Unni Wikan (born 1944) is professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo, Norway. She has served as visiting professor at the University of Chicago (2011), Harvard University (1999-2000), Goethe University, Frankfurt (2000), London School of Economics (1997), École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris (1996). She has also been a visiting scholar at Harvard University (1995), guest lecturer at Harvard (1987), guest lecturer at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel (1983) and visiting assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University (1977).
Career and controversy
Wikan has worked as a consultant to UNICEF and the World Food Programme in Bhutan from 1989 to 1994, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation in Palestinian areas in 1999, and United Nations Development Program in Yemen (2004).
For almost ten years, Wikan has campaigned to change Norwegian policies towards immigrants, arguing that generous welfare and a policy of multicultural tolerance are creating a culture of welfare dependence, and destroying self-respect. A reviewer of her book "Generous Betrayal: Politics of Culture in the New Europe" claims that she used invalid methodology, not giving "a far more complex social reality" its due. "'Unsympathetic readers" might see it as a "racist polemic."
She has argued that far from being a racist, she has significant empathy for the lives of many of the Muslim men she has portrayed in her most recent books. In a well-known case in Norway (The Anooshe case), she argued that the state had not taken into account the social expectations of immigrant men, and this had led to rootless men whose social expectations were not met or even acknowledged, arguing that violence is a product of immigrant conditions when host country laws conflict with the “unwritten social rules” of immigrant societies. 
In the 2001 debate about the culture of rape amongst Muslim immigrants in Norway, she said that Norwegian women are 'blind and naive' towards non-Western immigrants. "I will not blame the rapes on Norwegian women, but Norwegian women must understand that we live in a Multicultural society and adapt themselves to it." "Norwegian women must take their share of responsibility for these rapes." For example, by not inviting into their homes Muslim men with little knowledge of Norwegian culture. However, being seen as an apologist for rapists may have undermined her work, and her commentary in this debate has ignited fury on social media.
Wikan has performed field work in a number of countries (Egypt, Oman, Yemen, Indonesia, Bhutan, Scandinavia) and her research has resulted in ten books being published. Her works have been translated into Japanese, Arabic, Kurdish, Portuguese, Swedish, Danish, German, and Italian.
- Life Among the Poor in Cairo (Tavistock 1980) ISBN 978-0-422-76980-8
- Behind the Veil in Arabia: Women in Oman (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982; paperback, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1991) ISBN 978-0-226-89683-0
- Managing Turbulent Hearts: A Balinese Formula for Living (University of Chicago Press, 1990) ISBN 978-0-226-89680-9
- Mot en ny norsk underklasse: Innvandrere, kultur og integrasjon (Gyldendal, 1995) ISBN 978-82-05-23509-0
- Tomorrow, God Willing: Self-Made Destinies in Cairo (University of Chicago Press, 1996) ISBN 978-0-226-89835-3
- Generous Betrayal: Politics of Culture in the New Europe (University of Chicago Press, 2002) ISBN 978-0-226-89685-4
- For ærens skyld - Fadime til ettertanke (Scandinavian University Press, 2003)
- Medmennesker: 35 år i Kairos bakgater" (Pax, 2004) 9788253027388
- "Om ære." (Pax, 2008) ISBN 978-82-530-3096-8
- In Honor of Fadime: Murder and Shame (University of Chicago Press, 2008) ISBN 978-0-226-89686-1 Read an excerpt.
- "Resonance: Beyond the Words" (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming November 2012)
- Book review of "Generous Betrayal: Politics of Culture in the New Europe" by Paul A. Silverstein, American Ethnologist, November 1, 2004
- Culcom:Cultural Complexity in the New Norway, Interview with U. Wikan, February, 2006
- "Mener norske jenter frister til sex", Dagbladet, September 6th, 2001
- Annual Report 2004, Freedom of Expression Foundation, Oslo
- "Gruppe 2: Kulturfag og estetiske fag" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Retrieved 28 October 2009.
|Recipient of the Fritt Ord Award