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Various Uses of Assimilation and Integration

One of our main tasks in Oslo was to conduct interviews, learn about immigration, migrants, and some of the challenges they face. We were able to contact two informants, both of which could help us glean valuable insight into the inner workings of immigration in this Scandinavian country. We have conducted our two interviews here in Oslo over our two weeks. We have asked the informants interview questions referring to our overarching research question which is: How does discrimination affect Norwegians and immigrants to Norway?

Within these two interviews there has been a common theme; the assimilation versus integration of immigrants. Our first informant is a Doctoral candidate from the University of Oslo in the department of Sociology and Human Geography. During the interview, the informant described the two words in the way that she usually thinks of them so that the informant could better talk about the way in which they are applied in the Norwegian context. She described integration as “…mainly finding a job and finding housing and becoming a part of society”, whereas the way that she described assimilation was “… you should be culturally similar, you should adopt the same values and the same thinking”.

The informant then went on to say that typically within the government “ the word used is ‘integration’ but very often with ‘assimilation’  meaning.” This conveys the idea that some people want the immigrants to assimilate, as opposed to integrate. As our informant stated, “That, I think, doesn’t get enough attention, I think that is a bit unfortunate”.This may be an unconscious thought process, seeing as the informant believes that many people think of the terms as interchangeable. One might argue that integration is what is truly needed to make a city truly diverse and accepting, however many people might be uncomfortable with the idea of people with vast differences between them living so close and possibly influencing their way of life.

We then went on to interview our second informant. He currently works at an anti-racist centre in the heart of Oslo. In the second interview that we conducted we received very similar feedback on the way that the government uses these terms. The second informant stated that “the progress party, which is in the government right now . . .  when they talk about integration usually what they mean is assimilation”. Through triangulation, we were able to gain some measure of understanding as to whether this might be the case in terms of the “integration language”, so to speak.

One interesting thing that the second informant was able to add to the conversation is that “there are not so many challenges with integration actually, a lot of things work. People say that integration in Norway goes quite well, but you wouldn’t know it by what is put in the media. The media focuses on conflict, but the problem is when the only thing that you see is conflict a lot of people think this is all going south very fast but it isn’t.” This can serve as evidence that integration is happening throughout Norway. Would assimilation work any better?