David Gunnarsson, PhD in Ethnology, Stockholm University and Södertörn University

Guest in Sweden: Regimes of Truth, Conditional Self (Re)Presentations and National Belonging in the Guided Tours of a Mosque in Stockholm

This presentation explores the regimes of truth surrounding Muslims in Sweden. The main focus lies on the production of knowledge regarding Muslims in the context of the guided tours of a mosque in Stockholm. Special attention is given to how regimes of truth regarding Muslims inform the conversations during the visits, how they are debated in this particular arena and how that is dependent on positionality.

The central results concern the fact that the guides see the tours as a chance to alter other stories about Muslims and allow the visitors who tour the mosque to hear something that is not mediated or taught in school; however, they experience difficulties in terms of gaining credibility with regard to their presentation of alternative stories. The guides, and hosts, use their private lives to explain their position in Sweden, but the visitors also expect them to expose their personal opinions regarding how they, as Muslims, would act in morally difficult scenarios; thus, the tours present a situation where the visitors seem more comfortable than the hosts. Another significant result is that both the guides and visitors expressed the importance of the tours becoming a respectful meeting place. Religiosity, religion and secularism seem in themselves to represent otherness. What is respectful in practice, however, is not very clear. There is an ongoing debate in Swedish society concerning whether it is respectful to shake hands with a Muslim in a working situation, as is customary in Sweden. Moreover, the showing of respect is given a gender dimension on the tours, since the main way to perform respect is for every woman to wear a robe when entering the mosque. Respect as a practice seems to be mired in social inequality.

It seems difficult to become a guest if you are simultaneously appropriated the position of a Swede, and difficult to pass as a host if you position yourself as a Muslim.

All seminars in the series.