Collection of PRIO Research on Racism, Inequality and Discrimination

“Black Lives Matter protest” James Eades via Unsplash.


For over six decades, our mission here at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) has been to produce research for a more peaceful world. We analyze the conditions, causes, and dynamics of the political and social processes that create conflict or peace, and communicate this knowledge to policymakers, stakeholders, and the general public so that all those who are engaged in promoting peace can do so on the basis of solid evidence and understanding.

Discussions on racism and discrimination have gained momentum following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Protests against racism and police brutality in the US and across the globe have mobilized civic activism and raised demands for greater attention to these issues. Questions of repression, discrimination, marginalization, inequity, injustice, state violence, exclusion, and racism, and the ways in which these serve to undermine the development of peaceful societies, are at the core of PRIO’s research agenda.

In response to the global push for a more focused effort to combat racism, we at PRIO have sought to identify how we, as peace researchers, can best contribute to these discussions. In light of the work that has been conducted at PRIO for decades on topics relevant to these current developments, we have decided to produce a curated collection of PRIO research that can help us all to educate ourselves on these vital issues.

We have asked PRIO researchers to point us to areas of their own work that speak to current discussions on racism, inequality, and discrimination. On this webpage, we summarize and link to these studies, and provide open access to the full texts.

This collection reflects the diverse research methodologies and disciplines represented at PRIO. It is by no means an exhaustive list and has relied on contributions by researchers themselves. Not all of this research speaks the same language and arrives at compatible conclusions. As such, different readers will find some areas more relevant than others.

In compiling this list, we hope to ease access to our scholarly work for anyone wishing to learn more about how racism, inequality, and discrimination relate to war, peace and socio-political dynamics. We have organized the list in sections to make it more accessible. Creating this overview has also helped us identify gaps in our own work and map out future directions for research.

This collection is organized in the following sections:


Inequality, conflict and structural violence

PRIO has contributed to understanding the consequences of inequality and discrimination, as well as the impact of exclusion of ethnic and religious groups on civil conflict. The following studies relate to the question:


Does inequality trigger conflict? If so, which inequalities trigger conflict, and how?


Structural inequalities were a part of PRIO’s research agenda from a very early stage, as reflected in the work of PRIO’s founder, Johan Galtung. Galtung’s highly cited work on rank disequilibrium and aggression (Journal of Peace Research, 1964), structural violence (JPR, 1969), and imperialism (JPR, 1971) are available to read online at the National Library of Norway.

There is also a long tradition at PRIO of studying structural violence, exemplified by this article by Tord Hoivik from 1977, entitled ‘The Demography of Structural Violence’. Høivik, Tord (1977) The Demography of Structural Violence, Journal of Peace Research 14(1): 59–73.

More recent works on inequality and conflict include:

2020    ‘A conditional model of local income shock and civil conflict.
This article develops a theoretical model of civil conflict that predicts income loss to trigger violent mobilization primarily when the shock can be linked to pre-existing collective grievances. The conditional argument is supported by results of a comprehensive global statistical analysis of conflict involvement among ethnic groups.

  • Buhaug, Halvard; Mihai Croicu; Hanne Fjelde & Nina von Uexkull (2020) A conditional model of local income shock and civil conflict, Journal of Politics. DOI: 10.1086/709671.


2018    ‘Horizontal inequality and armed conflict: a comprehensive literature review’.
Investigation of whether, how, and why inequality influences the dynamics of violent conflict has a long intellectual history. Inequality between individuals and households (vertical inequality) has dominated the literature, but recently attention has shifted to the role of group-based inequalities in triggering violence. This article reviews the quantitative literature on the relationship between conflict mobilization and violence, and “horizontal inequality” (inequalities based on group identities such as ethnicity, region, and religion) and reveals solid support for the argument that high levels of horizontal economic and political inequalities among the relatively deprived make violent conflict more likely.

  • Hillesund, Solveig; Karim Bahgat; Gray Barrett; Kendra Dupuy; Scott Gates; Håvard Mokleiv Nygård; Siri Aas Rustad; Håvard Strand; Henrik Urdal & Gudrun Østby (2018) Horizontal inequality and armed conflict: a comprehensive literature review, Canadian Journal of Development Studies 39(4): 463–480.


2017    ‘Inequality and Armed Conflict: Evidence and Data’.
In an effort to determine how inequality impacts conflict, the report reviews and synthesizes the large literature on inequality and conflict and performs a mapping exercise for data on vertical inequality (economic inequalities between households or individuals), horizontal inequality (between groups), and perceived inequality. A key conclusion is that there is a weak evidence base on which types of group-based identities matter for mobilizing people to engage in conflict, and how and why they do. This includes a need for more knowledge about the role of perceptions and emotion in making certain identities more salient than others.

  • Bahgat, Karim; Kendra Dupuy; Scott Gates; Håvard Mokleiv Nygård; Siri Aas Rustad; Håvard Strand; Henrik Urdal; Gudrun Østby; Gray Barrett & Solveig Hillesund (2017) Inequality and Armed Conflict: Evidence and Data. Background Report for the UN and World Bank Flagship study on development and conflict prevention.


2017    ‘Experienced poverty and local conflict violence’.
The author finds that poverty in itself is not strongly associated with conflict risk. However, when poverty intersects with group grievances – feelings of unjust treatment by the government – the risk of conflict increases. “[C]onflict is more likely in areas with a large impoverished population which perceives their group as being unfairly treated. […] However, districts with a large impoverished population holding no grievances against the government have an insignificant risk of conflict. Thus, being poor will not necessarily increase inclination to rebel as long as most individuals deem their government to be fair. However, when poor individuals experience collective grievances and unfair treatment by incumbents, motivation to instigate violence increases.” In conclusion: “The results presented here highlight the crucial role of institutions and sense of inclusion in reducing the effect of poverty on conflict.”

  • Tollefsen, Andreas Forø (2018) Experienced poverty and local conflict violence, Conflict Management and Peace Science. DOI: 10.1177/0738894217741618.


