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Majority and Minority Nationalism

in the Danish Post-­Welfare State
Lasse Koefoed

KOEFOED, L. (2015): ‘Majority and minority nationalism in the As a part of a special issue on Neoliberalism and
Danish post-­welfare state’, Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human
Geography 97 (3): 223–232.
Post-­welfare Nordic States in Transition, this article
intends to demonstrate how a new configuration of a
ABSTRACT. The future of the nation and the Danish welfare state differentiated banal nationalism based on everyday
is one of the most important political issues today. The transition practices and narrative perspectives can be under-
in neoliberal governance from welfare state to security state, the
ongoing securitization of global and European mobility, the re-
stood. First, the attempt is to illustrate by empirical
structuring of public services and the re-­scaling of political and examples that the Danish welfare state has devel-
economic power has made the debate around the welfare state cen- oped from a meaningfull category in everyday life
tral. In this article I take an approach to the welfare nation state that related to social security and solidarity into a narra-
is based on the practices and narratives of everyday life. The argu-
ment is that narrative practices in everyday life constitute a central
tive about the threatening Other. Processes of neo-
sphere inviting studies of the struggle over the welfare community liberalism do not only mean a reconstruction and
and meaning. The empirical material draws on two recent research transformation of the state, it has at the same time
projects that include narratives and perspectives from minority and been followed by a (in)visible incorporation of ori-
majority population in Denmark. By analysing different perspec-
tives on the nation the article intends to open up for both shared
entalist discourses and stereotypes. This is obvious
narratives on the welfare state but also differences in the ongoing in the way restrictions on migration and issues of
struggle over the right to the nation. integration have been of highest priority in Danish
politics since 2001 when anti-­immigration politics
Keywords: nationalism, nation, minorities, everyday life, welfare
became mainstream and routine throughout nearly
the entire political spectrum in Denmark (Ersbøll
2010). Therefore, the aim of the article is, first, to
Introduction address the process of post welfare in relation to ori-
Who has the right to the nation? In a Danish con- entalism and neoliberalism from the perspective of
text this questions is central in the struggle over the everyday nationalism. Second, the aim is to iden-
future of the welfare state and community. Situated tify counter discourses and minority perspectives on
in a “peaceful” corner of the world the image of Danishness.
Denmark is usually one of the well established and The theoretical framework in this article is
relatively homogenous nation state while national- based on the concept of banal nationalism (Billig
ism is viewed as something far removed and distant 1995). While some of the main theories on nation
in time and space. Denmark has historically regarded and nationalism often have emphasis on histori-
itself as a tolerant country that places high value cal and more structural analysis (e.g. Gellner 1983;
on solidarity, equality and social cohesion created Hobsbawm 1990), banal nationalism addresses how
through a well developed welfare system. This im- the nation is practised and how it is part of everyday
age is challenged by the transition in neoliberal gov- life stories and identity of belonging. The argument
ernance from welfare state to security state – global is that narrative practices in everyday life constitute
and European mobility, the restructuring of pub- a central sphere inviting studies of the struggle over
lic services and the re-­scaling of political and eco- the welfare community and meaning. By comparing
nomic power – and has had discussions about who minority and majority perspectives on the nation,
belongs and who does not belong to the nation cen- the article intends to illustrate shared narratives but
tral. Especially minorities have been stigmatized in also differences and struggles related to the position
the ongoing discussion on the future of the nation and of being either minority or majority respectively.
the welfare community related to the growth in na- The article draws on two different research pro-
tional populism, xenophobia and racism in Denmark jects: Globalization and negotiation of Danish iden-
(Wren 2001; Brun and Hersh 2008; Hervik 2012). tity (Koefoed 2006) and The stranger the city and

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the nation (Koefoed and Simonsen 2010). Contrary illustrates both shared narratives on the welfare state
to the two previous research projects and related but also differences in the ongoing struggle over the
publications, this article compares majority and mi- right to the nation. The article concludes with a dis-
nority perspectives on the nation respectively. The cussion on the new configuration of banal national-
first project was carried out as a case study with ism in the Danish post-­welfare state.
