Sveinung Sandberg

Sveinung Sandberg
University of Oslo · Department of Criminology and the Sociology of Law

PhD

About

118
Publications
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Introduction
My research focuses on processes of marginalisation, exclusion, violence, illegal drugs, political and religious extremism and social movements. I publish widely on a variety of themes, but most publications are related to: Introducing Bourdieu’s theories to studies of street culture and developing a framework of narrative criminology. Recently I have just finished a project on radicalization, resistance and the crime-terror nexus and started a new on crime in Latin America (CRIMLA).
Additional affiliations
August 2013 - present
University of Oslo
Position
  • Professor

Publications

Publications (118)
Article
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Many of the Western assumptions about how youth define cannabis are inaccurate or erroneous for cultural contexts where drugs are highly tabooed; coming of age is characterized by drastically gendered trajectories, and families mediate the potential stigma of drug use extensively. With increasingly interconnected and multicultural societies, any ap...
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Racial discrimination takes many forms and so does opposition to it. In contrast to the dominant emphasis on institutional or state efforts to counter racism, we examine how members of racially minoritized groups resist racism in their everyday lives. Drawing on forty-one qualitative interviews with young, mainly Black, people in Norway, we identif...
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Symbolic boundaries are used for establishing narrative identities and have critical impact on behavior and interpersonal interactions. Using data from a photo-ethnography of people who use methamphetamine in Alabama we show how women use stories and images to draw symbolic boundaries between themselves and others. These boundaries made sense of th...
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In the spring of 2020, the Black Lives Matter protests shook the Western world. Spreading from the USA, demonstrations diffused globally, especially to Europe, calling out racism in its different forms. Emotions ran high and were pivotal in igniting protests. The role of emotion in social movements has received renewed scholarly attention during th...
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This study examines early intervention against individual radicalization. The data originate from interviews with young Muslims in Norway who had experienced interventions related to their own radicalization, or engaged in or witnessed interventions directed at a radicalized peer or relative. We find that informal interventions by family and friend...
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Many studies have examined why individuals with a background in street life and crime are drawn toward extremism. This paper examines why most people with this background reject extremism. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Oslo, we found that Muslims involved in street culture were generally opposed to jihadism because they perceived jihadists as...
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Research on crime tends to emphasize clear-cut stories, either in support of or rejecting crime. Stories, however, are often ambiguous, mainly when they concern complex and multi-faceted phenomena. Based on qualitative interviews with Italian students, we explore how organized crime is viewed and evaluated by non-offenders. We found six widespread...
Article
Mexico may well be the largest country in the world to legalize cannabis. Nevertheless, it is culturally conservative and a certain discrepancy exists between liberalization reforms and popular opinion regarding cannabis. Based on qualitative interviews with 100 cannabis users in Mexico City, we describe the gendered differences in perceptions and...
Article
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Criminology have long celebrated the lone hero researcher. Doing and writing up research in solitude has been the key to academic success and institutional promotions. However, the social sciences in general have increasingly moved towards more collaborative ways of doing research, and co-authorship has become more common. In this study, we summari...
Chapter
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Research has revealed widespread anti-Muslim sentiment in Norway. Little knowledge exists, however, on the types of anti-Muslim hostility that Muslims experience and how they react to it. Based on interviews with 90 young Norwegian Muslims, we describe widespread forms of anti-Muslim hostility and discuss the strategies that Muslims use in response...
Article
Recent scholarship has explored the potential of subcultural theory for understanding the convergence of Western street and jihadi subcultures. The role of jihadi rap in this radical hybrid culture, however, is yet uncharted. We argue that subcultural analysis allows an understanding of the aesthetic fascination of jihadism, sometimes referred to a...
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Research has shown widespread discrimination and hostility toward Muslims in Western countries. There is less knowledge of how Muslims resist, oppose, or challenge such behaviour. Based on in-depth interviews with 90 young Muslims in Norway, this study explores responses to anti-Muslim hostility. We describe a repertoire of everyday resistance: tal...
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Background We study the significance of stories about bad trips among users of psychedelics. Drawing on narrative theory, we describe the characteristics of such stories and explore the work they do. Methods In-depth qualitative interviews with 50 Norwegian users of psychedelics. Results Almost all participants had frightening experiences when us...
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The epidemic psychology of pandemics creates an atmosphere of panic and fear that can expedite new laws and facilitate criminogenic narrative arousal. Using narrative criminology, we discuss crimes that emerged from pandemic narratives in the early phases of the disease in Mexico. We show how pandemic master narratives have unexpected criminogenic...
