(Re)producing a periphery

Popular representations of the Swedish North

150 kr

Abstract: The discourse on Norrland (literally ‘North land’ in English) as essentially ‘different’ has been (re)produced in literature, politics and science for as long as the idea of ‘Norrland’ has existed. Thus, when investigating the discourse that constructs the identity of Norrland in opposition to a Swedish national identity, it is important to connect these representations to their contemporary (and changing) political-economic contexts. The aim of this thesis is to analyze contemporary representations in news, film, advertising and interviews to show how representations construct stereotypes informed by neoliberal ideals and internationally familiar stereotypes of a traditional intransigent population positioned in Norrland and a modern and progressive population in the urban South. The findings in this thesis can be summarized as follows. First, Norrland has been consistently reproduced, resisted and reworked through various discursive networks and practices over centuries, as simultaneously authentic and obsolete. Drawing on these discourses makes the representations of Norrland in the news become part of a wider discursive network that represents Norrland as an ‘internal other’ within Sweden. Secondly, discourses on Swedish modernity and on neoliberal growth and competition reproduce Norrland and its people as inferior to the rest of Sweden. These representations are reworked and resisted and result in ‘real’ material effects in, for instance, the news media, place marketing and film. Thirdly, in order to resist these representations and become part of the ‘modern’, progressive world, places and people need to adjust to neoliberal ideals of competitiveness and growth. And, finally, people’s identities are affected by these neoliberal ideals as they have to relate and react to the representations of different places and people and the discourse on the urban as progress. This results in different strategies in the construction of narrative identities. I conclude by arguing that these representations serve not only as contrasts but also as strategies in the quest to scapegoat certain groups for problems that initially originated in unequal opportunities and structures of power related to, for instance, ethnicity, class, gender and disabilities – something that is exacerbated by neoliberalist policies and ideologies. The more pressure is put on individuals and places to produce constant growth, the more certain people and places are viewed as ‘unproductive’ and problematic. The problems of depopulation and diminishing job opportunities in the inland areas of Norrland are thus blamed on the population through the representations of Norrland as an internal ‘other.’

Madeleine Eriksson
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