Monthly Archives: March 2016

IMER Lunch Seminar series: Olav Elgvin (UiB): Gay is who gay does? Assimilation, homosexuality and the causal power of discourse


Welcome! A light lunch will be served.

Research on processes of assimilation among immigrants – by which I mean the gradual adjustment to the prevailing norms in the majority society – has shown that it is a complex and many-faceted process. Some groups assimilate faster than others, and immigrants may assimilate in some areas of life but not in others. There is no consensus among researchers as to why assimilation processes can have such different trajectories. In this paper I explore how discourses and ideas may shape how assimilation processes play out.

Drawing on field work among LGBT people in Norwegian immigrant communities, I claim that many people of immigrant background have assimilated a central idea in contemporary Norwegian discourse, that has been contested in other parts of the world: That homosexuality is an inherent disposition, something one «is» and not merely something one «does». But there is little acceptance of the idea that homosexuality can be morally acceptable. My claim in the paper is that this can be attributed to the causal power of discourse. The idea of homosexuality as «merely something one does» has seldom been fully articulated in traditional discourses, and may thus easily give way to other ideas. The idea that homosexuality is morally reprehensible, however, has been strongly articulated in traditional discourses, and may therefore be more resistant to the pressures of assimilation.

Olav Elgvin is a PhD candidate at the Department of comparative politics, doing a PhD on Muslim religious leaders in Europe. He is also associated with the Fafo institute in Oslo, where he works on issues more broadly related to immigrant incorporation.