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Facing the Covid-19 pandemic, prisons in Mexico City prohibited visits. This sparked clearly gendered protests: male prison inmates complained that the restrictions left them without resources to deal with prison shortages, while women complained that it prevented them from sending resources to their families. Based on data from life story intervie...
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This study examines the role of fatherhood for incarcerated men in Mexico, based on repeated life-story interviews with twelve men. We distinguish between their descriptions of fatherhood in the past and present and how they imagine the future, and explore how fathers describe their relationship with their children. The incarcerated men idealize th...
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This study examines the mothering practices and identities of incarcerated women in Mexico. Data gathered from repeated life-story interviews with 12 women, were analyzed to describe mothering practices in the different phases of incarcerated women’s’ lives. We argue that knowledge of the Latin American context is crucial to understand their experi...
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Powerful narratives that invoke religious concepts—jihad, Sharia, shahid, Caliphate, kuffar, and al-Qiyāmah—have accompanied jihadi violence but also inspired robust counter-narratives from Muslims. Taking a narrative criminological approach, we explore the rejection of religious extremism that emerges in everyday interactions in a religious commun...
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Sex work is often interpreted through master narratives that see women as victimized and subjected to stigmas and negative attitudes. This paper offers an insight into narratives that challenge or can be seen as an alternative to these narratives. Data are from a sample of 15 interviews with women who show an interest in sex work, conducted in a ne...
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The backgrounds and modus operandi of more recent jihadi terrorists tend to share factors and characteristics more typically associated with non-political violence such as mass-killings and gang violence. Their attacks, moreover, seem to have been precipitated not by the direct instructions of a formal hierarchy but by the encouragement of propagan...
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This paper explores alcohol-related sexual storytelling. In a qualitative study of more than 100 male participants in the night-time economy in Norway, many told animated and cheerful stories laced with erotic excitement. However, a minority of men also told sex stories characterised by aggressive, belittling and degrading language. We propose that...
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Fights are widespread in society, but for most people it happens once or twice and is not part of a consistent pattern or lifestyle. Using a narrative criminological framework, we study the stories of violence among people who otherwise seldom engage in violent behaviour. The young Norwegians we interviewed, emphasized that their fights emerged as...
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This study investigates paternal identities among men who are involved in the illegal drug economy in Norway. Using data from life-history interviews, we identified two paternal identities relating to the role fatherhood played in their lives and crimes: struggling fathers and absent fathers. Our analysis demonstrates the structural constraints of...
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Drinking stories feature widely in Western societies. Many people eagerly share their stories in the aftermath of drinking events. These stories are also common in books, movies, music and the media. Based on qualitative interviews with 104 young Norwegian heavy episodic drinkers, the article seeks to establish drinking stories as a distinct narrat...
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Based on interviews with 104 young partygoers, this article examines sexual assaults that occur in the context of festive events. Focus is on how individuals describe their sexual victimization. Three experiential characteristics stand out in the victims’ accounts. First, the assaults are described as being characterized by an altered state of cons...
Article
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Narrative criminology is a theoretical paradigm rooted in a view of stories as influencing harmful actions and arrangements. Narrative criminologists explore the storied bases of a variety of harms and also consider the narratives with which actors resist patterns of harm. We submit that narrative criminology is an apt and powerful framework for re...
Chapter
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Following recent terrorist attacks in the US and Europe, Western Muslims have been criticized for not taking a firm stand against radical Islam and extremist organizations. Drawing on insights from narrative criminology, we challenge such assertions and reveal Muslims' narrative mobilization against violent jihadism. Based on 90 qualitative intervi...
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A background in ‘ordinary’ crime, violence and drug use seems to characterize many European individuals recently involved in ISIS-related jihadi violence. With its long tradition of studying marginalized populations and street culture, criminology offers novel ways to explore these developments theoretically. In this article, we demonstrate how Pie...
Article
Prices in illegal drug markets are difficult to predict. Based on qualitative interviews with 68 incarcerated drug dealers in Norway, we explore dealers’ perspectives on fair prices and the processes that influence their pricing decisions. Synthesized through economic sociology, we draw on perspectives from traditions as different as behavioral eco...
Book
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De som kommer til orde i denne boka er den moderate majoriteten av unge norske muslimer. De reflekterer om deres personlige tro, religiøse praksis, gruppetilhørigheter og særlig om synet de har på ekstreme bevegelser. Slik får vi en rikere forståelse av den motstanden mot jihadisme som er vanlig blant norske muslimer - omfanget, styrken, grunnene...
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Humor is essential to social life, but it is often overlooked in the study of crime and other social problems. We introduce and make use of humor theory, emphasizing the theories of superiority and relief. Based on interviews with incarcerated men, we demonstrate how humor is used to criticize authorities, for self-aggrandizement, and to alleviate...