fieldwork conducted in Hundested, a medium-­
size town in northern Zealand situated 65 km from
Copenhagen. It is based on qualitative in-­depth in- Banal nationalism
terviews collecting narrative on national identity by The approach to nationalism is inspired by Michael
respondents representing majority nationalism in Billig’s notion of banal nationalism (1995) and
Denmark. The second research project consists of the “social poetics of the nationstate” of Hertzfeld
empirical material that comes from in-­depth inter- (1997). These terms describe how, in established na-
views with Copenhagen residents having a Pakistani tions like those in Europe, everyday practices re-
background. The group consists of immigrants who produce national identities in ways so ordinary, so
came to Denmark in the sixties and seventies as ei- commonplace, that they escape attention altogether
ther young adults or children, as well as young peo- (Billig 1995, p. 8):
ple who are born and bred in Denmark. This group
was chosen for two reasons. First, having a history [i]n so many little ways, the citizenry are dai-
dating back to the 1960s, it is a well-­established mi- ly reminded of their national place in a world of
nority group in Denmark. Secondly, as Muslims, nations. However this reminding is so familiar,
the group has increasingly experienced a significa- so continual, that it is consciously registered as
tion as “strangers”, and is regularly represented as reminding. The metonymic image of banal na-
a burden to the welfare state and a threat to nation. tionalism is not a flag which is being conscious-
This has forced minority nationalism to formulate ly waved with fervent passion: it is the flag hang-
new and alternative perspectives on the nation that ing unnoticed on the public building.
moves the debate away from what they find burden-
some. In both projects the respondents were selected Often nationalism in the eyes of the western world
in order to obtain variation in terms of gender, age, is regarded as the property of the irrational other,
education, employment and political belief. the peripheries, the revolutionaries, fascism or sep-
The article is divided into three sections. In the aratism. But as Michael Billig argues nationalism
first section, the analytical approach to nationalism is a form of identity that is not always consciously
is introduced. Inspired by the notion of banal nation- “flagged” – it is based in the doxa (Bourdieu 1994)
alism the theoretical framework is developed focus- – the undisputed, pre-­reflexive presuppositions of
ing on how established nations in the western world “the game” of everyday life.
reproduce the nation as a routine way of talking and Nationalism is produced in everyday practises
acting in everyday life. I use the concept of banal na- as something ordinary. This may happen in speech
tionalism as the ontological basis for the analysis of acts, routinely and unconsciously using homeland-­
the everyday nationalism in Denmark. The theoret- making phrases; small unnoticed words such as
ical framework addresses the nation as a narrative “we”, “the” people, “this” country, “here”, “soci-
space constructed in a never-­ending everyday pro- ety” and so forth or media announcements such as
cess of cultural signification. “the” weather, “home” news and “foreign” news
The empirical part of the article is structured and similar. Or it may occur through the use of ma-
between the theoretical framework and the empir- terial but symbolic items such as coins, banknotes
ical material. In the analysis of majority and minor- or flags, hanging unnoticed from public buildings
ity nationalism there is extensive use of extracts and or used at birthday parties and other informal cel-
narratives from the narrative material. The aim of ebrations. When using these linguistic and material
the analysis is on the basis of the theoretical frame- markers regularly, we are unmindfully reminded
work to illustrate how a new configuration of banal who we are and where we are. National identity be-
nationalism in Denmark is infiltrated by orientalist comes a routine way of talking and acting, a form
stereotypes but also how it is differentiated in its plu- of life. This daily and routine form of banal nation-
rality. By analysing different perspectives on the na- alism operates as a particularly strong social and
tion from different narrative positions the analysis political force right at the heart of western society,

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creating the continuous background for powerful Billig’s empirical analysis of banal nationalism is
political discourse. It equips us with an identity and performed on the media, I build upon an investiga-
ideological consciousness, encompassing and in- tion of how nationalism is also connected to every-
ternalizing us in a complex series of themes about day narrative practices.
