PhD project: Alternative Histori[es]: A Place Where Something Happened.

What is the public memory of immigrants in Norway today? How are the immigrant groups with attachment or background from Eastern European and non-Western roots who bring with them different cultures, histories, philosophies, food, beliefs, etc. playing a part in (re) shaping Norway’s cultural diversity, political and social landscape, and how is that reflected in its public memory?

To situate the importance of this question, we first need to place it in context of the contemporary Norwegian society to demonstrate how the numbers pose an interesting challenge. This is because almost 20 percent of Norway’s population consists of people classified with an ‘immigration background’, which, proportionally translates into a significant segment of its population. While the immigrant groups are not homogenous, their collective size would demand some visibility or inclusion in the construction of the public memory of the contemporary Norwegian society.

As a research inquiry, my entry point into this question is not interested so much in what Norway - on a national level - is doing to integrate immigrants into its public memory (because there is not much to find yet), but rather, in how immigrants - in their ordinary daily lived experiences - are writing themselves into the fabric of the Norwegian society, and the possible implications of that for its public memory. As an artistic inquiry, I am then interested in how those lived experiences can be collected and - given how small they are - I want to juxtapose their smallness and ordinariness by treating them - as if they were of national monumental stature - to create an artistic body of work which re-imagines them as an alternative history that (re)centres and inserts these small ordinary voices into Norway’s emerging modern landscape and public memory. Each story will be linked to an actual place where the narrated event happened and that place will be treated as a sacred, national ‘site’ - A Place Where Something Happened. As a result, a ‘monument’ will be developed and enacted on the ‘site’ to commemorate the narrated event that took place. In the end, these (narratives and) ‘monuments’ will be the artistic results that will form the basis of the collection of what will be put forward as public memories of immigrants in Norway, which will then be presented as the ‘Alternative Histories’ project.