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The Islamic State (IS) has become notorious for violent, brutal actions and the presentation of these actions in social and mainstream media. Excessive violence creates a spectacle for the news media. However, IS propaganda also emphasizes its role in state building and its engagement in social and welfare work. This twofold propaganda enables the...
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The new drug markets emerging on the dark net have reduced earlier drug market risk factors such as visibility and violence. This study uses economic sociology and transaction cost economics to broaden the present understanding of cryptomarkets. Results focus on three coordination problems characterizing illegal markets and how they are alleviated...
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Previous research has critiqued conventional anger management programmes for disregarding participants’ values honouring masculine performances of being tough, risk-seeking and capable of violence. Conversely, the Danish programme subjected to case study in this paper, represents a liberal approach that endorses such values while still encouraging...
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This study examines the narratives that people who are deeply interested in school shootings tell about school shootings and their interest in the subject. Data come from 22 qualitative online interviews with individuals from 12 countries across the world, and the study is based on a framework of narrative criminology. We find that the theme of bul...
Article
Background: In this study, we use assemblage theory to investigate the link between alcohol use and one-night stands. Methods: The data come from qualitative interviews conducted with 104 young participants in the night-time economy. Results: We show that: (i) alcohol-fuelled sexual explorations (e.g. erotic fantasizing, flirting and sex) are...
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Norway has a drinking culture characterised by low per capita consumption, heavy drinking on a few occasions, and restrictive alcohol policies. Attitudes towards alcohol have traditionally been ambivalent, but recently they have become more “continental” among adults, and the temperance movement has lost ground. This qualitative study explores perc...
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This paper examines the evolving social identities of young adolescents in regard to alcohol and drinking culture in Norway. Detailed analysis of 29 focus group interviews and 32 individual interviews with 12–13-year-olds reveal a thorough negative attitude towards alcohol, especially when enjoyed by young people. Young adolescents found young peop...
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In this article, we examine the symbolic meaning, perceived risks and cultural framing of heroin and opiate maintenance treatment drugs among legal and illegal drug users in Norway. We use data from three groups of drug users, binge-drinkers in the night-time economy, cannabis users and heavy-end illegal drug users. We interviewed 207 drug users of...
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The work of Bourdieu has increasingly gained interest in criminology. His theoretical framework is rich and arguably the most sophisticated approach to social inequality and difference in sociology. It has however, been criticized for bias towards the structural aspects of social life, and for leaving little space for the constitutive, and creative...
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New technologies have changed the way we produce and relate to images. Three socio-cultural trends and associated offender motivations stand out when understanding why offenders record their crimes. First, some pictures and films are inspired by the rise of amateur and rape pornography and recorded to produce and enjoy such images. Second, recordin...
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Research on partying and nightlife often emphasizes commercial control while overlooking participants' creativity and agency. Due to their age, appearance and transgressive partying, participants in the Norwegian high school graduation celebration have limited access to bars and pubs in the ordinary night-time economy. To create alternative party s...
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Stories make harmful actions both plausible and compelling. They provide a lot of what qualitative researchers consider data, but as a discursive form have received only scant attention in criminology. From interviews with imprisoned drug dealers in Norway, this paper identifies three forms of narrative: first, life-stories summarizing and reducing...
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Introduction and aims: In 'binge drinking' cultures, there is a strong association between alcohol consumption and violence. At the same time, several studies suggest that this link is cultural and contextual. We explore the role of alcohol in incidents of violence in nightlife settings. Design and methods: We used qualitative interviews with 10...
Article
This study examines how creditors in illicit drug markets manage debtors’ inability to repay “fronted” drugs. Based on qualitative interviews with 40 incarcerated drug dealers in Norway, we explore four outcomes of unpaid drug debts. Two modes of governance dominated the credit reciprocation processes: Cooperative governance included strategies of...
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The methodological orientation of criminology and criminal justice journals is overwhelmingly quantitative. In fact, only between 5 and 10% of articles published in CCJ journals rely on qualitative methods. Fortunately, this trend seems to be changing within the discipline, which will encourage more scholars to seek to publish qualitative research....
Chapter
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On 22 July 2011 two consecutive terrorist attacks took place in Norway.1 The first was the detonation of a car bomb in Oslo in the vicinity of government buildings and the office of the Prime Minister. The second attack took place less than two hours later at a summer camp organised for the youth division of the ruling Norwegian Labour Party. Eight...
