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What is a “good citizen”? Policy analysis of Civic Education for newly arrived adult migrants in Sweden

Conference contribution
Authors Marie Carlson
Andrea Spehar
Published in ECER-conference 2019/ EERA (European Educational Research Association) Education in an Era of Risk – the Role of Educational Research for the Future, 3-6 September, 2019 – Universität Hamburg
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Department of Political Science
Language en
Keywords civic education, newly arrived adult migrants, Sweden, citizenship, policy ethnographic study
Subject categories International Migration and Ethnic Relations, Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies), Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


ABSTRACT: General description (research questions) Different social models for integration and citizenship are increasingly discussed in Europe. Previously recognized conventions of citizenship, about who the citizen is, may or should be are challenged (Joppke 2017). The aim of this paper is to present an analysis of how civic orientation is justified in Swedish civic education policies. At its heart, civic education is designed to produce “good citizens”. Discussions in both research and political organizations can be seen as a consequence of the decline in variations of “multicultural” models that were fundamental to integration policy earlier in the seventies also in Sweden, as well as in several other European states (ibid.; Sonninen 1999). During the 1980s, cultural and ethnic group rights were reduced and adaptation to international policy took place. A further shift occurred in the early 1990s with even higher individual demands on the migrant from the states across Europe. Among other things, there was increasing demand for participation in education such as language courses and courses on social orientation. After the investigation “Sweden for newly arrived migrants – Values, welfare state, everyday life” (SOU 2010:16) a new regulation was added: “Civic orientation for some newly arrived immigrants” (SFS 2010:1138). In Sweden a new regulation was added in 2010 about “Civic orientation for some newly arrived immigrants” (SOU 2010:16). Through this law, homogenization and national standardization of education efforts have been developed. Social orientation for adult newly arrived migrants is an education initiative that each municipality is required to organize and offer in their introduction programs. This education initiative, often with strong expectations from politicians and various stakeholders, raises a number of issues and challenges that we will critically investigate in a newly launched research project; a policy ethnographic study. We will in this interdisciplinary project (political science, sociology, educational science, linguistics) explore the civic orientation at three different societal levels: a policy and organizational level, an institutional education level and a participants' individual level with stories of experiences from the program. Focus will be on how the civic orientation program is interpreted, understood and organized locally in three urban municipalities in Sweden. In the initial phase, policy/policy documents and organization of social orientation are focused. It is primarily a close reading and analysis of the steering documents at national level as well as local level, that we will discuss in this contribution. Our interest is directed to questions about if and how the participants/migrants are understood as subjects, what characteristics, abilities and positions they are expected to adapt to and occupy. We will explore how the image of the migrant/citizen is (re)constructed, interpreted and negotiated within the discourses of the steering documents related to education. Research questions in this paper are: 1. What is a “good citizen” according to policy documents and educational materials for civic orientation? 2. How is it said to be achieved for newly arrived migrants to be a “good citizen” according to policy documents and educational materials? 3. How is “the good citizen” constructed in relation to place, nation, language, religion, ethnicity and gender in education policies and in pedagogic texts? Theoretical framework/methodology Our study makes use of narrative and discursive institutionalist approach (Andrews 2007, Schmidt, 2010) and uses critical frame analysis (Verloo, 2005, Verloo and Lombardo, 2007) to understand the policy goals of civic education in Sweden. The standardization and homogenization developed for civic orientation in the Swedish context can also be seen as a powerful state governance in line with Foucault's perspective on governmentality (Foucault 2000), which is useful for the analysis of policy documents and teaching materials. Even Bacchi’s social constructionist analytical framework (2008) can be used for reviewing political