Yilmaz, Ferruh. Ethnicized Ontologies : From Foreign Worker to Muslim Immigrant : How Danish Public Discourse Moved to the Right through the Question of Immigration. Dissertation. UC San Diego, 2006
My thesis, in one sentence, is that the entire political discourse in Denmark (and in many parts of Europe) has moved to the right through the debate on immigration in the last two decades. The left/right distinction is pushed to the background and a cultural one – the ‘Danish people’ /the Muslim immigrant – has come to the forefront as the main dividing line. This means that the redistribution of resources is discussed as a matter of ethnicity and culture rather than other types of social identifications (e.g. class or gender). In short, a new basis for identification has become hegemonic through the articulation of a new internal division based on culture. The hegemonic change was the result of the nationalist/ racist Right’s populist intervention in the mid 1980s. Large sections of society did not feel that their concerns and demands were represented by the political system. In an environment of such profound displacement, it was relatively easy for the populist right to point to immigration as the main threat to society (associated with the welfare system) and to articulate an antagonism between the people (silent majority) and the political and cultural elite that let immigration happen. The new hegemony is based on a culturalized ontology of the social. The (re)production of immigrants as a threatening force is maintained through a constant focus on cultural issues that are considered as anti-society. In many parts of Europe, cycles of moral panics are created around issues such as honor killings, gang rapes, animal slaughter, violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriages and headscarves. These issues produce repeatedly an unbridgeable divide between Muslim (immigrant) and Danish culture. The orientation towards these issues disperses various social and political actors along the antagonistic divide, often creating insolvable tensions and fractions within social movements. Reproducing a left/ right opposition – regardless of its particular content – is what is at stake. The answer to the populist vision of society is the construction of a new type of hegemony: the strategy or ideal for a future world should be the re- ontologization of the social.