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Swedish integration policy documents: a close dialogic reading

By H. T. R. Persson

Abstract

Sweden as the great welfare state where everybody is equally welcomed and cared for has for long been the prevailing view. Although Swedish integration policy seems to confirm this view, this is far removed from many people’s experienced reality. I argue that part of this disharmony lies in how West European languages contain and relate to an ‘identity’ construction, which perpetuates and is perpetuated through dichotomies that strengthen the social and political cogency of concepts such as ‘race’, ethnicity and culture. Based on this, I carry out a discourse analysis of Sweden’s major integration policy documents from the mid 1970s up to today.\ud \ud After an eclectic reading of discourses on migration and integration terminology, ‘identity’ and language, I assert the centrality of ‘identity’ construction to everything we do. With this in mind, taking the dialogism promoted by the Bakhtinian Circle as the dichotomy to monologism, I carry out a close dialogic reading in the tradition of Lynn Pearce (1994) and Peter Stallybrass and Allon White (1986).\ud \ud Contextualising the policy documents, I present the history of migration and integration from a Swedish perspective. Focusing on the last five decades, I divide the different historic tendencies into themes ranging from: emigration to labour migration, refugee migration and the European Union, and from immigrant policy to integration policy.\ud \ud Believing that the conceptualisation and the handling of categorisation, segregation, culture, discrimination and racism are all central to a successful integration policy, I analyse the policy documents thematically accordingly. I show how the interdependence of the common ‘identity’ constructions and language sometimes obscures and frequently counteracts the intention of the author. As a result, I argue that the Bakhtinian Circle holds the key to a better understanding of the invincibility of stereotyping within racialised discourses, through applying absolute ‘identity’ constructions in monologic speech, and how this may be counteracted in order to strive for a dialogic approach to the world

Topics: HV, HM
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:2508

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