By Knut Egil Wang
Knut Egil Wang went to Nykøbing-Mors in search of Jante.
Jante is a fictional Danish town with an unwritten social code; The infamous “Law of Jante”. Ten rules are telling you that you should not think you are better than anyone else. It was created by the Dano-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose in his novel “A Fugitive Crosses his Tracks” (1933). Jante is modeled after Sandemose’s hometown Nykøbing-Mors, though Jante’s inhabitants could be any Scandinavian small town population.
The ideal of equality is key to explain why the Scandinavian countries have less social problems and are often regarded the best countries to live in. Being equal means not standing out from the crowd too much. The Scandinavian history of Lutheranism, where disapproval of individualism and elitism have been central, may explain why The Law of Jante was somehow familiar to most Scandinavians when Sandemose first created it; It was already in our blood.
The Law of Jante is a great tool to limit individual growth and achievement. Individual success becomes something unworthy, even inappropriate. It is everywhere to be found. But nowhere to be seen.
Knut Egil Wang (b. 1974) , graduated with a Bachelor degree in Photojournalism from Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences in 1997.
His first monograph Traktorland was published in 2008, while Southbound came out in 2014. He has received several major grants from Fritt Ord Foundation in Norway and most recently from Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in the US.