“us” and “them”, about the homeland and the world Nationalism is as argued by Smith (2010) not
at large. It is instrumental in placing us in time and only a political ideology but also a politicized cul-
space, in a moral international world order, a larger ture that can take many forms. Following Anderson
world of nations. As Billig (1995, p. 109) notes: (1991), who has formed an important basis for
many recent theories of nationalism, the nation is an
[t]he homeland is made both present and unno- imagined political community – imagined as both
ticeable by being presented as the context. When inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined, he
the homeland-­making phrases are used with reg- says, ‘because the members of even the smallest na-
ularity “we” are unmindfully reminded who we tion will never know most of their fellow-­members,
are and where we are. We are identified without meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds
even being mentioned. In this way national iden- of each lives the image of their communion’. And
tity is a routine way of talking and listening; it is it is ‘limited because even the largest of them, en-
a form of life, which habitually closes the front compassing perhaps a billion living human be-
door, and seals the borders. ings, has finite, if elastic boundaries, beyond which
lie other nations’ (Anderson 1991, p. 6). The im-
Banal nationalism is ‘the ideological habits which agined community is according to Anderson rep-
enable the established nations of the West to be re- resented and mediated as an entity stretching and
produced’ (Billig 1995, p. 6). It has in one way or passing through time with its own past, future and
another been passed over and has escaped out of destiny. This gives the imagined community its nar-
sight. In this context banal should not be under- rative character. As a space of belonging the nation
stood as something benign or innocent just because is a territorial construction involving the production
it apparently is a mechanism that ensures normal- of bounded spaces in an international world of na-
ity. Here banality is not synonymous with harm- tion states. In the construction of nations and home-
lessness (Arendt 1963). On the contrary, this banal lands, the central question arises: who belongs and
nationalism reproduces powerful institutions which who does not belong?
control large depositories of weapons. It ensures As argued by Bhabha (1990), the nation as a nar-
support for wars and repression and the continua- rative space of belonging comes into being in an on-
tion of an “imagined community”, which can mo- going process of cultural signification, and as the
bilize and prepare for the campaigns ahead. An representation of social life rather than the disci-
example is the Danish involvement in the war in pline of social policy. In this context the nation is
Iraq. Understanding of the connection between the also an “incomplete signification” that is created in
banal and the more extreme originate from Hannah the in-­between spaces through which the meaning
Arendt’s study of the relationship between the ba- of cultural and political authority are negotiated. It
nal and the evil in Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report is exactly in such in-­between spaces that new critical
on the Banality of the Evil (1963), showing how ba- and theoretical bases are developing, says Bhabha
nal routine and implicit obedience at its extreme can (1990).
turn out a condition of possibility of radical evil. In The thesis is that “in-­between spaces” and the
this context it is of course a very different situation, narrative practices in everyday life constitute a cen-
but still there is connection between banal cultural tral sphere inviting studies of the struggle over the
racisms performed in gestures and speech and the imagined community and meaning. Inspired by
advance of a radical populist right-­wing party whose Ricoeur (1984), who theorizes narratives in a way
views have gradually been normalized and gained that on the one hand retains a connection between
strong influence on the Danish agenda on “foreign- narrative and the world of practices and experiences,
ers”. In Denmark, the extreme not so much as else- but on the other hand recognizes indefiniteness in
where takes form of physical violence conducted by this connection, one that is approached (but never
small groups or individuals. It is more a symbolic vi- remedied) through emplotment or the poetic of nar-
olence continuously shifting the limits of what it is rative (Simonsen 2004).
possible to say about other groups of humans. While

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Welfare nationalism for rights. Without society we can’t make it.