2016    Ulikhet, eksklusjon og borgerkrig [Inequality, Exclusion, and Civil War]’.
By way of a statistical analysis of all civil wars from 1960, the authors find that ethno-political discrimination and economic marginalization of minority groups significantly increases the risk of conflict. Traditional, individually-based measurements of social inequality, on the other hand, have a relatively weak impact on conflict risk.

  • Buhaug, Halvard; Lars-Erik Cederman & Kristian Skrede Gleditsch (2016) Ulikhet, eksklusjon og borgerkrig [Inequality, Exclusion, and Civil War], Politica 48(1): 12–29.


2015    ‘Insurgency and Inaccessibility’.
The authors explore the relationship between areas populated by politically excluded groups and the risk of conflict. Of relevance is the finding that: “areas hosting sizable politically excluded ethnic populations, on average, show more conflict events than areas inhabited by ethnic groups in power, even after controlling for other dimensions of inaccessibility and local demographic and economic conditions.” Of relevant mechanisms, Tollefsen and Buhaug argue that “sociocultural alienation […] may contribute to a collective perception of unjust treatment by the core, which may provide motivation to mobilize against the state”.

  • Tollefsen, Andreas Forø & Halvard Buhaug (2015) Insurgency and Inaccessibility, International Studies Review 17(1): 6–25.


2014    ‘Square Pegs in Round Holes: Inequalities, Grievances, and Civil War’.
​Much of the recent research on civil war treats explanations rooted in political and economic grievances with considerable suspicion and claims that there is little empirical evidence of any relationship between ethnicity or inequality and political violence. The authors argue that common indicators used in previous research fail to capture fundamental aspects of political exclusion and economic inequality that can motivate conflict. Drawing on insights from group-level research, the authors develop new country-level indices that directly reflect inequalities among ethnic groups, including political discrimination and wealth differentials along ethnic lines. The analysis reveals that these theoretically informed country profiles are much better predictors of civil war onset than conventional inequality indicators, even when controlling for a number of alternative factors potentially related to grievances or opportunities for conflict.

  • Buhaug, Halvard; Lars-Erik Cederman & Kristian Skrede Gleditsch (2014) Square Pegs in Round Holes: Inequalities, Grievances, and Civil War, International Studies Quarterly 58(2): 418–431.


2013    Inequality, Grievances, and Civil War.
​​​​​This book argues that political and economic inequalities following group lines generate grievances that in turn can motivate civil war. Cederman, Gleditsch, and Buhaug offer a theoretical approach that highlights ethnonationalism and how the relationship between group identities and inequalities are fundamental for successful mobilization to resort to violence. Although previous research highlighted grievances as a key motivation for political violence, contemporary research on civil war has largely dismissed grievances as irrelevant, emphasizing instead the role of opportunities. The authors develop new indicators of political and economic exclusion at the group level, and show that these exert strong effects on the risk of civil war.

  • Cederman, Lars-Erik; Kristian Skrede Gleditsch & Halvard Buhaug (2013) Inequality, Grievances, and Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics.


2008    ‘Polarization, Horizontal Inequalities and Violent Civil Conflict’.
This article represents one of the first systematic empirical investigations of the horizontal inequality-conflict nexus. Recent large-scale statistical studies of civil war conclude that inequality does not increase the risk of violent conflict. This article argues that such conclusions may be premature because these studies, which usually test the conflict potential of “vertical inequality” (i.e. income inequality between individuals), tend to neglect the group aspect of inequality. Case studies suggest that what matters for conflict is a concept closely linked to both economic and ethnic polarization: “horizontal inequalities”, or inequalities that coincide with identity-based cleavages. Horizontal inequalities may enhance both grievances and group cohesion among the relatively deprived and thus facilitate mobilization for conflict. This article provides a quantitative test of this argument, exploring whether various forms of polarization and horizontal inequalities affect the probability of civil conflict onset across 36 developing countries in the period 1986–2004. National household data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) are used to construct measures of ethnic, social and economic polarization, as well as vertical and horizontal inequalities along two dimensions: social and economic. The article also introduces a combined measure of ethnic/socio-economic polarization as an alternative to the horizontal inequality measure. Robust results from panel and cross-section analyses show that social polarization and horizontal social inequality are positively related to conflict outbreak. Variables for purely ethnic polarization, inter-individual inequalities and combined ethnic/socio-economic polarization are not significant.

  • Østby, Gudrun (2008) Polarization, Horizontal Inequalities and Violent Civil Conflict, Journal of Peace Research 45(2): 143–162.


Inequality, public protest, and repression

In public outreach, PRIO has contributed pieces focusing on social movements, responses to public protest from state forces, and the political consequences of racially motivated violence.


Inequality and Conflict: Blog posts, op-eds, and public outreach

2020    ‘The Legacy of White Violence in the US’, 13 July, PRIO Blog.
At the PRIO Blog, Arellano discusses why racial inequality persists in the US, provides historical figures of lynching and discusses the blurred lines between lynching and state violence against racialized minorities.


2020    ‘Is 2020 = 1968?’, 15 June, PRIO Blog.
People around the world are grappling to understand events in the United States at the moment regarding the current wave of protest and protest policing. A few events readily come to mind in this comparison but the one that probably carries the greatest resonance would be the uprisings/disturbances/riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Are these events similar though? Arellano, Davenport and Nygård address this question at the PRIO Blog.


2020    ‘Silence, Complicity, and Violence in the American Political System’, 12 June, PRIO Blog.
At the PRIO blog, Kiela Crabtree discusses police use of force against citizens and protest as a response to state repression. Crabtree points to the historical trajectory of US institutions “faltering with regards to violence toward black citizens”, and emphasizes that “on-going protests across the United States are remarkable in their size and duration.”


2019    ‘Racially-Motivated Violence in the United States: What We Call It and Why It Matters’, 13 August, PRIO Blog.
In this blog post, Kiela Crabtree contemplates the political consequences of racially motivated violence. More specifically, she considers how the language used to describe attacks motivated by white-nationalist sentiments matters.

