In the first research seminar of 2012, Michael McEachrane, senior lecturer at the Department of Human Rights, spoke on the topic of equality and racial discrimination in Northern Europe. In his talk, Michael drew on some of the main themes of his forthcoming anthology Afro-Nordic Landscapes (Routledge 2012).
Above all, Michael questioned to what extent the Swedish self-image of being exempted from racial discrimination is legitimate. Since the end of World War II, Sweden has formed a strong identity of being a beacon of international solidarity, equality and anti-racism. Sweden was, for instance, the greatest financial supporter of the ANC. Today, though, multiple studies suggest that there is widespread racial discrimination in Swedish society and that Swedes are just as conscious of racial differences as other Europeans, although the country is relatively spared from a burdensome colonial past. He also discussed how to create greater inclusion by building a national identity around constitutional principles of equal human rights rather than ethnicity and race.
Lory Dance, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, served as a discussant and shared some of her insights from comparing the American and Swedish cases. She insisted that Sweden is not as racist as the United States. However, this could easily change over time as Sweden, like other European nation-states, is getting increasingly diverse. And like other European nations, Sweden still has many indicators of colonial racial representations (for example, depictions of American Indians, racial designations for pastries). Against this background, she stressed the necessity of creating spaces where there can be open discussion about how discriminatory processes and sentiments build up and become institutionalised.
For the full schedule of our seminar series, please visit www.mrs.lu.se