Developing a Theoretical Model to Examine the Influence of a Religious Sect [Odinism] on Norwegian and American Inmates

Lene Vallestad, University of North Dakota
James H. Larson, University of North Dakota

The occurrence of extraparliamentary1 right-wing extremism is becoming more prominent in the social landscape of Norway, and other western European countries, and in the United States. Amongst these extraparliamentary movements one will find groups that base and justify their racist behavior in religious beliefs. Odinists or Asatruers are examples of such groups. Odinism or Asatru is an attempt to reconstruct pre-Christian, neopagan traditions with origin in northern Europe. The objective of this qualitative study is to do an intercultural comparison of Odinistic conversion in the prison system in Norway and United States. The fundamental assumption of this study is that there are a higher number of converts in the U.S. prisons than there are in the Norwegian prisons, due to differences in the prison systems. There is no need for Norwegian prisoners to feel a group connection to the same extent that there is for American prisoners due to prison population and the safety connected to smaller prisons.

Since the research focus is the construction of a theoretical model, two prisons will be chosen for the study. Institutions having inmates identified, as being Odinists or Asatru, will be listed. After securing permission, inmates will be contacted for qualitative interviews using an unstructured schedule. Importation prisonization model variables will be included in the data collection. Analysis will use qualitative software programs. It is important to notice that the debate about race is ongoing in the Asatru community and that not all of these groups are right-winged extremists. American prisons have become very diverse and this project will suggest the influence of religious sects on inmate organizations and interpersonal relationships with other inmates and staff.

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Updated 05/20/2006