"When you live here, that’s what you get" : other-, ex-, and non-religious outsiders in the Norwegian Bible belt

Fisher-Hoyrem, Stefan and Herbert, David (2019) "When you live here, that’s what you get" : other-, ex-, and non-religious outsiders in the Norwegian Bible belt. Religions, 10(11), p. 611. ISSN (online) 2077-1444


This article presents data from our investigations in Kristiansand, the largest city in Southern Norway, an area sometimes called Norway’s ‘Bible belt’. We investigate how social media is reshaping social relations in the city, looking especially at how social order is generated, reinforced, and challenged on social media platforms. Drawing on the figurational sociology of Norbert Elias, as well as findings from research conducted among Muslim immigrants in Scandinavian cities and their response to what they perceive as the dominant media frame, we focus this article on a less visible group of outsiders in the local social figuration: young ex- and non-religious persons. The mediated and enacted performances of this loosely defined group and their interactions with more influential others provide a case study in how non-religious identities and networked communities are construed not (only) based on explicit rejection of religion but also in negotiation with a social order that happens to carry locally specific ‘religious’ overtones. With respect to the mediatization of religion we extend empirical investigation of the theory to social media, arguing that what while religious content is shaped by social media forms, in cases where religious identifiers already convey prestige in local social networks, social media may increase the influence of these networks, thus deepening processes of social inclusion for those in dominant groups and the exclusion of outsiders. In this way, platforms which are in principle open and in practice provide space for minorities to self-organise, also routinely reinforce existing power relations.

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