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Research article2017Peer reviewedOpen access

Development and integration at a crossroads: Culture, race and ethnicity in rural Sweden

Arora-Jonsson, Seema


The recent arrival of refugees in rural Sweden has raised hopes that they might stave off the depopulation of the country's periphery and lead to its development. Despite these visions in policy and in some academic literature, there is little research on how immigrant encounters with development and integration practices take shape on the ground. Critical research on immigrant integration in Sweden focuses on urban areas where most immigrants live. Rural areas, with sparse populations, weak economic positions vis a vis cities and increased policy pressures to define themselves as uniquely competitive, stand at a crossroads as they grapple with developing their areas and integrating newcomers. A less visible, but no less decisive crossroads is the vision of multiculturalism grounded in current institutions for democracy, in contrast to the road that I suggest we need to take - one that turns a critical eye on the relations that constitute the culture and institutions for integration and rural development. Drawing on long term ethnographic fieldwork in the province of Halsingland and on Bourdieu's conceptualization of misrecognition as well as critical race theories, I probe the misrecognition' of the rural and of institutions for integration and democracy in Sweden. I argue that the misrecognition of voluntary associations as the template for democracy for all and dominant discourses on what constitutes rural culture, inadvertently embody racial undertones that need to be confronted - both in theorizing and in practice - if aspirations for a multicultural democracy are to be taken as seriously as they must.


Rural development; race; integration; voluntary associations; misrecognition

Published in

Environment and Planning A
2017, Volume: 49, number: 7, pages: 1594-1612

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG5 Gender equality
    SDG10 Reduced inequalities
    SDG16 Peace, justice and strong institutions

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Human Geography
    Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
    Gender Studies

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