PRIO Policy Briefs

In addition to academic publications, PRIO researchers also provide PRIO Policy Briefs to concisely communicate their research insights to policy makers and practitioners, as well as to the general public. On the subject of public protest and repression, see the following brief:


2016    Standing Idly by during the Revolution.
This PRIO Policy Brief discusses the duration and success of non-violent campaigns as opposed to violent uprisings and the effect of state repression on the unfolding of protests.

  • Gates, Scott; Marianne Dahl & Håvard Mokleiv Nygård (2016) Standing Idly by during the Revolution, PRIO Policy Brief, 15. Oslo: PRIO.


The PRIO research highlighted in the section on inequality, conflict and structural violence addresses whether and how inequalities lead to conflict. PRIO has also approached the inequality-conflict nexus from the other direction, studying the question:


Do protest and conflict affect inequalities? If so, when and how?


Academic publications

2019    ‘The Consequences of Contention: Understanding the Aftereffects of Political Conflict and Violence’.
In summarizing existing quantitative research on the political and economic consequences of contention, the authors of this article argue that there is a need to explore a greater range of forms of contention than protest, civil war and terrorism, to include both challenger and government behavior in the form of civil resistance, state repression, human rights violation and genocide – across as well as within nation-states. The article further suggests that consequences of different forms of contention should be investigated beyond democracy and economic development, to enable a better understanding of institutions and behavior. The authors also point out the need to explore the consequences of contention with respect to inequality, i.e. across ethnically, linguistically, or religiously defined groups, classes, ideological orientations, and genders.

  • Nygård, Håvard Mokleiv; Christian Davenport; Hanne Fjelde & Dave Armstrong (2019) The Consequences of Contention: Understanding the Aftereffects of Political Conflict and Violence, Annual Review of Political Science 22(1): 1–19.


2019    ‘The Conflict–Inequality Trap: How Internal Armed Conflict Affects Horizontal Inequality’.
In this background paper, the authors show that systematic inequalities between identity groups not only spur violent conflict but may also be exacerbated by conflict. This creates a vicious circle, or a inequality-violence trap. The paper examines how conflict affects horizontal inequality. While a large literature looks at how horizontal inequality is linked to the onset of armed conflict, very little is known about if, and how, conflict in turn affects such inequality. The authors argue that there are good reasons to believe that armed conflict should exacerbate levels of horizontal inequality and that this dynamic in turn has the potential of creating an inequality–conflict trap akin to the already established economic conflict trap. The paper examines all intrastate conflicts in 120 countries, for the 1989–2018 period, drawing on measures of inequalities between regions as a proxy for horizontal inequality. It finds that low-intensity conflicts are not systematically linked to levels of horizontal inequality. In contrast, high intensity conflicts, i.e. conflicts that incur more than 1,000 battle deaths and last for more than 5 years, are associated with substantially higher levels of horizontal inequality in the post-conflict phase. This pattern endures for many years after the conflict has ended. Combined with previous research demonstrating that horizontal inequality may induce armed conflict, this paper provides suggestive evidence consistent with the notion of an inequality–conflict trap.

  • Nygård, Håvard Mokleiv; Sirianne Dahlum; Gudrun Østby; & Siri Aas Rustad (2019) The Conflict–Inequality Trap: How Internal Armed Conflict Affects Horizontal Inequality, UNDP Human Development Report Background Paper, 2. New York: UNDP.


2017    Indefensible Seven Myths that Sustain the Global Arms Trade.
While the focus of this book is on the global arms trade, Nicholas Marsh and his collaborators argue that in the US and elsewhere, militarism is both a cause of inequality, repression, exclusion, marginalization, and racism, and the means by which wrongful hierarchies are perpetuated. The Arms Trade is a key means by which inequality is perpetuated at a global level. In the analysis of systems of power, exploitation and repression, the arms trade is an important element. The publication is available to read online at:

  • Holden, Paul; Sarah Detzner; Bridget Conley-Zilkic; Alex de Waal; John Dunne; Andrew Feinstein; William Hartung; Paul Holtom; Lora Lumpe; Nicholas Marsh; Sam Perlo-Freeman; Hennie van Vuuren & Leah Wawro (2017) Indefensible Seven Myths that Sustain the Global Arms Trade. London: Zed.


2014    How Social Movements Die: Repression and Demobilization of the Republic of New Africa.
This book explores the survival and death of social protest movements. Davenport investigates how challengers to government are driven by their understanding of what states will do to oppose them, and in effect attempt to recruit, motivate, calm, and prepare constituents. Social movements’ death are a result of the interplay between these processes, and governments’ attempt to hinder them, Davenport argues.

  • Davenport, Christian (2015) How Social Movements Die: Repression and Demobilization of the Republic of New Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press. Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics.


2013    ‘Fight the Youth: Youth Bulges and State Repression’.
Nordås and Davenport find that governments facing a demographic youth bulge are more repressive than other states.

  • Nordås, Ragnhild & Christian Davenport (2013) Fight the Youth: Youth Bulges and State Repression, American Journal of Political Science 57(4): 926–940.

Inclusion and exclusion

PRIO research has also focused on discrimination, inequality, repression, exclusion, marginalization, and racism. Much of the research relevant to these themes focuses on migration.


Inclusion and exclusion: Blog posts, op-eds, and public outreach

2017    ‘Insights from Migration Research at PRIO’.
This booklet summarizes insights from a decade of PRIO research on migration. Immigration raises concern among local populations and politicians across the world for the same sort of reasons: a perception of scarcity of jobs or resources, and insecurity about societal and cultural implications. For migrants settling down in adopted home countries, lack of inclusion and recognition, together with discrimination and racism, make integration processes challenging. Striving toward an ideal of unity in diversity in democracies necessitates an approach where those one disagrees with are seen as legitimate opponents, not as enemies. This calls for a re-thinking of the nature and positioning of boundaries of the national ‘we’, as different from the external Other, ‘them’, that is reflective of more diverse population compositions, for instance those in European societies.


2020    ‘‘It should change’: Young people on skin colour and national belonging in Norway’, 9 June, PRIO Blog.
The fight against racism and discrimination cannot be won without the silent, non-targeted, majorities’ active contribution and participation – recognizing one another as equal human beings, but significantly also going beyond this, to call out and change the structures and practices that prevent real equality. This is true whether we look to the US, in Norway, or Denmark and Sweden, France or the UK, or anywhere around the world.

