Rickard Jonsson, PhD, Associate professor, Department of Child and Youth Studies, Stockholm University

They erased our prejudices! Failing students as the ethnic Others in anti-racist stories

The category of the “immigrant male student”, which is often used in the educational settings from where the following paper collects its data, is indeed an elusive one – especially so when it is employed as a label of students who have no experience of migration at all. The frequent use of the category in everyday school life is even more confusing, considering that Swedish publicity could be described as characterized by a hegemonic anti-racist discourse, including an often reproduced master narrative of a country which – except from a few right wing extremists – is considered to be a nation without racism. Drawing on ethnographic data from two fieldworks in two secondary schools in Stockholm, I shall take a closer look at small stories (Bamberg, 2006; Georgakopoulou, 2007)  about disciplinary problems and failing students. The paper examines how an unruly classroom behavior seems to evoke the young immigrant student category, and furthermore, how students and teachers rhetorically manage the dilemma to tell stories about that category without sounding racist, disparaging or in any other ways excluding. Put differently, the paper is an investigation of anti-racist ways of talking about failing students as the ethnic or racial Others.


  • Bamberg, Michael, “Stories: Big or small? Why do we care?” Narrative Inquiry 16 (1), 2006, s. 139–147.
  • Bucholtz, Mary, White kids. Language, race and styles of youth identity. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011.
  • Georgakopoulou, Alexandra, Small stories, interaction and identities, Amsterdam, John Benjamins, 2007.
  • Wetherell, Margaret & Potter, Jonathan, Mapping the language of racism: discourse and the legitimation of exploitation. New York, Columbia University Press, 1992.

All seminars in the series.