Pork, handshakes and winter swimming. Anti-Islamic emblems of cultural difference in Danish neo-nationalism

Martin Lindhardt
Department of Sociology, Environmental and Business Economics. University of Southern Denmark.

In this paper I argue that constructions of Danishness and Danish culture in neo-nationalist right-wing discourse have increasingly become structured around a marked opposition to Islam and Muslim immigrants. My analysis draws on Frederik Barth’s understanding of ethnic identity as constituted through processes of demarcation of boundaries vis-à-vis other groups. In such processes, certain cultural phenomena, both material and immaterial, can be elevated to emblems of cultural difference or symbolic markers of an in-group’s shared identity. The paper explores how different phenomena such as freedom of speech, pork, winter swimming/mixed-gender swimming and handshakes have become salient topics of political and public debates about integration and Islam in Denmark. I argue that these phenomena have all become emblematic of an allegedly distinctive Danish culture because they serve the purpose of demarcating symbolic boundaries vis-à-vis Islam.