To be Danish is for me that you have the free- Because we also pay taxes so why should we not
dom to create your life. You have some of the be giving the same opportunities? (Kaleem, 62)
same ideals as in USA except that you also have
a social safety net that picks you up if you can’t Welfare is as a concept full of positive connota-
fend for yourself. They don’t have that in USA tions, which in the myth of Danish civilization sym-
to which many compare themselves. Because bolizes wealth, progress, community and a good
in USA you are not picked up, you have to rise life (Højrup 2003). In the international context, in
by yourself. And I would say that in Denmark contrast to other societies and nations, the Danish
you simply have so many possibilities to obtain welfare state is perceived as something unique and
a good life that if you can’t, it’s your own fault. valuable for the imagined community. As suggested
(Tariq, 37) by Kim in the extract, the Danish welfare system
consists of a comprehensive set of rights related to
Tariq identifies himself as being Danish. He says he public services, education, health and income distri-
feels like a stranger when he goes to Pakistan, and bution. In the extract, welfare is naturally tied to the
he has not been there for 10 years. His Danishness national community.
is strongly connected to the set of rights obtained in As the narrative illustrates, it is “our” welfare,
Danish society: freedom rights and the rights related “we” have the right to public services (Kim) and it
to public services, education, health and income dis- is ‘values we share’ as expressed by Tahira. In this
tribution. Against this background we can character- sense it is perceived as a strong and familiar welfare
ize his Danishness as welfare Danishness (Koefoed community.
2006; Koefoed and Simonsen 2007). It is a mode of
national identity based on pride for the Danish wel- It is not just you and me. In reality it’s our par-
fare system, in Tariq’s case in particular connected ents, isn’t it? Who started building up the Danish
to an understanding of the welfare state as a “risk welfare society? And that makes me happy. You
community”: the welfare state is something that can say that even if it looks like people don’t talk
protects us against different kinds of risk to which so much to each other – that we don’t visit each
we are exposed throughout our lives. The welfare other so frequently – we are still all together in
state is an integrated part of everyday life and natu- taking care of each other economically. In this
rally related to the establishment of social security. perspective, you must understand that nobody is
Tariq expresses this form of Danishness by contrast- left out as such. That’s the way it bloody well is!
ing Denmark and the USA emphasizing the social (Kim, 42)
safety-­net in Denmark.
The history of the welfare state is a story begin-
It is of enormous value that we all have the right ning with the intimate family: ‘it was our parents
to go to school, that we all have the right to go who created the Danish welfare society’. The wel-
to hospital, and that none of us has to die of hun- fare state ties the community together in a common
ger. (Kim, 42) history and destiny of this family; it equips the imag-
ined community with meanings through discourses
I mean these are some of the values we share in and practices of solidarity, equality and security.
Denmark. It is freedom. Freedom to do what you In minority and majority nationalism the wel-
want, education and welfare in general. That is fare state is organized as a meaningful category in
very Danish. I feel that these kinds of value are everyday life in different ways. First, the welfare
also mine and something I contribute to and take state is narrated as a labour community, emphasiz-
part in. (Tahira, 18) ing that it is something that we actively create and
contribute to through hard work and high taxes, for
I am very happy with the fact that we have social instance as suggested by Kaleem. It is not a story of
welfare in Denmark. That our society covers our an abstract system or institutions, but a nationalism
daily needs. It is very important for every per- focusing on daily routines and practices related to a
son, irrespective of whether he/she is Pakistanis, disciplined labour market. Second, it is articulated
or Turkish or Yugoslav or Bosnian. I think that as a risk community: throughout our lives we are
every human beings has a fundamental need all exposed to different kinds of risk related to age,

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health, employment, education and housing. Here we notice that we have used too many resourc-
the welfare community is something that guaran- es on foreigners that we could have used in the
tees us a basic set of rights. The Danish welfare Danish society instead. (Søren, 49)
system is an integrated part of daily life and natu-
rally related to the establishment of social security. What we experiences in Denmark and other Nordic
Third, the welfare state has a central history and has countries is that crisis and challenges to the wel-
to do with human beings’ fundamental needs for fare state are articulated through an invisible glide
rights. In this sense welfare nationalism is a strong towards orientalist discourses and stereotypes. The
