The True Finns: the Suppressed Finnish Masculinity and the Finnish Majority under Siege? (Re)Defining Racism?
The last elections in Finland witnessed the growing importance of the True Finns Party (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna) on the national political arena. The PS‘s electoral success also evidenced the increasingly Manichean distinction operated in the public discourse with regard to the native Finnish-speaking Finns, on the one hand, that represent the majority of the population, and the people of an immigrant or perceived foreign background (a category flexible enough to include when needed both Swedish-speaking Finns, and people that immigrated to Finland freely or people searching for asylum to Finland), on the other. This comes to illustrate that the PS is gradually leaving its former Christian conservative-agrarian origins behind, and converges with other parties in the overall Radical Right Populist (RRP) ideological specter.
The ‘Apostle of Genuineness’
In this context, the newly elected PS representative Teuvo Hakkarainen did not fail to deliver, and in an interview to the local newspaper Jämsän Seutu raised again the issues of immigration from ‘the African horn’, lack of willingness to work on behalf of the newcomers, and summed up with a succinct evaluation of the real reasons for their coming to Finland as being a plan to enforce ‘Islamic laws’ (in Finnish, tässä). Indeed, he expressed his concern with the present level of immigration in Finland, expressing a need to curb it. He continued noting that those ‘neekeriukkoja‘ (male ‘niggers’) instead of doing nothing in the streets of the capital Helsinki/ Helsingfors would be more useful to the Finnish society if they would come to work in the forestry in Jämsä. He then expressed his doubts that the refugees are really running for their life when applying for asylum, and suspected them of simply choosing an easy life of living on the Finnish welfare. He then substantiated his reasoning with a remark that during his work for his company in ‘Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador’, he noted that those ‘eurooppalaista alkuperää‘ (of an ‘European origin’) appeared to ‘work harder’. The interview concluded with his comment that the Finnish capital city risks to become a place deserted by native Finns because of the pressure from the above-mentioned men of color who are coming from ‘the African horn’ trying to enforce their ‘Islamic laws’ on the Finnish citizens. To sum it up succinctly, according to Teuvo Hakkarainen, white men work harder than the men of color who only come to Finland as refugees in search of welfare benefits, and who plan to enforce the ‘Islamic laws’ in the country sooner or later.
Nothing seemed to disturb Teuvo Hakkarainen‘s certainties. The men of color were to be held responsible for not working, for not integrating and only exploiting the generous Finnish welfare system. He was the sage Finnish man, an entrepreneur from the Finnish countryside that does not mince his words, not even once elected into the Eduskunta/ Riksdag. In other words, he was prepared to be an ‘apostle of genuineness’ as some of the medias aptly noted (in Swedish, här). Interestingly, the gender aspect did not raise any attention in the overall discussion that followed. However, from a gender-informed perspective, it appears that the sort of Finnish masculinity that the PS is embodying (mediated by its MPs) is depicted in a temporarily suppressed position, having to bravely defend the ‘rightful’ way of life and ‘European supremacy’ and vigorously oppose the undeserved rewarding of a competing masculinity – read of color and of Islamic faith. More clearly, Teuvo Hakkarainen can be considered to represent the apostle of a battled Finnish nation. In other words a majority under the siege of the barely over 3% of the population that the immigrant population in Finland represents. Needless to say, the aforesaid 3% is made out of both women and men, of as diverse ethnic backgrounds as Estonians, Russians, Somalis and Iraqis – to name just a few-, and representing a group that is systematically discriminated against in all aspects of their daily lives, excluded from the Finnish national community, but constantly criticized for not doing enough to become Finnish (on this process of belonging, see the excellent work authored by Camilla Haavisto from which a brief abstract in Finnish/ English here).
As a result of the media attention, Teuvo Hakkarainen was eventually reprimanded by the PS leader Timo Soini, for what even Helsingin Sanomat worded as ‘racially insensitive remarks‘ (in English, here). In general a reprimand is what a Finnish MP gets when voting against the party line, and nothing more. This cannot be met with a shrugging off the shoulders, as it has far deeper implications for the whole climate of the public debate in Finland. If constantly and persistently talking in the medias about people of color as ‘niggers’, and depicting them solely as a burden for the Finnish society, how will such an attitude encourage an ‘open and honest‘ debate – Helsingin Sanomat has underlined indeed the importance of such a debate at least since the 2008 Finnish local elections that witnessed the rise to prominence of such PS members as Jussi Halla-Aho and his anti-immigration discourse? How rational and balanced will be the assessment of the impact of immigration onto the overall Finnish society? There was also the strong anti-Islam aspect in Teuvo Hakkarainen‘s interview, that one perhaps should also take in consideration, as it represents a bookcase example of what academics call ‘cultural racism‘ – which posits the superiority of a certain race or ethnic group over another, not in obviously racist terms, but disguised under the pretense of cultural incompatibility in the sense of manifest cultural ‘backwardness’ or ‘barbarity’ of the allegedly inferior group – like the hard-working Europeans as opposed to the locals in the Latin American case, or the local Finns in Jämsä as opposed to the men of color from the capital from the interview above. In this context, if labeling people as ‘niggers’ and alleging that they did not really sought refuge to Finland because their life was in danger, but because they planed to enforce their ‘Islamic laws’ in Finland is not enough to be defined as racist, then perhaps the Helsingin Sanomat and the rest of the Finnish media will soon start another ‘open and honest‘ debate about what racism really means these days in Finland? If Teuvo Hakkarainen, who is the elected Finnish MP on behalf of the PS, has earlier excused his ‘racially insensitive remarks‘ by blaming them on his rural background, what sort of background then immigrants to Finland would need to have so that to be taken seriously when they discuss about the racism manifest in the Finnish society? Will gendered racism be taken seriously and will its impact on the public climate be addressed in a comprehensive manner? Will the structural disparities – in terms of unequal treatment, access to resources, and protection by the state – that the population that does not represent the Finnish majority be addressed?
