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Reimagineering the Nation

Essays on Twenty-First-Century Sweden


Edited By Aleksandra Ålund, Carl-Ulrik Schierup and Anders Neergaard

This collection of essays offers a critical analysis of neoliberal transformation as it has unfolded in Sweden, long regarded as exemplary in terms of social welfare, equality and an inclusive multicultural democracy. The book presents a multidisciplinary exposition on Sweden, seen in a wider European perspective. It addresses changing frameworks of citizenship, welfare and democracy, migration and asylum, urban segregation and labour market segmentation and processes of securitization. It illuminates intersecting dimensions of class, gender and racialization and juxtaposes xenophobic populism with new social justice and antiracist movements on a changing political stage. Addressing a growing alignment with retrogressive illiberal policies across Europe, the volume exposes the reach of the adverse direction in which European «integration» is currently heading.

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8. Problematizing Parents: Representations of Multi-Ethnic Areas, Youth and Urban Unrest (Magnus Dahlstedt / Vanja Lozić)


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Magnus Dahlstedt & Vanja Lozic

8. Problematizing Parents: Representations of Multi-Ethnic Areas, Youth and Urban Unrest

Abstract: The causes of and solutions to juvenile delinquency and social unrest among youth in so-called Swedish multi-ethnic urban areas are frequently represented in public-institutional discourse as related to migrant parents. These are, the authors argue, consequently exposed to policies for ‘activation’, ‘responsibilisation’ and ‘normalisation’.

Is it possible to make new citizens? Yes. […] they are made all the time. But if their social constitution is erected upon what they are said to lack, then citizens will always fall short of democratic expectations.

Barbara Cruikshank (1999: 123)


One of the central debates on social policy and social cohesion in Sweden revolves around the country’s disadvantaged, so-called Urban Development Areas. The centre of attention has been, time and again, the suburban areas built as part of the large-scale housing projects of the 1970s, the so-called Million Programme (Abiala 2014; Hallin et al. 2010; Magnusson 2014). From the start these areas were represented as a problem in public debate, defined in terms of social and/or ethno-cultural Otherness (Ristilammi 1993; Molina 1997; Brune 2004). In the new millennium, these areas were once more constructed as a problem in the public discourse. At this time, multi-ethnic suburbs were referred to as ‘areas of exclusion’ (utanförskapsområden) (Dahlstedt 2015). These changes in ways of representing the suburbs as a problem, in turn, are...

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