and shared narrative among minorities as well as progressive story of the Danish welfare community
majorities related to freedom, good life, solidarity becomes the story of the threatening Other. It is nar-
and equality. ratives that focus on the external Other that is con-
structed as a mobile figure that not only intends to
exploit the Danish welfare state but also undermines
The orientalization of welfare state it. In the above narratives the mobility of the Other
In majority nationalism the welfare state connects represents a threat to the productive and imagina-
to stories on how globalization (e.g. mobility and tive welfare community. The external Other in the
immigration) are posing a fundamental threat to the narrative is a mobile group of people attracted by
Danish welfare system. In all this, we are articulated “our values”. The restructuring in the health sec-
as the majority and naturalized as the welfare state. tor is directly linked to the threatening mobility of
Consequently, global and European mobility, the re- immigrants and refugees. They become part of the
structuring of public services and the re-­scaling of same story. The internal Other becomes the expla-
political power are articulated as a loss, a dramatic nation for any kind of difficulty or crisis in the ser-
change challenging the integrity of the nation. These vice sector. The informant explains that the “welfare
challenges are articulated partly through expres- system has deteriorated”. On the other hand the per-
sions of anxiety and partly through an invisible glide son says that ‘we have used too many resources on
towards orientalist discourses, stereotypes and prac- the foreigners’. In this narrative the internal Other is
tices (Said 1985, 2004; Haldrup et al. 2006). implicitly preventing the welfare system from sav-
ing lives. The narrative stages this as a conflict or a
They are only moving up here because they want choice between us and them.
us to support them, right? They are not coming These narratives illustrate an everyday version
because they want to help us. They are coming of orientalism – an imagination of cultural diversity
because they want something. It is our values. building upon a binary dichotomy between us and
They want our benefits, right? That our older them. It is a banal orientalism that becomes clear in
generation has created. They want their bloody the phrase telling that it is ‘our welfare’ and ‘they are
part of the cake. (Karen, 52) coming because they want something’. This is what
Billig (1995) is talking about when he draws our at-
Our welfare society has deteriorated. In the hos- tention to the banality of the everyday construction
pitals we have waiting lists and people die like of national identity through a routinized use of deic-
flies. And I don’t understand how one can ac- tic markers – that is, small unnoticed words gain-
cept that as a doctor … And I know that the per- ing their meaning through the context in which they
son who is lying in there, if he does not get his are used, such as we, us, here and this. These seem-
operation tomorrow – if we wait another two ingly trivial words help to naturalize our affiliation
weeks for space on the waiting list – then he to the national space and consequently to alienate
will be dead. I saw it with my mother-­in-­law. the others. Notwithstanding our co-­presence in the
She was lying there with a bad heart and need- same territory, national identity is reserved to us and
ed help. And she was lying there for such a long the others are constructed as strangers within “our”
time nearly getting really ill. She had her opera- territory.
tion and that gave her ten good years. That was The narratives also illustrate an important as-
a good thing. But I mean … it’s exactly in such pect of orientalism and colonialism, as Bhabha
a case that one is saying: ‘They should just have (1983) argues the dependency on fixity in the con-
all the resources that they need’. Yes, but where struction of otherness. It is a fixity that implies
would they get the money from? And in this case repetition, rigidity and an unchanging order. The

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argument here is in line with Bhabha’s analysis nationalism Danishness assumes a fluid form, ex-
of colonial discourses that the invisible glides to- pressing a continuous identity working around possi-
wards orientalist discourse and stereotypes in ma- ble affiliation to the imagined community. Basically
jority nationalism, appealing to a cultural racism they try to shift the focus from a burdensome debate
that naturalizes and essentializes cultural differ- on the nation, from which they have experienced an
ence. According to that, immigrants are bound to extensive degree of estrangement and exclusion,
cultures that are alien to the “Danish” one and re- and to set forth new and different perspectives con-
sist integration into Danish society. Immigrants cerning what it means to be Danish. In the following
are a threat to Danish society, not only because I will present three different alternative interpreta-
they are supposed to “pollute” Danish culture, but tions of Danishness coming from minorities with
also because they allegedly intend to “exploit” the Pakistani backgrounds.