When Racism Is No Longer What It Was Before
Somewhat surprisingly, just recently and concomitant with the debate around Teuvo Hakkarainen‘s interview, the PS has put forward in the Eduskunta/ Riksdag a declaration authored by Jussi Halla-Aho condemning racism, discrimination and the violence they give rise to, regardless if such acts are directed against a member of the minority or the majority (in Finnish, tässä). The PS appealed to the other parties to subscribe to it. However, the other parliamentary parties did not rush to sign the declaration and pointed out that in 2009 a similar declaration against racism, authored by Stefan Wallin from the Swedish People’s Party (SFP/ Svenska folkpartiet i Finland/ Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue/ RKP) , was rejected by the PS chairman Timo Soini under the pretext that it was a way to interfere in the selection process of candidates that the party was undergoing at that time. They also criticized the new declaration’s vagueness, and mentioned Teuvo Hakarrainen‘s interview as an excellent missed opportunity to put the aforesaid declaration to work (in Swedish, här). At a closer look, the declaration takes issue, among other things, with what it calls the unfair special treatment given to immigrant groups or to the Swedish-speaking Finns. The examples given by the PS are the study places allocated to Swedish-speaking Finns at the University of Helsinki/ Helsingin yliopisto/ Helsingfors universitet – which is one of the few still bilingual institutions of higher education in Finland – or the measures to stimulate the employment of people of an immigrant background (in Swedish, här; in English, here). This is a peculiar turn, to say the least, which labels the majority as a ‘possible’ victim of discrimination or racially motivated attacks, and leaves a lot of room for interpretation of what racism and discrimination are. It also raises a lot of questions with regard to what the definitions of racism and discrimination and fair treatment need to take into account. In the document authored by Jussi Halla-Aho, the possibility that the majority will make use of its position of dominance vanishes, and the Finnish-speaking Finns are depicted in a position of ‘defenselessness’ in the face of abuse of power similar to that of the non-natives or the Swedish-speaking Finns. Though, in such a context is rather difficult to rationally explain how a majority could possibly be subject to such a situation.
In this light, one can wonder if not a Finnish-speaking Finn will feel discriminated against, if not outright racially discriminated, when hearing by accident some Swedish-speaking Finns having a conversation in Swedish in a public means of transport? Perhaps such situation will justify, if not require, the violent reaction of the Finnish-speaking Finn against such an obvious act of exclusion? But even more illustrative, if for instance a native Finn experiences racial discrimination in a commuter train at the sight of a school girl of Somali descent that not only is not Finnish and ‘white’, but also wears a headscarf – read she is of color and of Islamic faith- is then acceptable for the native Finn to throw her off the train? In other words, is the Finnish masculinity representing a majority under siege? Does democracy need to be redefined to simply mean the dictatorship of the majority? Even more so, can a party like the PS that received 19.1% of the Finnish votes in the last elections claim to represent the whole population of Finland?
UPDATE: Workshop at the XLIII FPSA (20-21.01.2011, University of Jyväskylä/ Jyväskylän yliopisto Finland)
The Workshop “Moulding Identity, Trust and Commitment in the Nordic Countries: Balancing between Assimilation and Accommodation in the (Post)Multicultural World?” organized with the occasion of the XLIII Politiikan tutkimuksen päivät/ XLIII Annual Meeting of Finnish Political Science Association (FPSA, conference web-page in Finnish, tässä; English, here) will be taking place at the University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä Finland on 20.01.2011 between 14:30 and 18:00. The workshop is allocated room AgB201. The room is in the second floor of the Agora building in Mattilanniemi (here).
