Imagined sameness or imagined difference?

Norwegian social studies teachers’ views on students’ cultural and ethnical backgrounds




Social studies; students' cultural backgrounds; imagined sameness; pedagogy of discomfort; teacher views


  • Some social studies teachers show discomfort when talking about cultural difference in class
  • An imagined Norwegian “cultural sameness” was felt by some teachers as disrupted
  • Some teachers found evasion of cultural difference a good strategy for avoiding discomfort
  • Other teachers considered cultural difference part of the normal, and not disruptive
  • Pedagogy of discomfort may provide tools for dealing with the discomfort of perceived disruption

Purpose: This study investigates how Norwegian social studies teachers express their views on cultural difference among students.

Design: Qualitative, semi-structured interviews transcribed and analyzed abductively using concepts of imagined sameness, color-blindness, and a pedagogy of discomfort..

Findings: The analysis shows on the one hand, prevalence of an imagined Norwegian cultural “sameness”, where cultural and ethnic differences were seen as disruptive. On the other, there were attempts at relativizing “Norwegianness” and highlighting cultural difference as an advantage. The article discusses how teachers’ challenging of their own views on culture can be both discomforting and necessary if social studies is to challenge injustice and encourage social transformation.

Research limitations: This study does not support statistical generalization. Further research is needed to determine whether similar mechanisms are prevalent in a wider selection.

Author Biography

Ingvill Bjørnstad Åberg, Nord universitet

Ingvill B. Åberg is an assistant professor in social studies didactics at the Faculty of Education and Arts, Nord University, Norway. Formerly a teacher and M. Phil in social anthropology, her research interests are cultural, ethnic and racial categorisations in policy and education, social studies didactics, social justice, transformative education, and education for democracy and citizenship.


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How to Cite

Åberg, I. B. (2022). Imagined sameness or imagined difference? : Norwegian social studies teachers’ views on students’ cultural and ethnical backgrounds. JSSE - Journal of Social Science Education, 20(4).