Scandinavian Immigrant Integration Politics: Varieties of the Civic Turn

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportPh.d.-afhandling


This thesis investigates how ideas concerning nationhood and social cohesion
have informed and legitimised the divergence of Danish, Swedish and
Norwegian immigrant integration policies in the last 15 to 20 years. Besides
examining the politics of permanent residence and naturalization in all three
countries, the thesis also takes a closer look at the politics of citizenship education in Denmark and Sweden. Within both of these areas of integration
policy, the countries have diverged. Since the late 1990s, the Danish integration
requirements for permanent residence and naturalisation have almost
exclusively been developed in a more restrictive direction through a long
succession of more or less incremental policy changes. In the same period,
Sweden has barely changed their (now) exceptionally permissive policies,
while Norway has taken somewhat of a middle road. A similar story can be
told about citizenship education policies. While Denmark has refrained from
changing an officially monocultural approach to common schooling that relies
on the assimilation of minorities, Sweden has moved in the opposite direction
through an officially intercultural school approach that actively accommodates

Comparing the Scandinavian countries presents us with a puzzle. How
can it be that three countries who share rather similar comprehensive, universal
welfare states, political systems and traditions of consensus, and a
commitment to being culturally progressive in matters of sexuality, gender
equality, and life style, have approached immigrant integration so differently?
The overall argument in this thesis is that policy-making in the three
countries has stabilised around different public philosophies of integration,
but that this also owes a certain amount to party-political dynamics. Swedish
politics is highly premised on a voluntarist notion of nationhood that imagines
national identity formation as a process of collective negotiation, institution-building, and individual choice. Danish politics mainly follows a deterministic
notion of nationhood in which the national identity is pictured as a
historically determined construct only accessible to newcomers by being embedded in a normal Danish everyday life. Norwegian integration politics, on
the other hand, has been more ambivalent—perhaps even confused—giving
expression to both visions albeit more moderately.

The thesis situates the Scandinavian comparison within the broader discussions
about the civic turn in West European immigrant integration policies.
Against the diagnosis of liberal convergence, the thesis maintains that
there has not been a retreat from nationalism within Scandinavian politics.
However, the commonly used typologies of nationhood or national models cannot adequately capture how Scandinavian politicians think differently
about nationhood. The thesis aims to alleviate this conceptual shortage by
decomposing the ethnic-civic distinction and distinguish a (normative) content
dimension from a (functionalist or sociological) process dimension of
national identity conceptions. It is within the latter dimension that we primarily
find the ideational differences between the Scandinavian countries.
UdgivelsesstedAarhus University
ForlagForlaget Politica
StatusUdgivet - 2016
Udgivet eksterntJa

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