​Op-eds in Norwegian public media







PRIO Policy Briefs

2019    Tapping into ‘the New We’: Migrant Civic and Political Participation in Norway.
​Research into active citizenship and the contributions of diaspora reveals multiple patterns of civic and political participation by migrants. Societies experiencing immigration can benefit substantially from these engagements. This policy brief explores how stakeholders may tap into such forms of participation. What can we learn from newcomers about our own society? Can the transnational ties and multi-lingual and multi-cultural competence of migrants benefit others? And could those who have experienced violent conflict and repression play important roles in political action in Europe today?

  • Horst, Cindy (2019) Tapping into ‘the New We’: Migrant Civic and Political Participation in Norway, PRIO Policy Brief, 14. Oslo: PRIO.


2018    What is Diversity?
Cultural and religious diversity is a common characteristic of many European societies and cities. On the one hand, ‘diversity’ can refer to the quality or state of having many different forms, types and ideas, and is thus conceived of as a desirable source of potential, often associated with inspiring creativity and driving innovation. On the other hand, diversity is often understood as identity- and value-based diversity, and associated with a range of societal problems, including a perceived threat to social cohesion. This policy brief explores how to study and write about diversity in ways that do not reproduce essentializing ideas about which aspects of difference matter and which do not.

  • Horst, Cindy & Marta Bivand Erdal (2018) What is Diversity?, PRIO Policy Brief, 12. Oslo: PRIO.


2018    Rethinking the ‘Good Citizen’
Ideas about the ‘good citizen’ are increasingly debated in western Europe. This growing interest relates to pressures on the welfare state, concerns over migration and a sense of a ‘crisis of democracy’. Research on everyday perceptions of civic participation and belonging shows that debates on the ideal-type ‘good citizen’ affect how residents of Oslo judge their own and others’ contributions to society. This brief finds that active citizenship takes on a range of forms of participation and belonging, requiring us to rethink norms about good citizenship as only taking place in the public sphere and as limited to a single, national, community.

  • Horst, Cindy; Noor Jdid & Marta Bivand Erdal (2018) Rethinking the ‘Good Citizen’, PRIO Policy Brief, 9. Oslo: PRIO.


Academic publications

2020    ‘Transnational citizens, cosmopolitan outlooks? Migration as a route to cosmopolitanism’.
Public discourse in Europe today is characterized by a strong preoccupation with the values, motivations and activities of immigrants, and in particular those immigrants who originate from the Global South. While liberal democratic institutions are understood to depend on social conviviality, active citizenship and an abstract sense of justice, in debates across Europe these immigrants are often represented as lacking the characteristics to support such institutions because of their assumed strong ties to family, ethnic or religious groups. Rather than having cosmopolitan outlooks that would enable them to fully integrate into pluralistic societies and support the universalistic principles that are presumed to underlie liberal democratic institutions, it is frequently argued, they are embedded in particularistic values and beliefs. Yet, as the article illustrates, experiences of moving between and living in different places can lead immigrants to become transnational citizens who develop cosmopolitan mindsets and value orientations and appreciate religious, cultural and social diversity within and across national boundaries. In fact, studying immigrants who lead transnational lives can increase our knowledge about the compatibility of attachments to particular places or people and cosmopolitan outlooks.

  • Horst, Cindy & Tore Vincents Olsen (2020) Transnational citizens, cosmopolitan outlooks? Migration as a route to cosmopolitanism, Nordic Journal of Migration Research 10(2): 1–16.


2020    ‘Ethno-political favoritism in maternal health care service delivery: Micro-level evidence from sub-Saharan Africa, 1981–2014’.
It is commonly held that political leaders favour people of the same ethnic origin. The authors test this argument of ethno-political favoritism by studying variations in the usage of maternal health care services across groups in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). More specifically, they link geo-referenced individual-level data from the Demographic and Health Surveys on 601,311 births by 399,908 mothers in 31 countries during the period 1981–2014 with data on the settlement of ethnic groups and their political status. The results indicate that women benefit from the shift that brings co-ethnics into power, increasing the probability of receiving maternal health care services. The effect strengthens with increased competitiveness around elections. This article advances the current literature in four important ways. Firstly, it undertakes the first analysis that utilizes shifts in ethno-political status for the same individual, effectively eliminating competing time-invariant explanations to that of shifts in ethno-political status. Secondly, since SSA governments often incorporate multiple groups, it tests the effect of patronage on being co-ethnic with cabinet members in general, and not only the president. Thirdly, health services constitute the public good most desired by citizens of SSA. The measure captures a vital health service that is highly desired across groups. An increase in usage likely reflects genuine trickle-down effects of having co-ethnics in power, a crucial ingredient in building popular support for ethnic patrons. Fourthly, it shows that electoral competition is an important conditioner of ethno-political favoritism.

  • Theisen, Ole Magnus; Håvard Strand & Gudrun Østby (2020) Ethno-political favoritism in maternal health care service delivery: Micro-level evidence from sub-Saharan Africa, 1981–2014, International Area Studies Review 23(1): 3–27.


2019    ‘The “good citizen”: asserting and contesting norms of participation and belonging in Oslo’.
The question of what constitutes the “good citizen” has received renewed interest in Western Europe in connection with increasing pressure on the welfare state, concerns over migration-related diversity, and growing anxiety about a crisis of democracy. This study draws on data from fifty in-depth interviews and six focus group discussions with residents of Oslo to study the impact of this discursive landscape of citizenship policy on everyday perceptions of good citizenship. In this study, an ideal-type “good citizen” emerges, against which research participants judge their own and others’ contributions. Based on empirical data, the authors argue for a reconceptualization of good citizenship that acknowledges present-day spaces of participation as both public and private, and which acknowledges scales of belonging that go beyond and below a narrowly defined national community. Such reconceptualization is necessary to include and recognize the diversity of participation and belonging unfolding in Europe today.

  • Horst, Cindy; Marta Bivand Erdal & Noor Jdid (2019) The “good citizen”: asserting and contesting norms of participation and belonging in Oslo, Ethnic and Racial Studies. DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2019.1671599.


