The point of departure for “Affecting change? Cultural politics of sexuality and ‘race’ in Norwegian education” is the reconfiguration of sexual and racial politics in the Norwegian public sphere over the past decade. Both gender equality and homotolerance was transformed from contested political issues to common values that were seen to positively distinguish Norwegian culture in this process. Furthermore, these issues were increasingly taken up to describe both cultural differences and “cultural conflicts” internationally and in Norway. This development can be traced in curriculum and textbooks from 2006-2010, especially in the discussions of cultural differences in Social Science. Through interrogations of both the discursive interconnections between gender, sexuality, and “race,” and how the issues of sexuality and “race” are tackled in education separately, the dissertation highlights that both education about sexuality and “race” in contemporary Norway can be informed by a postcolonial critique that reveals the persistence of racializing discursive strategies in Norwegian education.
“Affecting Change? Cultural Politics of Sexuality and ‘Race’ in Norwegian education” is an article based dissertation that investigates the cultural configurations of sexuality and “race” in Norwegian education as they appear in textbooks and in classroom interaction. It consists of four articles and an introduction that discusses contextual, methodological, and theoretical issues that were important for the research that the articles present. The articles focus on a) the cultural politics of Norwegian sex education, b) the interplay between sexuality and questions of cultural differences in Social Science textbooks, c) conceptual and affective problems in education about “race” and racism, and d) the impact of affective educational spaces on teaching and learning questions of “difference” in the classroom. The first two articles primarily consist of discussions of existing research and textbook analyses. The latter two are based on classroom observation.
The analysis highlights the persistence of heteronormalizing and racializing conceptual frameworks in education that aims to combat discrimination. Specifically, it argues that the denial of “race” as a relevant concept in Norwegian public discourse and education currently hinders educational efforts to prevent racism among young people. Furthermore, it sheds light on how affective aspects of classroom interaction can strengthen or work against education that reproduces oppressive social norms.
These considerations of the cultural politics of sexuality and “race” in Norwegian education are informed by a theoretical and methodological discussion about affect and cultural analysis. Drawing on both psychosocial perspectives and Deleuzo-Guatarian affect theory, the dissertation explores the persistence of oppressive social structures through a focus on psychosocial aspects of racist interaction, and the potential for social change that can be traced through affect on the level of the situation. In the articles, affective inquiry on both these levels helps highlight both how racism is enacted and thwarted in educational encounters.