e-book How the Workers Became Muslims: Immigration, Culture, and Hegemonic Transformation in Europe

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Contents:
  1. Donald Trump and the White Nationalists
  2. How the Workers Became Muslims: Immigration, Culture, and Hegemonic Transformation in Europe
  3. How the Workers Became Muslims
  4. Free Thought Lives

During my early years in Denmark, immigrant organizations were generally national or ethnic e. By the time I left Denmark, ethnonational worker associations had been re- placed by cross-national Muslim associations. Islam may have been the religion of these twentieth century arrivals, but in general their faith was just part of the background of their lives. And most were too busy struggling to ind work and housing to think much about religion.


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Far-Right Hegemony In their seminal work Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, Laclau and Moufe explored the possibilities for a revised socialist strategy under new fragmented political and social conditions. Two and half decades later, we can note that it is not the socialist movement but the populist Far Right that has shown an ability to adopt a successful strategy, which has led to the reconiguration of internal fault lines in European societies.

Donald Trump and the White Nationalists

Examining the intervention strategies of the populist Far Right, which has achieved an unprecedented inluence on mainstream politics and changed the parameters of political discourse, may provide clues about why the Left is unable to provide a viable alternative vision and is in a deep crisis. Too often, social scientists view social change as a mechanical result of agentless structural changes, to which political forces respond but are not decisive in determining their direction.

According to these explanations, the economic cleavage dimension, which is about the degree of state involvement in the economy, pitted workers against capital, whereas the cultural cleavage dimension, which is mostly about is- sues such as immigration, law and order, and abortion, puts workers against left-libertarian positions. In this epistemic collusion between the Right and the Left, the igure of Muslim immigrant helps create the very social cohesion that is presented as preexisting and under threat.

A Short History of Immigration to Denmark To realize that neither immigration nor negative attitudes toward immigrants are new phenomena, one only needs to watch the much-praised movie Pelle the Conqueror. Instead, they were joined by their spouses and children in Denmark, and because of family reunion laws the number of immigrants continued to increase.


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As a result, the debate since the mids centered on asylum and family reunion laws, which have been continuously tightened since that time. According to the igures from Statistics Denmark 4 , foreigners and their descendants make up It is the non-Western part of the immigrants—rather than Germans or Americans—who are the objects of the intense debates. Culture, ethnicity, and religion, although present in discourse, were not the domi- nant themes, at least quantitatively.

In , there were only 14 out of a total newspaper stories that focused on cultural problems Madsen By , Danish newspapers were even discussing whether Danes would buy halal chocolate candy e. Theoretical Framework: Heterogeneity of the Social and Empty Signiiers Two important views of language ofer ways to think about the discursive nature of social life. He challenged the status of language as a relatively transparent medium between things and meaning by pointing to the constitutive nature of language. A common deinition would be that someone Danish i.

Is that suicient? What about being born abroad to Danish parents? What about those born in Denmark but to non-Danish parents? Danes may be simultaneously described friendly and unfriendly depending on the rhetorical context of the utterance. On the other hand, total closure is never possible because the local premises that limit proliferation of signiication change from context to context and can always be contested.

In this temporary ixity of meaning, Danes talk about themselves, and are talked about, as if Danish culture is the most natural and given entity in the world, as if there is a clear deinition of a group of people who have some- thing in common, regardless of the myriad problems with pinpointing what that common essence is.

How the Workers Became Muslims: Immigration, Culture, and Hegemonic Transformation in Europe

Starting from the view of language not as langue i. Moreover, A unitary language is not something given. But at the same time it makes its real presence felt as a force for overcoming this heteroglossia, imposing speciic limits to it, guaranteeing a certain maximum of mutual un- derstanding and crystallizing into a real, although still relative, unity. But the already uttered, the already known, and the com- mon opinion e.

