SENKU Seminar with Sindre Bangstad
Critical events and public memories: Remembering and forgetting racism in Norway
The 2001 racist murder of the fifteen-year old Norwegian-African Benjamin Hermansen by three Norwegian neo-Nazis at Holmlia in Oslo East was a critical event (Das 2006) in Norwegian anti-racism. It lead to widespread anti-racist mobilizations in Oslo and in other large Norwegian cities.
To this day, the murder of Benjamin Hermansen remains an important reference point for Norwegian anti-racism, as evidenced by the many posters referring to the event in the demonstrations in support of Black Lives Matter in Oslo and other Norwegian cities in 2020. But to the consternation of racialized minority youth from Holmlia and Norwegian anti-racists, the first ten years after the Hermansen murder were also years in which the very term racism fell into disuse in Norwegian state bureacracies, in the media, among academics and in the public at large.
The memory of Benjamin Hermansen and his racist murder has to a large extent been kept alive by a counter-memorial culture centered upon Holmlia. This raises the question as to which aspects of critical events are remembered and which aspects are forgotten in the public memories, and for which purposes.
Sindre Bangstad is social anthropologist educated at the University of Bergen in Norway and Radboud University in the Netherlands. He is the author of the award-winning Sekularismens ansikter (Universitetsforlaget, 2009), Anders Breivik and The Rise of Islamophobia (Zed Books, 2014) and the co-authored Hva er rasisme? (Universitetsforlaget, 2015).Sindre Bangstad is an avid advocate for public anthropology and frequent contributor to the current debate in Norway and elsewhere on a range of topics.