|dc.description.abstract||In this research I‘ve been looking for an answer to the question how Swedes construct and perceive their national identity and how it influences their behavior towards refugees. To get to this answer, I made a distinction in three subsidiary questions, which are as follows:
- How do native Swedes perceive and construct their national identity?
- In what way are native Swedes exposed to refugees on a daily basis?
- What attitude do native Swedes have in relation to refugees and the Swedish refugee policy?
First of all, I did a literary research to discuss all the important theoretical factors that play a role within these questions. It shows what theoretical knowledge I took with me into the field to research how Swedes construct their national identity on the one hand and how that influences their attitude towards refugees on the other hand. Globalization and nationalism are two factors that are of great significance within the research, as they help explain how cultures got in contact with each other, how multicultural societies arose and how people reacted to such changes. Because of globalization, nations have gotten closer to each other, relatively. It has gotten easier to get in contact with the 'Other‘, to influence each other and spread cultural ideas. It also made it possible for refugees to easier get in contact with countries where they can flee to. The way people perceive their national identity can help explain why they react to refugees a certain way. There‘s made a distinction between a universalistic and particularistic notion of national identity. Particularists focus on cultural roots, shared history and a certain ‗sameness‘, where universalists think ideological characteristics and civil rights are more important.
National identity is quite a complex term which needs some extra explanation. It is something dynamic, partly formed in cooperation with the (cultural, ethnic or national) 'Other‘. It is also partly constructed by ones surroundings and community, as it teaches what is normal and what isn‘t. When refugees come into a nation, they can make it multicultural society, which means that several cultures coexist in one community. The majority sometimes fears the minority for the changes they might bring, even though culture and a group identity (like national identity) are dynamic and will not fall apart when 'Others‘ intrude (like refugees): it will adapt to the changes.
Why did I do this research in Sweden and not somewhere else, since it is a worldwide issue? Because Sweden is a big, thinly populated country and has taken in the most refugees per capita in all of the European Union. It is worldly known for its tolerant policy towards refugees and its open borders (even though that has changed in february, when the borders became controlled and partly closed). Because of this relatively tolerant policy and the relative large amount of refugees in Swedish society, the (possible) changes refugees bring are easier to measure.
To answer the question 'how do Swedes construct and perceive their national identity and how does it influence their behavior towards refugees?‘, I did interviews and participant observation with native Swedes. I tried to have participants of all ages, genders and political backgrounds to be able to represent the Swedish society. Of course this is never fully possible, especially not as an outsider, but it comes a long way. I analyzed all of the data I collected in the field and came to the following conclusions:
- Swedes have a rather universalistic notion of national identity, but in a range of 'particularistic‘ to 'universalistic‘, they aren‘t entirely on the right side, but somewhere closer to the middle. In order to achieve Swedish identity as a refugee it is found to most importantly speak the Swedish language, build a life in Sweden and try to integrate into Swedish society. A refugee, though, will probably never be found to be ‗fully Swedish‘ by natives. Their children might be, because they will be born in Swedish society and will more naturally fit in that way. - Swedes are exposed to refugees mostly through media. It is where they get practically all their information from about the refugee issue, even though they say they don‘t trust the media. Most people look for several sources they trust, to make sure the information is true. First-hand information through personal experience is thought to be the most valuable, but not many people have such experiences. - A lot of Swedes are rather positive about the influence refugees might have on Swedish society. On the one hand there‘s a group of people who believe that the new flow of people will boost the economy and social security, but on the other hand there‘s the group who are afraid the refugees will take their jobs or drain social security. It seems though, that the problems within the refugee issue aren‘t caused by the refugees themselves, but by a lack of help and support with the integrating process.||