How the Workers Became Muslims Immigration Culture and Hegemonic Transformation in Europe

Instead, it is inherently heteroglot in nature, such that meaning can only be ixed in the concrete context of utterance. But any concrete context of utterance is already embedded in the matrix of heteroglossia, wherein centrifugal forces continuously attempt to disperse meaning away from the center whereas centripetal forces attempt to centralize and unify the language—that is, exert a homogenizing and hierarchizing inluence.

1. “Fortress Europe”

I argue that this center is not a patterned discourse—or articulation of diferences in an equivalential2 link, as Laclau and Moufe would argue—but ontological categories that are persistently referred to and that can only be apprehended through empty signiiers. Rhetorical Texture of Society: Discourse and Heterogeneity his book does not depend on a distinction between discourse and reality. As such, they are political relationships. To do so would be to indicate some kind of false consciousness, which amounts to taking ontological changes as inaccurate relections of a real world whose composition is given in the relations of production prior to political articulation.

It would suggest interpreting the focus on Muslim immigrants as a new form of racism masking a social division based on class distinction—a reality to which I, as a leftist intellectual, might perhaps have privileged access—narrows down the analytical venues one can take. Instead, I consider class, as much as Muslim immigrants, the result of par- ticular political articulations that have ontologizing efects. As a hegemonic construct, the ontological category of class has its own organizations, po- litical parties, labor unions, and cultural institutions.

In other words, the whole social space is discursive. It is a vast argumentative texture through which people construct their reality. For Laclau , the rhetorical nature of society means that society does not have an objective referent substance or essence. We can therefore only approach it by using metonyms, metaphors, allusions, or analogies that give us a sense of what society is like, for example, a statistical chart that takes parts as indicators of the whole.

In my theoretical universe, the rhetoricity of society has as much to do with the inherently fragmented and disjointed nature of the social world. My friend warned her that it was made of pork.


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  3. Immigration, Culture, and Hegemonic Transformation in Europe;
  4. Why copying the populist right isn’t going to save the left.

His father, on the other hand, did not want to eat pork because, he said, he did not like the taste even though he had never tried it before. In our dealings with the social world, we are much more goal ori- ented than we may recognize and we draw on many diferent—sometimes contradictory—ideas to it the demands of the rhetorical situation.

If all discourse is contextual and thus rhetorical, the critical question becomes: How can we make sense of ontologies of the social that appear to be stable constructions? How do we even begin to conceptualize politics that deal with putative structures such as culture if discourse is heterogeneous, fragmented, and episodic? We enlist categories as if they are independent, self-contained, and stable entities with which we orient ourselves and about which we express our views because, in fact, they enable us to speak about the world, interact with one another, and allow us to associate ourselves with collectivities, however contingent they may be.

In this book, these categories are understood as discursive resources that help us to organize and talk about the world, rather than evidence of mental relections of objective structures whose meanings are given through their place in a real world of objects. By the end of the decade, the discussion was all about culture as the background for whatever immigrants might be doing. In the early s, I was called by a journalist colleague from the Dan- ish Broadcasting Corporation to comment on a murder case in a live radio broadcast.

An older Turkish man had killed his grandchild and injured his daughter-in-law with a cooking pan. I was invited to explain what in Turk- ish culture might have made him commit the murder. Later it turned out that there was no story, no cultural explana- tion: the Turkish man was mentally ill and had previously been in mental institutions. What made it a notable story was not so much the mur- der itself but who committed it. What is the implication of reporting on a murder case when an immigrant commits it? A murder committed by an immigrant is metonymically made to stand for the entirety of culture.

In this anthropological sense, culture is understood a symbolic meaning- making system in the same way as ideology Geertz It is clear that this sense of culture conlicts with the notion of the social as a heterogenetic space. In my theoretical universe, values are lexible resources people draw on to do various things. In other words, culture is the totality of the symbols available for discourse. It is a fragmented domain in which inconsistent and episodic references to values and categories are made and established.

But the attachment to a particular collectivity in everyday life is lexible; even during a particular conversation we may identify ourselves as a dancer, and then as the focus of the conversation shifts, we may express our belong- ingness in terms of the neighborhood we live in, the food we share, the mu- sic we listen to, our annoyance with a particular group of people, and so on.

