Ingemar Grandin, docent, ISAK, Linköping University

The Great Silence: Sweden and settler colonialism

The recent events in Gaza have evoked quite a lot of Swedish public indignation. But beyond the case of Palestine, Sweden seems to be silent on settler colonialism. Sweden’s own contribution to the white settling of North America, as immortalized in Moberg’s Utvandrarna, is typically seen as a case of large-scale emigration and not as a part of Sweden’s colonial history.

As the Australian scholar Patrick Wolfe has put it, settler colonialism is a structure, not an event. Taking this as one point of departure, I investigate the silence on the settler-colonial heritage, but also the silence on how contemporary Sweden is woven into the structure of settler colonialism.

To map out this silence, recent work on settler colonialism – an expanding research field, perhaps especially within the settler colonies themselves – can fruitfully be employed. The perspective of settler colonialism challenges current notions and understandings – concerning such things as colonialism, post-colonialism, and decolonization; or transnationalism, flows, and diaspora – in sometimes uncomfortable ways: can the “good guys”, or the common people, really be colonizers?

This is work in progress. The seminar invites critical questions as well as suggestions on issues such as the methodology for studying silence and suitable areas for further empirical research, but also on how the settler colonial hegemony might be theorized, questioned and de-normalized.

Ingemar Grandin is a docent in Culture and Society, Linköping University. Much of his research is based on fieldwork in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal, but he has also engaged questions of cultural flows, transnationalism, ethnicity, and diaspora in a wider perspective.

Find out more about the Migration cluster at the Department of Social Anthropology.

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