By Kamilla Kraft and Janus Mortensen (University of Copenhagen)

In this presentation, we explore how national stereotypes are used and indexicalised (Jaffe 2016) by a transient management team in a Norwegian construction site. Most of the team members have never worked together before and therefore have not yet established shared practices and logics as a group. By focusing on the group’s activity of assigning meaning and value to different national stereotypes (‘Norwegians’, ‘Swedes’ and ‘Poles’) over a period of six months we are able to explore the emergence, sedimentation and transformation (cf. Agha 2007) of social norms related to these stereotypes.

The analysis draws on multiple levels of context (Cicourel 1987, Day 2008) and shows that stereotypes are used for different purposes in the group, serving interpersonal as well as ideational functions. We demonstrate how the use of national stereotypes are at times activated with reference to socially sedimented, or iconic, meanings that circulate in the Norwegian construction industry, while in other cases the meanings of these national stereotypes are established in a more incremental fashion, tied to the local context of the group. Irrespective of the particular type, we argue that the norms that are in play behind these observable processes of meaning-making can be said to have a considerable impact on social roles and relationships within and beyond the group and workplace.


Kamilla Kraft is a Postdoctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark). She holds a PhD in the Sociology of Language from the University of Oslo (Norway). Her research focuses on multilingual and multicultural workplaces in order to study the interrelations between language, labour, socialization, and social justice.