Danish welfare system. This glide towards orien-
talism is not what Billig (1995) characterizes as a
“hot” nationalism. When it comes to the presence Participatory Danishness
of extreme right-­wing nationalist, racist and violent In narratives on participatory Danishness minorities
groups, Denmark is probably better off than many imagining an equal community based not on ethnic
other countries in Scandinavia and Europe. What and cultural values but on social engagement and re-
we experience instead is a “small” (and in a way sponsibility to the community. Listen, for example,
more insidious) everyday racism, showing itself in to this respondent:
a gradual slide in what it is socially acceptable to
say and suggest – in political discourse and every- [t]o be Danish is for me to participate and be in-
day talk – in relation to “foreign” Others. On the volved in society. That you are educated, and
other hand, the new nationalism is not banal in the takes active part in the labour market, that you
sense of unnoticed either; it is definitely articulated, contribute to society. Pay taxes like everyone
penetrating into different spheres of everyday life. else. That you are engaged and try to better the
Even though it is currently gaining promi- conditions for others in the society. But today I
nence, the orientalist perspective and discourse is, am not so sure. What are Danish values? What
of course, not alone on the public scene. On the con- does it mean to be Danish? I would certainly say
trary, an “identity struggle” is performed over the that I usually justify it with: I was born and raised
definition of Danish identity and national space. here. I know the language. I have an education
The counter-­perspective involved in this strug- and I work. I have been active in creating foot-
gle may be designated a “humanist” discourse ball clubs, cricket clubs, I am involved in public
(Frello 2000) or a more cosmopolitan nationalism. associations. I socialize with Danish friends on
According to that, Danish culture cannot be defined equal footing. I really can’t see the difference be-
exclusively, and immigrants are not necessarily a tween my good friend Morten or my good friend
burden on Danish society. They can just as well Søren or my good friend Muhammed because
be an enrichment, as regards both culture and the we are all equally Danish. (Hanif, 27)
economy. The argument is that banal nationalism
is much more differentiated and blurred than they In this narrative the nation gets meaning in rela-
suggest (Koefoed 2006). Focusing on orientalism tion to active participation and involvement in the
alone means overlooking other significant voices, society. It is a narrative practice that through tactic
practices and perspectives on the nation. copes with the imagined other as being a passive
(border) figure standing outside the community.
Danishness in this narrative is not only about in-
Minority nationalism clusion/exclusion, it is about acting and doing; that
The orientalization of the welfare state means that you contribute in different contexts, like the la-
minorities are regularly produced as a burden and bour market, through education or public associa-
a thread to the imagined welfare community. But tions. Hanif tells that he has been active in the local
that does not imply that minorities disregard their football club and cricket club and has taken initia-
Danishness. They approach the nation through nar- tives in different public associations. When the na-
rative practices that open up new alternative inter- tion is understood as participatory, the stereotyped
pretations and inscriptions of meaning. In minority categories lose signification. There is, as Hanif

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rhetorically explains, no reason to create differ- a moral-­ethical position also expressed by Nasar
ence between us and them. Thereby Danishness as and Ayoubs when they talk about being ‘Muslim
participation is described as a liberating and poten- 24 hours a day’ or ‘Islam as the focal point in life’.
tially equal community; not valorized on culture For Yasmeen, Islam is the glue in the sense that it
or ethnic background but on alternative parame- helps her build a bridge between the nation and her
ters like engagement, initiatives and responsibil- own background. For her, Islam and Danishness
ity. The narrative thereby creatively tries to move are not in opposition. Furthermore, Islam is not less
the discussion away from what they find burden- Danishness; on the contrary, in Yasmeen’s narra-
some to perspectives that are less culturally laden. tive they supplement each other. For Yasmeen, they
Among respondent participation and responsibility are weaved together in her own live as a kind of hy-
is a universal ethical claim; something to do with brid identity that combines elements from different
being human but situated in a particular context. worlds and illustrates the multiple ways we can re-
It is about being active in the place where you live late to Danishness.
your everyday life.
