Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Defining Swedishness: When Swedes Without a Migration Background Are a Local Numerical Minority

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Abstract:  In this study, we examine how people without a migration background living in majority–minority neighbourhoods in Malmö, Sweden, define national identity in daily life. This setting provides a look into the intersection between the dominant position these people occupy in the Swedish national context and the confrontation with ethnic diversity as a result of becoming a local numerical minority. We address articulations of what being Swedish means in interviews with 22 Swedes without a migration background. We find that people mostly reproduce the national identity discourse that is nationally dominant. Most people explicitly articulate an achievable national identity, presenting Swedishness as accessible to everyone, in line with how Swedish integration policy is framed, and the current dominant political discourse. However, when talking about Swedishness as an identity and an attribute, the Swedishness of Swedes without a migration background is taken for granted, which indicates that despite changing local hierarchies, the establishment of the Swede without a migration background as the dominant Swede remains unchallenged. Swedishness might be achievable, but only because the dominant Swede defines it as such. Nonetheless, some respondents engage critically and reflectively with their own position of power as the nationally dominant group. This discourse is mostly expressed by raising the issue of white privilege and acknowledging it as a hindrance to the social positioning of people with a migration background in Swedish society. This reflexivity might be a result of confrontation with diversity and becoming a minority.

Keywords:  inclusivity; majority–minority; Swedish national identity; whiteness



© Marina Lazëri, Elif Keskiner, Maurice Crul. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.