2019    ‘Miracles in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt and Refugees as ‘Vanguard’’.
The radical uncertainty that refugees face because of war, flight and exile often dramatically shapes their participation in society. Violent conflict and human rights abuses are not just disproportionately experienced by, but can also create, political subjects. Such life events can transform the motivations, sense of responsibility and political actions of individuals with refugee backgrounds. In this article, the authors explore the links between civil–political engagement and the life stories of such individuals, analyzing their empirical data through themes in the work of Hannah Arendt. They make three central points. First, they highlight the possibility of refugees as ‘vanguard’, playing a leading role in the struggle against dark times. Refugees often feel a strong sense of responsibility to fight for democratic values and against injustice, inspired by their experiences during violent conflict and oppression. Second, the authors illustrate the importance of expanding the idea of ‘the political’ through Arendt’s understanding of political action as narrative. And, third, they explore the political freedom and hope that stem from the possibility of ‘new beginnings’. European societies could clearly benefit from this potential civic-political avant-garde.

  • Horst, Cindy & Odin Lysaker (2019) Miracles in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt and Refugees as ‘Vanguard’, Journal of Refugee Studies. DOI: 10.1093/jrs/fez057.


2019    ‘Negotiation dynamics and their limits: Young people in Norway deal with diversity in the nation.’
This article contributes to analyses of diversity in the nation through analytical attention to negotiation dynamics in young people’s exchanges about ‘who’ and ‘what’ the nation is (understood to be) using data from 33 focus groups with 289 upper secondary students in schools across Norway. The negotiation dynamics present in the discussion are explored in terms of the relative weighting of desired relational outcomes (‘who’ is seen as a national) versus desired substantive outcomes (‘what’ the nation as imagined community is assumed to be and look like). The negotiation dynamics are premised on a mutually acknowledged and shared fate – as classmates, young people, or co-nationals – despite occasional disagreement about the roles of ancestry, race or birthplace for national belonging. However, there are limits to negotiation dynamics, because the premise a of shared fate is not easily transposed to society, and certainly not to polarized media debates. Nevertheless, the negotiation dynamics at play in this study with young people in Norway, merit further exploration in other contexts, and with other age groups, as a way to research the embodied, plural, everyday nation in the process of coming to terms (or not) with its diversity.

  • Erdal, Marta Bivand (2019) Negotiation dynamics and their limits: Young people in Norway deal with diversity in the nation, Political Geography 73: 38–47.


2019    ‘Citizenship, Participation and Belonging in Scandinavia: Results from a survey among young adults of diverse origins in Norway, Sweden and Denmark’.
While immigration and integration are heated topics in public debate across Scandinavia, and citizenship and naturalization policies have increasingly come into the limelight, we know very little about how people actually conceive of citizenship and its importance. The purpose of this 2018 survey is to uncover the ways in which inhabitants of Norway, Denmark and Sweden experience, perceive and reflect upon the citizenship institution. The three countries are frequently compared with one another, but they have developed strikingly different approaches to immigration, integration and citizenship over the past two decades. Based on existing knowledge about immigration, integration and citizenship in Scandinavia, we would expect these differences to be reflected in the experiences, values and perceptions found among populations. However, the striking and overarching finding from this Scandinavian survey among young adults on the issues of citizenship, participation and belonging is the high degree of similarity found, across the three Scandinavian countries, and between groups (native majorities, immigrants and descendants of immigrants). This paper contains a separate chapter on discrimination experiences across 7 spheres among young adults in Norway.

  • Erdal, Marta Bivand; Davide Bertelli; Mathias Kruse; Mathias Hatleskog Tjønn; Arnfinn H. Midtbøen; Grete Brochmann; Pieter Bevelander; Per Mouritsen; Emily Cochran Bech & Kristian Kriegbaum Jensen (2019) ‘Citizenship, Participation and Belonging in Scandinavia: Results from a survey among young adults of diverse origins in Norway, Sweden and Denmark’, PRIO Paper. Oslo: PRIO.


2018    ‘Interrogating boundaries of the everyday nation through first impressions: experiences of young people in Norway’.
This article interrogates boundaries of the everyday nation, based on how young people in Norway experience and reflect upon first impressions. The data consists of 289 texts written by pupils and 33 focus groups with the same youth. First impressions are conceptualized as boundaries of the everyday nation, characterized by heteronomy and multiplicity, as embodied encounters with emotional dimensions. Perspectives from both the observed and the onlooker shed light on relationality here. Everyday encounters trigger both automatic reactions and conscious reflections, which may be managed by the individual. Visibility and race are crucial to the dynamics of first impressions as sites where boundaries are (re)produced, harboring potential for both recognition and exclusion. Beyond mere boundary-making instances, first impressions, as situated encounters, hold potential to be sites for normative reflection on the nation and its boundaries. Relationality, the article finds, may contradict or trump visibility as a taken-for-granted boundary-making mechanism.

  • Erdal, Marta Bivand & Mette Strømsø (2018) Interrogating boundaries of the everyday nation through first impressions: experiences of young people in Norway, Social & Cultural Geography. DOI: 10.1080/14649365.2018.1559345.


2018    ‘How citizenship matters (or not): the citizenship–belonging nexus explored among residents in Oslo, Norway’.
This article sheds light on what citizenship means for individuals’ experiences of belonging. Through 41 interviews conducted in Oslo, Norway, the article traces understandings of how, when and why citizenship matters (or not) for belonging. The interviewees fall into one of four categories: born citizens; naturalized citizens; dual citizens and non-Norwegian citizens who would qualify for naturalization, thus mixing participants with and without immigrant backgrounds. The authors interpret individuals’ experiences evaluating whether formal citizenship is explicitly or implicitly salient and whether it is associated with secure or insecure belonging. The article finds that citizenship matters for security and recognition, both linked to belonging, in expected and unexpected ways. Our findings point to how, when and why citizenship matters (or not) for belonging, constituting the citizenship–belonging nexus. Here, race continues to matter, as does the materiality of the passport document, in how the citizenship–belonging nexus interacts with the nation as locus of membership for citizens.

