Symbolic Boundaries and Ideology in the Norwegian Multicultural Society: A Longitudinal Study of Public Discourse


Joshua Marvle Phelps, University of Oslo - Psychology, PO Box 1094 Blindern, Oslo 0317, Norway. E-mail:


Group boundaries between immigrant minority and majority members are currently undergoing considerable and complex changes in European multicultural societies due to migration. In this paper, we present a descriptive, longitudinal investigation of the usage of linguistic expressions in Norwegian media discourse that describe symbolic boundary developments between immigrant minority and majority members, and their multicultural context. Seventy-two expressions are analyzed, and three temporal usage patterns are described (increasing, decreasing, and ‘mountain’) as central to understanding current symbolic boundaries and how they may both frame and be shaped by ideologies. Expressions describing immigrant minorities have increasingly focused on their establishment in the Norwegian multicultural society and have also shifted from general boundaries of outsiderness to increasingly specified boundaries of origins, visibility, and immigrant otherness. Norwegian majority expressions have mostly shifted toward a focus on origins. Our analysis suggests that symbolic boundaries in the Norwegian multicultural society have been changing rapidly. They seem to be shaped by complex ideological patterns constructing both similarities and differences, and which simultaneously seem to promote both inclusion and exclusion for certain immigrant minorities. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.