The Danish Meatball Wars: Shifting Identities in the Wake of the European Refugee Crisis

Authors: Samantha Brown*, University of Oregon
Topics: Political Geography, Europe, Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: refugees, race, nationalism, Denmark, food, identity
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 36
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines the so-called Danish “meatball wars,” a case through which we can observe transforming notions of whiteness, nationalism, identity and belonging during a period of extreme circumstance. The Danish meatball wars were instigated in 2013, as the country continued to recover from the Great Recession and began receiving an increase of refugees. I draw on Cedric Robinson’s framework of racial capitalism and employ a dialectical approach, analyzing both the political economic and cultural causes to the transformation. I argue that this conflict resulted in a breach in Danish society’s unstated assumptions surrounding identity and belonging, and thereby created a new narrative that explicitly ties pork to Danishness, and halal and kosher products to Otherness. While notions surrounding “Danishness,” “Europeanness,” etc. have always been racialized, this case offers a clear example of how food—a largely understudied topic in academia—can be weaponized against particular groups in a society. The political rhetoric was largely aimed at the Muslim community and arriving refugees, yet the meatball wars also offer an example as to how anti-refugee, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic sentiments manifest themselves in similar and disparate ways. Many of these findings can help us better understand broader trends across Europe and the United States.

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