‘United through our values’? Expressing unity through value-talk after terrorism in France and Norway

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Ezzati, Rojan Tordhol (2021) ‘United through our values’? Expressing unity through value-talk after terrorism in France and Norway, Migration Studies. DOI: 10.1093/migration/mnab033.

​​In the immediate aftermath of terrorism, references to ‘our values’ as a source of unity became a substantial part of public discourse. Leaders, the media, and the public emphasize ‘values’ to express that ‘we’ are united across ethnic, religious, and political differences. This article comparatively examines formulations of ‘we’, ‘us’, and ‘them’ with reference to ‘values’ (i.e. value-talk) after terror attacks in France (November 2015) and Norway (July 2011). To access speech, events, and symbols as they were unfolding, the analysis draws on the first week of national television news following these attacks. Whereas the terrorists in France were self-proclaimers of an Islamic State, the terrorist in Norway was a self-proclaimed defender of the Christian civilization. The central place of a value-based unity—regardless of the terrorists’ ethnicity and motivations—contrasts with the otherwise common idea expressed in public debate that ‘values’ embody a fundamental divide between ‘natives’ and immigrant populations. This article argues that scholarship on values, in migration studies and beyond, reifies the much-repeated assumption in public debate that there is a value-based divide between groups of people. By examining expressions of unity in contexts of conflict, the analysis untangles the dynamic and flexible ‘groupness’ articulated through value-talk. Analytical attention to this variability, I argue, better reflects the widespread attention to cultural complexities in migration studies. Through the study of value-talk in the immediate aftermath of terrorism, the article explores some of the dimensions of how and when unity is mobilized in societies marked by migration-related diversity.

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