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Document Type

Open Access

Degree Program

Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded

2011

Month Degree Awarded

February

Keywords

Jante Law, habitus, governmentality, Sweden, immigration, racism

Abstract

This paper focuses on how the Swedish social code known as The Jante Law plays a role in the prevalence of racism in Sweden, both on the individual and societal levels. Its core message that no one is superior to another fundamentally contradicts racism and informs government policy, but also reinforces institutionalized discrimination. I use literature review, ethnographic observations and interviews to examine the ways in which racism is understood and experienced in Sweden. This paper also investigates how concepts of sameness and community have changed over time and how the shifting of these concepts have resulted in greater inclusiveness in Swedish society. I first overview the history of Sweden’s interactions with non-Swedes and the shift in attitude regarding them. I then discuss the origins and nature of the Jante Law and how it functions as a hegemonic system as well as promoting certain behaviors as a component of governmentality. Furthermore, I analyze the trend of new cultures and ideas entering Swedish society and how such changes are causing the Jante Law to decline. I investigate how a culturally engrained notion of being modest and inconspicuous alters overt and covert racist discourse in Sweden. Additionally, I include an ethnographic account of my experience in Sweden as well as those of interviewees of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. I conclude the paper with a discussion of the implications for Swedish society as immigration increases while the Jante Law loses its influence over Swedish culture.

First Advisor

Elizabeth L Krause

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