity in both local and national contexts.



Rysst, M. (2017), "Always a Foreigner? Ethnic Identity Construction and Belonging among Youth of Immigrant Origin in Norway", Espinoza-Herold, M. and Contini, R.M. (Ed.) Living in Two Homes, Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 167-199.



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