Multilingualism Research Forum/Flerspråklighetsforum: Handling the Other in anti-racist talk: Narratives on ’immigrant students’ in a prestigious Swedish secondary school

Rickard Jonsson (Professor, Stockholm University) will discuss anti-racist ways of constructing the ethnic and racial Other in talk.

Please note this is a closed event for MultiLing and ILN members only.

Rickard Jonsson wearing a gray long sleeve shirt

Rickard Jonsson


In Swedish public media debates, commentators often present a master narrative of Sweden as a country without racism. With the exception of a few right-wing extremists and a populist party, this anti-racist discourse portrays Sweden as generally being a welcoming society without structural discrimination or prejudice. However, as Teun van Dijk (1992) reminded us already three decades ago, the denial of racism can be closely connected to the racism that is said to be rejected. This double discourse, which simultaneously denies and produces racism, departs from an often taken for granted dichotomy of tolerant versus intolerant positions. This paper argues that such dichotomy needs to be critically explored. In order to do so, I shall investigate the example of anti-racist stories told by students in a Swedish school context. Drawing on linguistic ethnographic data from a high prestigious secondary school in Stockholm, the paper examines how accounts of school problems and disruptive students seem to evoke the category of the ‘immigrant student’ –  a category that in turn is associated with a wide range of other problems, such as ‘bad behaviour’ or ‘deviant linguistic practices’. The paper discusses how students rhetorically manage the dilemma to tell these stories with help from a so called political correct vocabulary and without sounding disparaging or in any other ways excluding. Put differently, this paper is an investigation of anti-racist ways of constructing the ethnic and racial Other in talk.


Rickard Jonsson is a professor in Child and Youth studies, at Stockholm University. His research concerns masculinity, sexuality, ethnicity and youths language use. Using a linguistic ethnographic approach, together with Narrative and Discourse analysis of talk in interaction,  he investigates the construction of young masculinities in everyday school life. Other areas of interest are the construction of Swedishness, whiteness and anti-racism in mundane talk, narratives of boys’ failure and underachievement in school, and, more recently, the study of humor and laughter as a lens to investigate power and social order in media and youth institutions.


Published Apr. 25, 2022 3:13 PM - Last modified Apr. 25, 2022 3:13 PM