  • Erdal, Marta Bivand; Elin Martine Doeland & Ebba Tellander (2018) How citizenship matters (or not): the citizenship–belonging nexus explored among residents in Oslo, Norway, Citizenship Studies. DOI: 10.1080/13621025.2018.1508415.


2018    ‘Children’s rights, participatory research and the co-construction of national belonging’. This article contributes to the debate on human rights education in diverse societies. It is concerned with the relationship between participation and the co-construction of national belonging. The data consists of 289 pupil texts and 33 focus group discussions in 6 upper secondary schools in Norway. The role of the school in nation-building is well-known, often emphasizing policy documents or curricula. However, it is in the interaction between pupils and their teachers that the production and re-production of the nation occurs. Participatory exercises in focus groups functioned as pedagogical interventions, helping pupils to reflect on how they understand, discuss and co-construct national belonging. The authors find that the potential for co-construction of national belonging, through pedagogical interventions, depends on who is acknowledged as a legitimate participant. Notwithstanding power hierarchies, it can be argued that group discussions are concrete ways to help young people in diverse classrooms co-construct national belonging.

  • Erdal, Marta Bivand & Mette Strømsø (2018) Children’s rights, participatory research and the co-construction of national belonging, Human Rights Education Review 1(1): 25–45.


2017    ‘Descent, birthplace and residence: Aligning principles of citizenship with realities of migrant’.
The article presents a theoretical argument for aligning principles of citizenship with realities of migrant transnationalism and dual citizenship. Migrant transnationalism and dual citizenship challenge zero-sum understandings of belonging and residence as rooted in one place only. Through the lens of residence, the authors connect insights from migrant transnationalism literature with citizenship studies’ focus on principles of citizenship. Principles of citizenship based on descent and birthplace build on particular genealogies of belonging that define membership, and are the basis on which citizenship is granted. Neither of the two principles provides adequate answers to how naturalization, in terms of belonging to the political community, can be justified as anything other than exceptions. Jus domicili offers a complementary alternative, wherein belonging is connected to residence, thus moving naturalization out of the realm of exceptions. A configuration of principles of citizenship that is aligned with realities of migrant transnationalism and dual citizenship must build on complementary genealogies of belonging, including descent, birthplace and residence. Doing so requires acknowledging differing temporalities of belonging. A legal framework that strengthens the potential for realizing equal citizenship in diverse societies necessitates a rejection of the hierarchies reflected in genealogies of belonging that underlie citizenship principles.

  • Erdal, Marta Bivand & Tove Heggli Sagmo (2017) Descent, birthplace and residence: Aligning principles of citizenship with realities of migrant transnationalism, Norwegian Journal of Geography. DOI: 10.1080/00291951.2017.1369456.


2017    ‘Do we have to agree? Accommodating unity in diversity in post-terror Norway’.
Fostering unity in diversity while ensuring spaces for disagreement is a key challenge for all liberal democracies with ethnic and religious diversity. Increasing polarization, not least due to the threat of terror attacks, exacerbates this challenge. Drawing on the case of Norway in the aftermath of the 2011 terror attacks motivated by ‘Eurabia’ sentiments, the article finds that both consensus and contestation are necessary to counter conflictual polarization. Consensus establishes a necessary common ground for interaction, while contestation permits diverging interpretations to emerge. Working with 21 semi-structured interviews with people in influential roles in Norway, the authors propose an analytical framework that draws on both political theory and empirically based analyses of interaction in diverse societies. The article finds that consensus-oriented approaches immediately following terror attacks can build unity and bridge divides across existing ethnic, religious, and political diversity. Over time, however, they may contribute to conflict, as they are perceived to conceal underlying disagreements. Perspectives founded on dualistic contestation can also cultivate conflict if opponents increasingly perceive each other as enemies in a hostile environment. A plurality of contestations, by contrast, can de-escalate conflict and thereby ease renewed cooperation. Thus, the findings point to the need for a perspective that transcends the dualism of “us” and “them” and acknowledges the plurality of human beings in order to de-escalate the spiral of polarization.

  • Ezzati, Rojan Tordhol & Marta Bivand Erdal (2017) Do we have to agree? Accommodating unity in diversity in post-terror Norway, Ethnicities. DOI: 10.1177/1468796816684145.


2016    ‘Return Imaginaries and Political Climate: Comparing Thinking About Return Mobilities Among Pakistani Origin Migrants and Descendants in Norway and the UK’. The political climate on immigration and diversity in various European societies has previously been analyzed in relation to media representations, policy regimes and public opinion. This paper focuses more narrowly on how political climates affect migrant and post-migrant generations, as inhabitants of these European societies. The authors focus on the impact of ambivalence resulting from perceived lack of recognition as full citizens in European societies among migrants and their descendants. Ambivalence in relation to experiences of particular traits of the political climate is further connected with ideas about mobility—how migrants and descendants may think about return migration—what we discuss in terms of ‘return imaginaries’. Culture, ideology and representations are seen as significant for contemporary politics, not only with expressive but also with formative roles. With this perspective, the analysis explores three politically heated areas of debate: about immigration control, about social cohesion and integration agendas and about terrorist attacks. These three areas were inductively selected, drawing on analysis of qualitative data collected among Pakistani origin migrants and descendants in Norway and the UK. The two countries of residence are purposefully chosen because they in different ways reflect political climates affected by the rise of xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe.

  • Bolognani, Marta & Marta Bivand Erdal (2016) Return Imaginaries and Political Climate: Comparing Thinking About Return Mobilities Among Pakistani Origin Migrants and Descendants in Norway and the UK, Journal of International Migration and Integration 18(1): 353–367.


2011    ‘Protecting Europe and Protecting Migrants? Strategies for Managing Unauthorised Migration from Africa’.
This article addresses the management of unauthorized migration from Africa to Europe. It reviews eight policy measures and explore how they relate to prominent policy narratives, centred on security, co-operation and protection of migrants. The article also examines the specific mechanisms through which the policy measures function: direct control, deterrence and dissuasion. Analysis of policy narratives helps explain the ascendance of externalized migration control, such as pre-border patrolling. Furthermore, the analysis shows how the narrative of protection can be aligned with direct control measures and constitute a double-edged sword for migrants. The text focuses on maritime migration from West Africa to Spain’s Canary Islands. The article draws in part on ethnographic data from fieldwork in Senegal in order to assess the impact of specific measures on the target population of prospective migrants.

