July 22, 2011 is a crossroad in Norwegian history. 77 people were brutally murdered with the purpose of proclaiming an extremist, political vision and create ethnic conflict. But did the opposite take place? For a short while, and in the midst of grieving, many Norwegians experienced a new, inclusive community in the streets of Oslo. They gathered to protest and show solidarity through silent symbolic acts and placement of objects. Can improvised memorials and rituals create new venues for a democratic culture? If so, what are the differences in effect between the church and the religious communities’ bound rituals, and these “free” rituals? When does ritual become nationalistic and exclusive?
After July 22 many private and public initiatives have focused on creating permanent places for the remembrance and working-through of the events. How have the memorial processes evolved and how are they managed? How do people understand the concept of memorials? What is a good memorial? And how do we reconcile the need to commemorate with the need to move on?
Many young people today have interest in new forms of participatory democracy, where respect for each difference and the need for negotiations about joint solutions in new ways. What kind of anti-democratic heritage did Breivik draw on when he built up his deadly ideology? Is he really “one of us”, or was and is he outside our community? What is the link in terms of worldview between white extremism, old nazism and nationalism? What is the evil of extremism? Do we need a new debate about democratic values and a stronger public community, or must we learn to live more enlightened with difference and disagreement? How do we create a deeper democratic culture and pedagogy, including in religion?
There are memorial-pedagogical and democracy-building intentions behind the projects “Hegnhuset” and “The Clearing” on Utøya, as well as The 22 July Centre in Oslo. The multi-workshop “The Significance of July 22”, arranged for youth between 18-30 at DogA in October 2014 and at Skiringssal Folk High School in January 2015 was a democratic-pedagogical experiment. These projects were presented at the conference.