Strategic Essentialism and Ethnification

Hand in Glove?

Elisabeth Eide 1
  • 1 Ph.D., Associate Professor, Faculty of Journalism, Library and Information Science, Oslo University College


The present article sets out to explore certain aspects of how individuals with an ethnic minority background experience the journalistic media. It is derived from a project based on in-depth interviews aimed at mapping the media experiences and strategies of individuals with a minority background. Many tell of their experiences of being ethnified or subject to culturalization by the reporters – and thereby ascribed a lesser Norwegian identity even if they happen to be born and raised in Norway. In several cases, the interviewees demonstrate how they have had to emphasize their ethnicity in order to gain better access to media with regard to issues and causes that have nothing to do with their minority background. These continuing intersecting processes may inspire (strategic) essentialism among minority groups as a necessary albeit disputed way of obtaining media attention and recognition. Anthropologists’ approaches to essentialism, ethnification and culturalization are discussed, and by way of conclusion, the article discusses Gayatri Spivak’s “strategic essentialism”, its advantages, pitfalls and limitations.

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