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Where are you from?: Swedishness, Whiteness and the Politics of Passing
Uppsala University, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2007 (English)In: Cultural Studies Association: Fifth Annual Meeting, Portland State University, Oregon, U.S. April 19-21., 2007Conference paper (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

Despite a long history of migration, the notion of a white and homogeneous Swedish nation subsists, and the boundaries of the imagined community are being constructed by both internal racialized, divisions and by external frontiers. This paper is concerned with the discourses of Swedish national identity by theoretically exploring the themes origin, homogeneity and whiteness, and their performative aspects. The discussion is based on individual interviews and focus group discussions with young Latina women in Sweden who represent different positions in relation to the idea(l)s of the nation. Most of them are born in Sweden with parents of Chilean descent, others have migrated only recently from other Latin American countries. Still others have been adopted as children by Swedish families.

The paper highlights their experiences of being alternately excluded or included in the national imaginary. The analysis acknowledges the importance of looking into the normative nature of the nation, while simultaneously viewing into its border work. Questions asked are: What are the mechanisms in reproducing the ideas of national belonging? How may practices of passing elucidate the processes of redefinition of a national identity? How are racialized power relations to be construed through the politics of passing? How may the position of the ‘outsider’ open for possible critical stances towards the norms of whiteness and (white) femininity?

Hence, the paper deals with questions of how the frontiers of Swedish national identity are related to gender, race, sexuality and class, and further how alternative spaces are created, and mediated through i.e. the global commodity culture. Here, the recent Latin music boom in Sweden plays a pivotal role as an arena for creating new hybrid identities among young Latina women. Through what practices then is (fictive) homogeneity performed and how may the heterogeneity of the population, as manifested by the group of Latina girls, be articulated? Of particular interest are the experiences of the adopted girls, since they both constitute models of Swedish (middle-class) cultural performance while simultaneously articulating presumptions of biological boundaries to the nation. Despite cultural knowledge, racial boundaries hinder them from easily passing as Swedes, in case they attempt to do that. The notion of the white nation can then be viewed as an embodied act, in which passing as white equates with passing as Swede, perfomative aspects that furthermore insist for a constant redefinition of the nation space.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-11228OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-11228DiVA: diva2:38996
Available from: 2007-11-06 Created: 2007-11-06

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