Swedish-speaking Finns: a multi-method qualitative study of belonging and identification

Terje, Anna-Kaisa Tuulikki (2016) Swedish-speaking Finns: a multi-method qualitative study of belonging and identification. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3251490


The Swedish-speaking minority in Finland, often described as an ‘elite minority’, holds a special position in the country. With linguistic rights protected by the constitution of Finland, Swedish-speakers, as a minority of only 5.3%, are often described in public discourse and in academic and statistical studies as happier, healthier and more well off economically than the Finnish-speaking majority. As such, the minority is a unique example of language minorities in Europe. Knowledge derived from qualitatively grounded studies on the topic is however lacking, meaning that there is a gap in understanding of the nature and complexity of the minority. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in four different locations in Finland over a period of 12 months, this thesis provides a theoretically grounded and empirically informed rich account of the identifications and sites of belonging of this diverse minority. The thesis makes a contribution to theoretical, methodological and empirical research on the Swedish-speaking minority, debates around identity and belonging, and ethnographic methodological approaches. Making use of novel methodology in studying Swedish-speaking Finns, this thesis moves beyond generalisations and simplifications on its nature and character. Drawing on rich ethnographic empirical material, the thesis interrogates various aspects of the lived experience of Swedish-speaking Finns by combining the concepts of belonging and identification. Some of the issues explored are the way in which belonging can be regionally specific, how Swedish-speakers create Swedish-spaces, how language use is situational and variable and acts as a marker of identity, and finally how identifications and sites of belonging among the minority are extremely varied and complex. The thesis concludes that there are various sites of belonging and identification available to Swedish-speakers, and these need to be studied and considered in order to gain an accurate picture of the lived experience of the minority. It also argues that while identifications are based on collective imagery, this imagery can vary among Swedish-speakers and identifications are multiple and situational. Finally, while language is a key commonality for the minority, the meanings attached to it are not only concerned with ‘Finland Swedishness’, but connected to various other factors, such as the context a person grew up in and the region one lives in. The complex issues affecting the lived experience of Swedish-speaking Finns cannot be understood without the contribution of findings from qualitative research. This thesis therefore points towards a new kind of understanding of Swedish-speaking Finns, moving away from stereotypes and simplifications, shifting our gaze towards a richer perception of the minority.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Identity, belonging, language minorities, minorities, communities, Swedish-speaking Finns, Finland, ethnography.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Gibb, Dr. Robert and Flynn, Dr. Moya
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Ms A-K T Terje
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7823
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2016 10:22
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2022 15:24
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.7823
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/7823

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