Multicultural Danishness
Muslim Danishness Multiculturalism is highly contested. It has manifold
Another perspective on the nation is the combination meanings situated in various localized, historical,
of belonging to a contested religious community and academic and political contexts and conceptions.
the nation; for instance, being Muslim and Danish at It can be considered a floating signifier and it is, as
the same time. In terms of religious community, the Fortier (2008, p. 3) points out, more ‘a horizon that
narratives show great variety as regards the meaning fosters dreams or anxieties about the nations present
of religion. For some it is primarily a platform for and future’ than a fact or a response to cultural di-
social engagement; others take a more pragmatic ap- versification. Here the focus is on how the multicul-
proach and talk about religion as a habit; and others tural nation is imagined through new metaphors and
again place it as their basic attitude to life: practices in the search for a more inclusive and mul-
tifarious Danishness.
I am a Muslim 24 hours a day. (Ayoub 31)
I am also Danish if Denmark plays football, so
For me, Islam is the focal point in my life. of course I feel Danish. It is obvious. I am with
(Nasar, 32) Denmark when I watch football. If you take a
look at the stands at football matches and so on,
I am what I am because this is my country. This the fact is that it is a unifying, inclusive factor.
is the place where my home is, this is the place Fan clubs, they are just interested in getting peo-
where I have my family. It is from here I have my ple in. Taekwondo clubs, all sorts of other sports,
childhood memories. So I can’t go somewhere but it’s about getting people included. But when
else, it would be illogical. But I have a back- it comes to debates over values and so on then
ground which is somewhat different from per- they start to exclude people. We automatical-
haps the majority of the people I live with … On ly do that. So there are many mechanisms at
the one hand you can say that it is through Islam play. If you instead of values could start imag-
that I define myself. For me Islam is the glue. ine Denmark as a great sports club. (Ikram, 31)
So I am Muslim but that does not make me less
Danish. (Yasmeen, 26) The respondents are generally occupied with find-
ing new alternative ways of articulating nationhood.
In this narrative Yasmeen says that Islam is the glue In the narrative material, alternative practices and
that combines the different aspects of her identity. metaphors of a more multicultural imagined com-
As part of that, as many other respondents, she gen- munity are generally found in national events re-
erally emphasizes the moral and spiritual side of lating to sport and music. Ikram says later on in the
Islam more than the institutional rules and rituals. interview that the taekwondo ­milieu is the one that
Focusing on the spiritual side of Islam primarily more than anything else has formed his view of the
makes it a personal matter concerning faith, inner world. He started practising taekwondo in his teens
purity and respect for other people. That is, mostly and emphasizes the physical and colour blindness

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of the sport. ‘The only colour that matter is the col- state, but what is unrecognized is the degree to
our of your belt – in that sport neither skin colour which it has been based on a cultural concurrence
or religion make a difference’, he explains. In the of equality and likeness. In many cases, the unac-
above example Ikram in a similar way talks about knowledged presupposition of solidarity is a rel-
football as being inclusive and unifying rather than atively homogeneous population (Molina 1997;
exclusive. It can be a bridging force between na- Gullestad 2002). This is evident in the invisible
tional identity and the outside. Sport is multifaceted shift in welfare nationalism towards orientalist dis-
and at the same time national and global in scope. courses and stereotypes, where the internal and ex-
In sport it is more about letting people in than keep- ternal Other is seen as undermining “our” welfare
ing them out. Thereby sport for Ikram has a lot of state and exploiting resources created by “us”. In
potential for a new and alternative way of imagin- this context, Danish nationalism tied to the welfare
ing the nation. Instead of the burdensome value de- state has placed a high degree of emphasis on sol-