documents, where Bacchi argues that politics to the same extent construct social problems as it reveals or solves them. Narratives related to discursive themes turned out to be a useful comparative tool – especially as regards nationalism and self-image related to the intersection of gender and ethnicity (cf. Carlson & Kanci 2017). A narrative is about a relational, situational and contextual story and is of existential value to human beings – both individually and collectively (Yuval-Davis 2011). Expected outcomes/results The preliminary analysis shows how culturalized and ethnified discourses are discerned throughout the steering documents and educational materials; how the (re)constructions of the immigrant and the “Swede” are played out together with fostering attitudes. In particular, an ethnocentric and ideological discourse is linked to “Swedish” norms and values – both in policy documents and teaching materials like in the textbook “Om Sverige” (“About Sweden”, first edition 2010, City of Gothenburg, latest edition 2017). Perceptions of the traditional and culturally bound immigrants are strongly emphasised in dominant discourses and is thus an object that always is about to be changed. A perspective of fostering (cf. Carlson & Kanci 2017; Eriksson 2010) and ”Othering” (Osman 1999; Rosén & Bagga-Gupta 2013), as well as a strongly dominant gender equality discourse is disernable in the material, where gender positions occupy an idealized “Swedish” framing. Both women and men who have migrated to Sweden are almost automatically placed as more traditional and less equal than men and women born in Sweden (Knocke 2011; Magnusson et al. 2008; Yazdanpanah 2013). There seems to be reason to still discuss the three key concepts formulated in the 70's in the bill as regards the multicultural integration policy (prop. 1975:26): equality, freedom of choice, collaboration. The case of civic orientation for migrants in a Swedish context can be seen as both disciplinary and mobilizing (cf. Abdulla 2017; Eriksson 2010) – a critical and reflective perspective is lacking in the policy documents as well as in the the textbook “Om Sverige” (“About Sweden”) especially as regards the “social problem of integration”. The responsibility is laid over largely on the individual, who is expected to present him/herself in a enterpreunial spirit. Intent of publication EERJ, Education Inquiry References Abdulla, A. (2017) Readiness or resistance? Newly arrived adult migrants’ experiences, meaning making, and learning in Sweden. Linköping University. Andrews, M. (2007) Shaping History. Narratives of Political Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bacchi, C. L. (2008) Women, Policy and Politics – the construction of policy problems. London: Sage. Carlson, M. & Kanci, T. (2017) The nationalised and gendered citizen in a global world – examples from textbooks, policy and steering documents in Turkey and Sweden. Gender and Education 29(3):313-331. Eriksson, L. (2010) Swedish way of teaching citizenship to immigrants – popular adult education as a social pedagogical activity. In: Eriksson, L. & Winman, T. (eds.) (2010) Learning to fly: Social pedagogy in a contemporary society. Göteborg: Daidalos.
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 Magnusson, E., Rönnblom, M. & Silius, H. (eds) (2008) Critical studies of gender equalities: Nordic dislocations, dilemmas and contradictions. Göteborg: Makadam. Osman, A. (1999) The “Strangers” Among Us. The Social Construction of Identity in Adult Education. Linköping: Linköping University. Rosén, J. & Bagga-Gupta, S. (2013) Shifting identity positions in
the development of language education for immigrants: an analysis of discourses associated with “Swedish for immigrants”. Language, Culture and Curriculum 26(1): 66-88. Schmidt, V. (2010). Taking ideas and discourse seriously: Explaining change through discursive institutionalism as the fourth “new institutionalism.” European Political Science Review, 2, 1-25. Sonninen, M. (1999) The ’Swedish model’ as an institutional framework for immigrant membership rights. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 25:4, 685-702. Verloo, M. (2005). Mainstreaming Gender Equality in Europe. A Critical Frame Analysis Approach. The Greek Review of Social Research, 117: 11–34. Verloo, M. and Lombardo, M. (2007). Contested Gender Equality and Policy Variety in Europe: Introducing a Critical Frame Analysis Approach. In M. Verloo (ed.), Multiple Meanings of Gender Equality: a Critical Frame Analysis of Gender Policies in Europe (pp. 21-49). Budapest: CPS Books.
 Yazdanpanah, S. (2013) Invandrarkvinnors arbete i Sverige – behovet av en ny historieskrivning. In: Blomberg, E. & Niskanen, K. (eds) Arbete och Jämställdhet: förändringar under femtio år. Stockholm: SNS. Yuval-Davis, N. (2011) The Politics of Belonging. Intersectional Contestations. London: Sage.

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