Abstract: 

Colour-blindness – the desire to not ‘see colour’ – or avoiding using the term ‘race’ itself, has been an anti-racist imperative in post-WWII Sweden to leave behind the prior era of eugenics and race thinking. Through a linguistic ethnographic approach, this presentation examines how 46 returning Swedish expatriate women talk about race-related experiences through a colour-blind language. By analysing the implicit contextual associations and dissociations made between race, language and nation, a system of ideas and cognitive structures mapping perceptions and constructions of the world is exposed; of national belonging, bodies, racial hierarchies and of the West itself. However, categories used can be ascribed opposite meanings, depending on subjectivity and context. In this notion, language and nationality becomes ‘visible’ or ‘hidden’ depending on time and place, and ‘visible whiteness’ is associated with either an undesirable sense of difference or a set of unspoken privileges.

Bio:

Catrin Lundström is Associate Professor of Sociology at the Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society (REMESO) at Linköping University. Her research investigates the intersections of inequality and privilege in relation to migration, whiteness, trans/nationality and citizenship. She holds a PhD in Sociology from Uppsala University with the thesis Svenska latinas: ras, klass och kön i svenskhetens geografi (Makadam, 2007). She has also been a postdoc at UCGS, Umeå University and a visiting researcher at University of Arizona, Tucson and University of California, Santa Barbara. Her book White Migrations: Gender, Whiteness and Privilege in Transnational Migration (Palgrave, 2014, Swedish ed. Makadam 2017) covers Swedish migration in southwestern US, southern Spain and Singapore. In a later project, she investigated how returning migrant women negotiate national identity and gender equality in Sweden. Currently, she is finishing the book Vit melankoli: en analys av en nation i kris (co-authored with Tobias Hübinette) which will be published with Makadam fall/winter 2020.