bate he suggests we could imagine Denmark as one idarity understood in terms of cultural homogene-
big sports club. ity. In majority nationalism the struggle over the
right to the nation also uncovers a negative affec-
tive cultural pessimism bounded to the feeling of
Conclusion: nationalism in the Danish post-­ ontological insecurity: ‘what will happen to our
welfare state small country in this changing world of Europe-­
In comparing the different perspectives on the na- wide and global developments’, with political af-
tion it becomes clear that there are similarities but fect based on economic chauvinism: ‘the wealth
also differences. I will argue for differences in two is ours and we do not want to share it with any-
ways. First, what I have tried to do in this article is body’ (Gingrich and Bank 2006, pp. 37–38). This
to develop a possible understanding of what could narrative fantasy about the Other will steal some-
be regarded as a new configuration of a differen- thing from us (Žižek 1993) and is also based on a
tial banal nationalism in Denmark. The analysis il- growth in national populism, right-­wing national-
lustrates that banal nationalism in everyday life has ism, xenophobia and racism in Denmark that has
many voices and consequently should be treated as penetrated into everyday life and in what is accept-
a plurality. able to say and suggest (see also Simonsen 2015, in
In the analysis it is clear that there is a shared this issue). At the same time, orientalization of the
and strong perspective among majorities as well as Danish welfare state is not only a ‘colonial present’
minorities on the nation as a welfare community re- (Gregory 2004) on a small scale; it also has wider
lated to freedom, good life, solidarity and equality. and more structural connections to the general
This welfare nationalism is a shared narrative where transition of neoliberal governance from welfare
the perspectives are on a basic set of rights related state to security state and fragmented citizenship
to public services, education, health and income dis- with, for example, different kinds of restrictions
tribution, solidarity and social security. In every- for immigrants and minorities. With the securitiza-
day life stories, the imagined welfare community is tion of immigration, we have a situation where as
not an abstract system but described as something Lentin and Titley (2011, p. 172) argue, ‘if the neo-
we all contribute to through hard work (labour com- liberal states function is to ensure citizens security
munity) that defends the citizens in a community rather than their welfare, it must protect the desir-
at risk and protects “us” against different kinds of ables from the undesirables by either locking them
risk which we are exposed to throughout our lives. up or locking them out’.
Among minorities and majorities the welfare com- In minority nationalism there is also a claim of
munity is celebrated as a positive story uniting the the right to the nation and that minorities should be
nation in common expectation. This brings us, sec- recognized as equal members of the community.
ond, to another kind of difference between minori- The difference is that minorities are forced to ap-
ties and majorities. proach the nation through narrative practices that
Even though majorities and minorities agree open up new interpretations and inscriptions of
and contribute actively to this welfare nationalism meaning. Basically they try to shift the focus from
respectively it is also clear that there is a struggle a burdensome debate on Danishness, from which
over the right to the nation. Solidarity is for ex- they are feeling estranged and excluded on a daily
ample one of the foundation stones of the welfare basis and to an extensive degree, to set forth new

230 © The author 2016

Geografiska Annaler: Series B © 2016 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography

and alternative perspectives concerning what it Lasse Koefoed

means to be Danish. It is not a rejection of the na- Department of Environmental, Social and Spatial
tion or an attempt to dissolve it, but rather a tacti- Change
cal way of coping with the dominating power (de Roskilde University
Certeau 1984). Postboks 260
First, there is an attempt to move the debate from DK-4000 Roskilde
the dominating ethnic and cultural perspective to a Denmark
political perspective on the nation. This is clear in E-­mail:
narratives focusing on Danishness as participation.
Participation very much links up with the part of
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