  • Carling, Jørgen & María Hernández Carretero (2011) Protecting Europe and Protecting Migrants? Strategies for Managing Unauthorised Migration from Africa, British Journal of Politics and International Relations 13(1): 42–58.


2008    ‘The Human Dynamics of Migrant Transnationalism’.
How is migrant transnationalism shaped by the human dynamics of relationships between migrants and non-migrants? This question is addressed through an analysis of asymmetries between migrants and non-migrants in three spheres of transnational life: the moralities of transnationalism, information and imagination in transnational relations, and transnational resource inequalities. Understanding transnational practices such as sending remittances and facilitating migration, it is argued, requires attention to the dynamics of the relationships between individuals. Fieldwork material from Cape Verde and the Netherlands is combined with secondary literature from other parts of the world in order to develop an analytical framework for comparative research.

  • Carling, Jørgen (2008) The Human Dynamics of Migrant Transnationalism, Ethnic and Racial Studies 31(8): 1452–1477.


2013    ‘Migrant Transnationalism and Multi-Layered Integration: Norwegian-Pakistani Migrants’ Own Reflections’.
This article explores the interaction between migrant transnationalism and integration by interrogating the concept of integration from a transnational perspective. Integration is shown to be a multi-layered phenomenon, encompassing both descriptive and prescriptive elements – what is and what ought to be. The policies of individual nation-states define the legal-political dimensions of integration in particular contexts, at times contributing to a normative understanding of integration that presupposes a conflict between migrants’ transnationalism and their integration, particularly along the socio-cultural dimension. A critical consideration of the implications of the multiple layers of integration for the individuals directly affected – that is, the migrants themselves – is proposed, and provides the basis for the article’s examination. The data consist of 30 semi-structured interviews conducted with Pakistani migrants and their descendants in Norway, analysis of which reveals the existence of tensions between migrants’ functional approach to integration on the one hand, and state policy on integration on the other, all pointing to unresolved issues related to citizenship and identity.​

  • Erdal, Marta Bivand (2013) Migrant Transnationalism and Multi-Layered Integration: Norwegian-Pakistani Migrants’ Own Reflections, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 39(6): 983–999.


2013    Migrant Balancing Acts: Understanding the Interactions Between Integration and Transnationalism’.
This article explores ways of understanding the interactions between migrant integration and transnationalism, based on a review of quantitative and qualitative literature. Integration is taken as the starting point, and the assumption that integration and transnationalism are at odds with one another is questioned. When considered as constituents of a social process, the authors argue that there are many similarities between integration and transnationalism. A typology for understanding these interactions is developed, based on an acknowledgment of migrants’ agency in straddling two societies – as a balancing act. This typology is presented as a tool to enable migration scholars to move beyond simply acknowledging the co-existence of transnationalism and integration and towards an analysis of the nature of interactions between the two – understood in relation both to particular places and contexts and to the human beings involved and their functional, emotional and pragmatic considerations.​

  • Erdal, Marta Bivand & Ceri Oeppen (2013) Migrant Balancing Acts: Understanding the Interactions Between Integration and Transnationalism, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 39(6): 867–884.


2013    ‘Somalis in Oslo’.
​​Open Society Foundations commissioned research on Somalis in European cities, identifying these communities as at risk of social exclusion. The solid research evidence produced identifies a range of challenges, inter alia related to prejudice and discrimination. ‘Somalis in Oslo’ explores the experiences of Norwegian-Somalis living in Oslo, focusing on five areas of local policy – employment, education, health, political participation, and policing – as well as the broader themes of identity and belonging.​ ​Norway has only recently become a country hosting any substantial number of immigrants; the past decade has seen a surge in annual immigration, with numbers almost doubling between 2005 and 2011. People of Somali origin make up a small percentage of the overall immigrant population, but are among the largest refugee groups. Somali immigrants in Norway are young: 80 percent are under 40, and 80 percent of the second generation – children born in Norway to Somali immigrant parents – is under the age of 10. Somali communities are concentrated in the urban areas of Norway, especially Oslo, where they are the third-largest immigrant group in the city.​ Somalis in Oslo is part of a seven-city research series, Somalis in European Cities, by the Open Society Foundations’ At Home in Europe project, which examines the realities of people from Somali backgrounds in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Malmo, Leicester, London, and Oslo.​

  • Horst, Cindy; Faiza Kassim Ibrahim; Brandon Baumbach; Marian Hussein; Hawa Muuse; & Sundus Osman (2013) Somalis in Oslo, Somalis in European Cities. New York: Open Society Foundations.


2013    Meet the Somalis.

In connection with the above commissioned report on ‘Somalis in Oslo’, Open Society Foundations produced a series of 14 illustrated stories called Meet the Somalis. These stories depict the real life experiences of Somalis in seven cities in Europe: Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Leicester, London, Malmö, and Oslo and allow readers a unique insight into what everyday life is like as a Somali in Europe. Meet the Somalis is based on the firsthand testimonies of Somalis in Europe interviewed during six months in 2013, which were told to author Benjamin Dix and then illustrated by artist Lindsay Pollock. The Somali community in Europe is a vibrant, diverse minority group, including people of Somali origin born in Europe, Somali refugees and asylum seekers, and Somalis who have migrated from one country in Europe to another. There are no accurate figures for the number of Somalis in Europe, but on the whole they are among one of the largest minority groups. The illustrated stories focus on challenges faced by Somalis in their respective cities in Europe, including discrimination and prejudice, and issues raised in the Somalis in European Cities research, including education, housing, the media, employment, political participation, and identity. Meet the Somalis depicts experiences many of us will never know, like fleeing a warzone with your children or, worse, leaving your loved ones behind. But more often, these stories portray the values shared among many of us, like the importance of family, well-being, and identity in an ever-changing world. The collection is available to read online at Open Society Foundations.


