Angry or Bored? Understanding the Acts of the “Gaza Rioters” in Oslo, Norway

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Übungsraum 4A KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Bengt ANDERSEN, Work Research Institute, Oslo and Akershus University College, Norway
The Israeli invasion of Gaza in late December 2008 triggered demonstrations – or as several commentators termed them, riots – in downtown Oslo, as it did in other European cities. Many young people from the “immigrant dense” suburbs of Oslo participated in these protests. While peaceful protests are common in the capital of Norway, the demonstrations in December 2008 were followed by unusually violent actions on January 8 and 10, 2009. Downtown Oslo turned into a battlefield with vandalized shops and “war-like” clashes between the demonstrators and the police. A central point in the media coverage of this extraordinary situation was that most of the “rioters” were youth with an immigrant background. Commentators speculated that this demonstration offered these youth the possibility to vent their frustrations towards Israel, as well as towards mainstream Norwegian society. Based on ethnographic research in Oslo prior to, during and following these demonstrations, it is argued that several of the rioters in the streets of Oslo were not motivated by a more or less “marginalized” position in the larger Norwegian society. Instead, “rioting” was a spur of the moment act. Many were tempted to go downtown in search for “fun” or “excitement” as they received text messages or heard from friends that something extraordinary were going to happen: It was not something they had planned or thought much about. When finished, the “angry rioters” resumed their ordinary or banal everyday life as friends, students, workers, or young men looking for a job. Even if it is convenient to categorize rioters as “excluded”, “marginalized” or “angry”, speaking to and observing these individuals can reveal very different attitudes and experiences that may help us explain the (particular) conditions for such extraordinary acts.