Skip to main content

Citizenship as status, habitus and acts – the case of language requirements and civic orientation in Sweden

Culture and languages

Seminar arranged by the research area Language in Society. All interested are welcome!

30 Mar 2021
12:00 - 14:00
Online via Zoom, please email the contact person for link

Tommaso M. Milani
Simon Bauer
Marie Carlsson
Andrea Spehar
Kerstin von Brömssen
Good to know
Seminar language: English
institutionen för språk och litteraturer


Sweden has consistently been presented as a typical example of ‘multicultural pluralist citizenship’ (Koopmans and Statham 1999, 661), one in which ‘citizenship is largely vacuous of popular sentimental registers’ and ‘does not stir up vigorous public debate and nationalist emotions’ (Jensen et al. 2017, 618). The aim of this presentation is to complicate this portrayal, which has been drawn primarily on the basis of analyses of policy documents and party politics. In order to do so the presentation relies on a methodologically multi-pronged approach that combines (1) a diachronic investigation of policy and media debates about Swedish language requirements for citizenship, and their connections with discussions about the importance of knowledge of civics for newly arrived migrants, and (2) ethnographic insights into the educational provision Civic Orientation for Newly Arrived Migrants (samhällsorientering). More specifically, we draw upon Engin Isin’s (2008) tripartite model of citizenship as status, habitus and acts, in order to first trace whether, and if so, how citizenship as status in Sweden has changed in relation to language, national values and norms over the last twenty years. We then home in on a particular Arabic-language course in civic orientation for newly arrived adult migrants in a large urban area, in order to illustrate how a group of migrants are being socialized into a specific habitus of Swedish values and norms, and to unveil the acts of resistance they perform in response. Such a bi-focal lens on language and citizenship status in public debates, on the one hand, and on habitus and acts in an ongoing educational provision, on the other, can offer empirically rich perspectives on the relationship between community, everyday citizenship and language.