Perspectives in research: positionality, diversity and race

PRIO researchers have contributed to scholarly reflections on the impact of perspective and researchers’ positioning in academia and the development industry.


Perspectives in research: Blog posts, op-eds, and public outreach

In 2018, PRIO organized a seminar entitled Decolonizing the Academy. The aim of this seminar was to start a national discussion about the legacy of the colonial era in Norwegian academia – both in relation to its formal structures and the ways in which we as researchers conceptualize and categorize the world. The debate about the need to decolonize academia has raged internationally for several years. Student movements at the University of Cape Town and the University of Oxford, under the hashtag #RhodesMustFall, have used their demands for the removal of statues of the colonialist Cecil Rhodes from campuses as the pivot for a comprehensive critique of structural inequality and racism in the university system.


2018    ‘Decolonize Academia!’, 8 June, PRIO Blog.
Ida Roland Birkvad and Cindy Horst call for a national discussion about the legacy of the colonial era in Norwegian academia – both in relation to its formal structures and the ways in which researchers conceptualize and categorize the world.


2018    ‘What Shapes Which Migration Flows We Study?’, 12 June, PRIO Blog.
How might decolonizing the academy intersect with academic everyday practice, for instance in the context of migration studies? As efforts to decolonize the academy are gaining force, not least in universities in the United Kingdom, such as at the School of Oriental and African Studies, questions about how this timely intellectual scrutiny can or ought to affect academic everyday practice should be pondered. Especially in relation to how the ‘decolonize academia’ initiatives help foster greater knowledge and understanding, thus stimulating and furthering academic inquiry.


Op-eds in Norwegian public media

  • Erdal, Marta Bivand & Arnfinn H. Midtbøen (2018) Det mangfoldige akademiet [The diverse academia], no, 6 November.
    «Mangfold. Norskfødte etterkommere av innvandrere er sterkt underrepresentert blant forskere i Norge, mens de er overrepresentert i høyere utdanning. Dette er det verdt å dvele over».



Academic publications

2017    ‘Internasjonalisering, mangfold og diskriminering i norsk akademia[Internationalization, Diversity and Discrimination in Norwegian Academia].
En ny rapport fra Akademiet for yngre forskere (AYF) viser at yngre forskere i Norge har positive holdninger til internasjonalisering i akademia. Samtidig opplever hver fjerde forsker med innvandrerbakgrunn diskriminering og manglende inkludering. AYF etterlyser bred debatt om disse funnene.

  • Erdal, Marta Bivand; Carl Henrik Knutsen & Arnfinn H. Midtbøen (2019) Internasjonalisering, mangfold og diskriminering i norsk akademia [Internationalization, Diversity and Discrimination in Norwegian Academia], Nytt Norsk Tidsskirft 36(3): 288–295.


2017    ‘Racialized Realities in World Politics’.
This article briefly introduces a special issue that addresses the relevance of race and racism in international relations and in the constitution of world politics, asking what interrogating and theorizing what it means to live in a racialized world may imply.

  • Carrozza, Ilaria; Ida Danewid & Evelyn Pauls (2017) Racialized Realities in World Politics, Millennium: Journal of International Studies 45(3): 267–268


2014    ‘Beyond the Insider–Outsider Divide in Migration Research’.
This article engages critically with the insider–outsider divide in research with migrants and advocates a more nuanced and dynamic approach to positionality. In migration research, the insider–outsider divide typically assumes a specific form: an insider researcher is a member of the migrant group under study, whereas an outsider researcher is a member of the majority population in the country of settlement. This divide is a discursive reality that researchers must relate to, regardless of its analytical merits. The analysis builds on the authors’ experiences in twelve different fieldwork situations, where research was often conducted from hybrid positions that did not fit the archetypal insider–outsider divide. The article explores some of the advantages and challenges inherent in different positions and argues that strategic and reflexive management of positionality should be included in ethical considerations about the research process.

  • Carling, Jørgen; Marta Bivand Erdal & Rojan Tordhol Ezzati (2014) Beyond the Insider–Outsider Divide in Migration Research, Migration Studies 2(1): 36–54.


2015    ‘Migrants as agents of development: Diaspora engagement discourse and practice in Europe’.
This article analyzes how European governments and civil society actors engage diasporas in Europe as agents for the development of their countries of origin. Through a critical examination of diaspora engagement discourse and practice in various European countries, the authors identify three implicit understandings. First, development is conceived of as the planned activities of Western professional development actors; second, diasporas are seen as actual communities rooted in a national ‘home’ and sharing a group identity; and third, migration is regarded as binary mobility. The authors argue that these interpretations are informed by notions of ethnic or national rootedness in given places and that they lead to further assumptions about why, and in pursuit of what goals, diasporas engage. The article concludes that such essentialized understandings limit the potential of diaspora engagement as a means of innovating the development industry by broadening understandings of what development entails and how it can be done.​

  • Sinatti, Giulia & Cindy Horst (2015) Migrants as agents of development: Diaspora engagement discourse and practice in Europe, Ethnicities 15(1): 134–152.


Security Dialogue (SD) and Journal of Peace Research (JPR)

Beyond contributing original research, PRIO hosts two journals: Security Dialogue (SD) and Journal of Peace Research (JPR). These journals have provided a platform for both empirical and conceptual debates on inequality, discrimination, and racism. A recent exchange in SD has investigated whether the conceptual underpinnings of the field of security studies are racist. Both the original claim and two critical replies to it are available at the Security Dialogue website.

  • Howell, Alison & Melanie Richter-Montpetit (2019) Is securitization theory racist? Civilizationism, methodological whiteness, and antiblack thought in the Copenhagen School, Security Dialogue 51(1): 3–22.
  • Hansen, Lene (2020) Are ‘core’ feminist critiques of securitization theory racist? A reply to Alison Howell and Melanie Richter-Montpetit, Security Dialogue 51(4): 378-385.
  • Wæver, Ole & Barry Buzan (2020) Racism and responsibility – The critical limits of deepfake methodology in security studies: A reply to Howell and Richter-Montpetit, Security Dialogue 51(4): 386–394.
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