The following papers are scheduled to be presented within the workshop (the language of the workshop panel will be English):
1. Borders of the Finnish Nation: ‘Gang Rapes’ in the Rhetoric of Anti-Immigration Activists and Politicians
Suvi Keskinen (Department of Social Research/Sociology, University of Turku) (details, in Finnish, tässä; in English, here)
In recent years a European trend, that has been called the ‘backlash against difference’ (Grillo 2007) or the ‘multiculturalism backlash’ (Vertovec & Wessendorf 2010), has gained foothold in Finland too. While multiculturalism was previously considered a positive goal and future vision, it has more recently been subjected to critique and claims of ‘having gone too far’. One sign of this ‘backlash’ is the rise of neo-nationalist and anti-immigration forces in municipal and national elections. In Finland neo-nationalist and anti-immigration rhetoric is used especially by politicians in the True Finns party and by activists on the internet. However, such rhetoric has spread itself through the political field and been adopted by representatives of several political parties.
Issues related to gender and sexuality prominently appear in neo-nationalist and anti-immigration rhetoric. References to forced marriages, honour-killings and sexual violence are frequently used to construct dichotomous divisions between ‘us’ and ‘them’. In this presentation I will analyze how the events called the ‘gang rapes in Oulu’ in 2006-2007 were used by anti-immigration activists on the internet and by the politician Jussi Halla-aho to promote neo-nationalist and anti-immigration agendas. Although (or maybe because) the perpetrators of the rapes were never identified, the events were used to construct an overwhelming threat of the ‘other’ man towards both local communities (such as Oulu) and national safety. The boundaries of the Finnish nation were evoked through a threat from the outside, caused by growing numbers of asylum seekers and refugees from non-Western countries, as well as a threat from the inside, embodied by migrant people who were residents of the country but not regarded as belonging to the nation. The border-policing rhetoric was based on a racialization of criminality – a process in which criminal acts were stereotyped and turned into characteristics of certain ethnically or racially defined groups.
Furthermore, the presentation analyzes the blog text of the politician Jussi Halla-aho in which he comments on the ‘gang rapes’. It will be shown how, in his text, the discussion about the threat of the ‘other’ man turns into a discussion about the hindrances that white femininities create for the performance of patriotic masculinity. The gendered and classed figure of the ‘lady in a flowery hat’ (kukkahattutäti) is analyzed as the metaphor for the educated women in the Finnish society who speak for multiculturalism and work with integration or immigration affairs. The rhetoric will be analyzed in relation to how oppositions are constructed in present-day Finnish politics based on distinctions of gender, class and ‘race’/ethnicity.
Keywords: multiculturalism, neo-nationalism, racism, sexual violence, radical right populist parties, criminality
2. Regulation and encouragement of participation by ethnic minorities in Finland and Denmark
Marjukka Weide (Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki) (details in English, here)
Resident foreigners in Finland and Denmark enjoy relatively extensive political rights. The level of political participation by resident foreigners and naturalized immigrants, however, remains low. A question arises as to how the two states are addressing this situation. Societal participation and related areas, such as naturalization, are at least in part governed by different bodies than those responsible for general immigrant affairs. This is why the answer cannot be provided by examining only one branch of government, as many immigrant policy studies do.
My aim in this paper is to identify the various policy locations in the two countries, which contribute to regulating participation by people with migratory backgrounds. On the basis of an extensive institutional mapping, I locate four policies of relevance in the sphere of traditional “immigrant policy”: 1) naturalization policy, 2) state “integration policy”, including language/integration courses, 3) municipal “integration” and minority policy, including advisory boards/integration councils 4) state institutions for minority representation. Furthermore, I find three other policy areas to be in a significant position: 1) electoral policies, 2) state policy of civic participation, and 3) municipal participation policy.
Regulation of immigrant participation can be of restricting character, as in the case of access to nationality, or of “proactive” character, i.e. spurring certain types of activity, as in the case of support to associations or organising elections to integration councils. In Denmark, political citizenship of new ethnic minorities is mainly addressed under the heading of integration policies; in Finland the policy area of “democracy policy” is of increasing importance. While the state level is decisive in the forming of the overall policy framework in both countries, municipal solutions, for example, determine the position of integration councils or multicultural boards.
Keywords: Denmark, Finland, immigrant policy, integration policy, minority representation
3. The Nation (Re)Imagined
Peter Holley (Department of Social Research (Sociology) / CEREN, The Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism, University of Helsinki) (details in English, here)
In recent decades there has emerged a significant debate within Western societies as to the nature of ‘the nation-state’ and the place of the migrant ‘other’ within its borders (cf. Benhabib 2002; Fortier 2008; Goldberg 1994; Modood 2005; Parekh 2006). In fact, in the Finnish context, a comparatively recent opening up of national borders followed by a modest flow of immigration (particularly to towns and cities in the capitol region) implies that a sharp change from a once perceived homogenous culture to a new understanding of a Finnish heterogeneity is now taking place. Such transforms therefore result in a new Finnish multiculturalism in which the migrant ‘other’ seeks to negotiate her belongings and identifications. How then, we might ask, do such migrants make sense of their position(s) within their ‘host’ society? And how do they articulate a space in which they too might be included within the ‘national family’? Moreover, to what extent is a fundamental change in Finland’s national identity currently taking place due to the impact of migration?
Keywords: Finnish identity, (political) belonging, transnational migration, multiculturalism and citizenship.
4. ‘Chauvinism’, ