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Svea folk i Babels land: Svensk identitet i Kanada under 1900-talets första hälft
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Historical Studies.
2004 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Svea People in the Land of Babel : Swedish Identity in Canada during the First Half of the 20th Century (English)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to shed light upon the construction of identity within the Swedish- Canadian immigrant group during the first half of the 20th century. The most important sources of ethnic and nationalistic influences this study scrutinizes are the homeland Sweden, Swedish-America, Scandinavian-Canada and the Canadian host society. It also examines the interaction with other social identities, such as gender and religion. Theoretically, this dissertation takes its point of departure in Fredrik Barth’s assumptions on cultural boundaries and ethnic grouping, which emphasizes the meeting and confrontation with other groups as a trigger in the development of a new ethnic identity. The study is carried out on three partly interacting levels: the individual, the organizational and the official/ rhetorical level.

On the individual level, the first generation Swedes in Canada was probably as Swedish as they could be concerning identity, culture and social networks. But as it turned out, the shattered Swedish immigration, the vast and often hardly passable Canadian landscape, together with indirect help from the Canadian government, would prevent an extensive establishment of ethnic organizations. The surplus of single Swedish-Canadian men also affected the transference of Swedishness negatively in the change of generations.

The intense dialogue with Swedish America, mostly conducted through the Augustana Synod and the Vasa Order, contributed to a new sense of Swedishness. Both these Swedish- American organizations had “Diaspora ambitions” and they relatively soon established a certain cooperation with the pan-Swedish movement in Sweden. Women played an important social, economical as well practical role in both secular and religious organizational life. Many Swedish-Canadians congregations and organizations would have had no future, if not for the women’s commitment.

Swedish rhetoric on the official level was carried out by men, to men, in a male language and imaginary. In this context the term Swede thus became synonymous with Swedish man. Both outspoken desires from the Swedish homeland and its actual internal development were considered and reformulated in Swedish-Canadian rhetoric. When the nationalistic discourse changed in Sweden, the Swedish-Canadian rhetoric changed in the same direction. Swedes in Canada also responded to ethnic competition, especially from Norwegians, by trying to define how the two related groups differed. Of certain importance was the signals given from the host society. With a general suspicion of foreign elements together with a demand for assimilation, the Canadian government seems to have hastened the integration process of Swedish-Canadians.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Historiska studier , 2004. , 373 p.
Kulturens frontlinjer : skrifter från forskningsprogrammet Kulturgräns norr, ISSN 1402-8506 ; 48
Keyword [en]
History, Swedish immigrants, cultural boundaries, ethnicity, nationalism, identity, Canadian immigration history, gender history, language shift, ethnic press, religion, secular societies
Keyword [sv]
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-290ISBN: 91-88466-59-0OAI: diva2:142966
Public defence
Available from: 2004-06-02 Created: 2004-06-02Bibliographically approved

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