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Bourdieu’s key conceptual tools, including the forms of capital and habitus, have recently come to be deployed with greater frequency in criminological research. Less attention has been paid to the concept of the field, which plays a crucial role in Bourdieu’s vision of how the social world operates. We develop the concept of the “street field” as...
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Sexual morality is not keeping up with the new sexual practices of young people, even in cultures oriented toward gender equality. The Norwegian high school graduation celebration constitutes an exceptionally liberal context for sexual practices. Many of the 18-year-old participants in this three-week-long celebration engage in “hookup” activities,...
Article
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Cannabis is sometimes associated with feminine or gender neutral values. Still, most cannabis users are male, and in our data cannabis use is associated with masculinity. In qualitative interviews with 19 female users and a larger sample of male users in Norway, four aspects of cannabis using practices were described as feminine: not providing cann...
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Objectives This study examines the use of credit, or “fronting,” in the illegal drug economy. We study how fronting affects transaction costs and insulates against law enforcement in drug distribution networks and what role fronting plays in the management of interpersonal network ties. The emphasis is on the cooperative dimension of credits. Meth...
Chapter
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This introductory chapter defines narrative criminology and describes the role of narrative criminologists. Narrative criminology is any inquiry based on the view of stories as instigating, sustaining, or effecting desistance from harmful action. Narrative criminologists consider these narrative texts as foundational objects of inquiry for “a usefu...
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This concluding chapter argues that narrative criminology not only rationalizes past actions but also inspires future actions. Stories connote some meanings that provide the would-be actors a suggestion of what to do next, or lead them to an acceptable, legitimate path for the “sacred mission,” as seen in the case of early white Americans in Chapte...
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Violence features in human life, not only as actual physical confrontation but also as stories. Stories of violence are particularly important in violence-prone subcultures and among those partaking in the illegal drug economy. Drawing on narrative analysis, this study examines stories of violence among a population of incarcerated Norwegian drug d...
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While the use of cannabis is often anchored in subversive values, and the use of heroin is situated at the social margins, the use of amphetamines appears to be associated with more conventional values. Interviews with 55 Norwegian amphetamine and/or methamphetamine users reveal that the substance is used for three main reasons. First, amphetamines...
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Anders Behring Breivik, a lone wolf terrorist, killed 77 people in two terrorist attacks in Norway in 2011. This study uses framing theory from social movement studies to compare his Manifesto with the rhetoric of the anti-Islamic movement that inspired him. The anti-Islamic movement has a dual, and sometimes inconsistent, collective action framing...
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While the Nordic countries represent a zone of penal moderation, drug offences remain subject to harsh punishment. Based on 60 interviews with incarcerated drug dealers, we present four trajectories and turning points to the higher tiers of the illegal drug economy. The first trajectory is characterized by criminal entrepreneurship, but three other...
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Background: Research into drug use initiation has focussed on drug use as risky behaviour. Qualitative research suggests that a culturally derived set of beliefs about the positive effects of cannabis play an important role in the production and maintenance of cannabis use.Methods: An online survey questionnaire was designed to measure both perceiv...
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Terrorism is a cultural bricolage and terrorists are inspired by a wide range of political ideologies and stories. In this study of the terrorist attacks that occurred in Norway in 2011, we reveal how the perpetrator was influenced not only by political rhetoric, but also by the cultural script of school shootings. Anders Behring Breivik was social...
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Goldstein posited that drugs and violence are related in three primary ways, namely, psychopharmacologically, systemically, and economic compulsively. Although Goldstein’s framework is a robust explanation of the drugs and violence nexus, it largely ignores the experiences of the actors, and the mechanism and experiences linking motive to action re...
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In ethnographic research, expectations and guidelines presented in textbooks often differ from the practice of researchers in the field. This is especially true when studying criminals in general and drug dealers in particular. Based on qualitative interviews with 15 ethnographers studying drug dealers, we discuss seven important methodological iss...
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Anders Behring Breivik carried out two terrorist attacks in Norway in 2011, killing 77 people. In a 1500-page Manifesto, he justifies the attacks, describes his ideology and presents his life-story. The Manifesto is Breivik’s attempt to present a coherent story, although one that shifts between different, sometimes competing, characters and narrati...
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In criminological and sociological studies of illegal drugs, the thesis of normalization suggests that when a drug goes from being a marginal to a widespread phenomenon, theoretical and methodological approaches that rely on subculture theory fall short. This article argues that normalization theory fails to recognize the existence of a distinct ca...
Article
Aims: To study the characteristics, contexts and implications of drinking stories among young drinkers. Methods: Ethnographic fieldwork was conducted among Danish youth at a beach resort in Bulgaria. The fieldwork included three months of participant observation and 45 semi-structured interviews with a total of 104 tourists and 11 guides. The parti...