Muslim cul- ture, in this sense, is considered to be in opposition to Danish culture, which is described as either inherently secular or inherently Christian or alterna- tively as secularized Christian. In other words, it is the purported existential connection between freedom of speech and a nation that owns it as a cultural value. It is the persistent references to culture that ontologize cultural-religious cat- egories whereby social and political problems are explained by reference to the incommensurable nature of cultural diferences.

Because of the xenophobic and nationalist tone of the debate on Muslim immigrants, many scholars considers the new phenomenon as the good old racism in new clothes with labels such as Islamophobia or cul- tural, diferential, or symbolic racism see, e. Focus- ing on cultural racism and Islamophobia as racism in new clothes distracts from the broader implications of the culturalization of discourse. Hegemony he obvious methodological challenge in examining the culturalization of immigration discourse is how to generalize the hegemonic character of the cultural paradigm.

Demonstrating that references to culture in the immi- gration debate are widespread does not necessarily prove that there is new type of hegemony in Denmark and, by extension, in Europe. Erased is the traditional notion that the welfare system and democracy are the result of the social democratic consensus based on class politics. A founding ideology of the vertical America was much in need then. As a result, the existential question about cultural ownership in this land had to be addressed:.

Does nativism consist only of the particular complex of attitudes dominant in the anti-foreign crusade of the mid-nineteenth century? Or does it extend to every occasion when native inhabitants of a country turn their faces or raise their hands against strangers in their midst?

By identifying WASPs as natives and nativists in this land, Higham unequivocally constructs a nativist ideology for the vertical America:. Here was the ideology core of nativism in every form. Whether the nativist was a workingman or a Protestant evangelist, a southern conservative or a northern reformer, he stood for certain kind of nationalism p.

The ideology connects nativism and white nationalism seamlessly; the two terms are now interchangeable synonyms. Leonard Dinnerstein and David M. The in-group was composed of those represented by the dominant white Protestant culture who turned against large-scale immigration from Europe after the s.

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How the Workers Became Muslims

The in-group nationalism possessed a religious, linguistic, racial and ideological homogeneity that facilitated a nativism-based nationalism, while out-group formulation tended to be too diverse to have a unified narrative, and in fact, contradicted the in-group uniformity. An exclusive cultural view has been canonized and inherited in favor of white supremacists, the alt-right, and the neo-Nazi. Most significantly, this worldview deepens and broadens the boundary between the two Americas. The earlier Protestant settlers and Higham himself completely forget that the very first WASP settlers as well as of other European origins were also foreigners in this land and immigrants themselves.

They dismiss, perhaps simply never on their cultural radar, that American Indians were the most rightful and lawful natives in America. If any native were to be called upon, American Indians would be the first to respond; but they did not have a voice in the construction of American nationalism. The forgetfulness about or the gross disregard of the American Indians in itself reveals an interplay of ethnocentricism, culturecentricism, and theocentrism; no one else but the then-WASPs were considered as the true Americans and de facto were in charge of the nation.

Free Thought Lives

The collective egocentric worldview contradicts and violates the founding ideal of this nation that all humans are created equal and endowed with the same unalienable rights to pursue life, liberty and happiness. The ideal of freedom and democracy was brought to this land by the WASPs, but ironically the very WASPs acted in every possible way to betray and disfigure the ideal when practiced on later immigrants, American Indians, and African slaves.

Freedom and democracy for the WASPs while discrimination and exclusion for all others has set up a double standard; thus it has engineered the vertical America and concocted the horizontal one as a cultural duality. The case of the mid-nineteenth century Irish immigration testifies to the double standard in inclusion and exclusion:.

He a nativist believed—whether he was trembling at Catholic menace to American liberty, fearing an invasion of pauper labor, or simply rioting against the great English actor William Macready—that some influence originating abroad threatened the very life of the nation from within. Nativism, therefore, should be defined as intense opposition to internal minority on the grounds of its foreign i.

Catholicism is our enemy.