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Early studies of female drug dealers suggest that women are marginalized, passive victims. In contrast, more recent studies describe women as skilful and competent dealers. In a Bourdieu-inspired theoretical framework of ‘street capital’, we suggest that the truth is somewhere in between. Female dealers can be successful, but they face more obstacl...
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This paper reports findings from six years of ethnographic and qualitative research on cannabis markets. Data include interviews with 60 cannabis dealers and 60 customers. The paper describes the vertical and horizontal organization of the cannabis economy, seen from the perspective of Norway. It further distinguishes between private, semi-public a...
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In qualitative interviews with 100 cannabis users in Norway, three discursive repertoires were particularly frequent. The first emphasized how users were ‘normal’ with statements, such as ‘everyone smokes cannabis’ or ‘cannabis users are not different from others’. The second discursive repertoire emphasized the fascinating difference of both users...
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In a qualitative study, we investigated the medical motives of 100 Norwegian cannabis users, none of whom had legal access to medical cannabis. Cannabis was used therapeutically for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and rheumatism, as well as for quality of life conditions such as quality of sleep, rela...
Chapter
This chapter demonstrates the fruitfulness of a theoretical framework when studying, for example, practical rationality, the social and historical process of embodied dispositions, and the complex relationship between socioeconomic constraints and human agency. It notes that ‘street capital’, inspired by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, cons...
Chapter
This chapter presents the life stories of three drug dealers – Daniel, Usman, and Hassan – who represent three different groups of dealers. It notes that the concept of ‘street capital’ helps one to understand these marginalised men's different trajectories to street drug dealing. The chapter also presents Mette, the only female dealer interviewed....
Chapter
This chapter shows how the young men at The River set themselves up within an economy that, for all intents and purposes, runs alongside the normal white economy. It explains that the young men at The River learned how the black, illegal economy operates, and developed skills and abilities needed to survive in a marginal, despised, and denigrated c...
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This chapter concludes that, in a Nordic context, with a high density of welfare-state institutions and private welfare organisations out in the streets, presenting oneself as a victim is also an important part of what is conceptualised as street capital. It also observes that the Nordic context demonstrates that, to understand street culture, more...
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This chapter identifies how experiences at school, in the job market, with racism, and as refugees are important to understanding why the young men ended up dealing drugs at The River. In addition, it shows how many of them developed strong subcultural identities over time. The chapter notes that as ‘foreigners’, the young men capitalised on a kind...
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This chapter observes that it is hard to find a direct link between so-called ‘traditional honour cultures’ and violence. It notes that the development of criminal and deviant subcultures is often associated with new immigrant groups; at other times, with established minority ethnic groups, such as Anderson's (1999) African Americans, Vigil's (2002...
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This chapter discusses the different kinds of drugs and their effects on the users. It notes that most of the young men at The River grew up in Norway and started smoking cannabis with their peers in their early teens. The chapter further notes that the initiation into cannabis use was a rite of passage; it signified the end of childhood. It observ...
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This chapter observes that The River dealers used the oppression discourse mostly in dealing with the welfare system. It is a discourse that privileges structural problems, such as difficulties getting a job, an education, and finding accommodation. The chapter notes that marginalisation and discrimination are typically highlighted. It explains tha...
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Blant unge menn i slutten av tjueårene har en av tre prøvd cannabis. Det er også en utbredt forståelse at hasj er blitt et “normalt” rusmiddel, på linje med alkohol. I forskningslitteraturen er dette kjent som kulturell normalisering. I artikkelen utvikler vi en ny teoretisk forståelse av begrepet subkultur og bruker dette til å forstå den sosiale...
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In criminology even studies that involve extensive fieldworks rely a great deal on research participants own accounts. The main question raised in the paper is: how do we know if research participants are telling the truth, and does it matter? It argues that criminological ethnographers have been too preoccupied with a positivist notion of truth, a...
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Moa is a 22-year-old Muslim dealer selling drugs at a street drug market in Oslo. The main part of the paper consists of long interview extracts from three interviews with him. The aim is to capture some of the ambivalence and complexity that might otherwise be lost in traditional scholarly analysis. In short, Moa tells how he got into drug dealing...
Book
Er det blitt «normalt» å røyke hasj? Hva er forholdet mellom en idealistisk cannabiskultur og en kynisk og profittorientert cannabisøkonomi? Hva innebærer de nye trendene knyttet til hjemmedyrking og medisinsk bruk av cannabis? Hvordan bør en fornuftig politikk utformes? Cannabiskultur gir et fascinerende innblikk i hasjrøykernes hverdag i Norge. V...

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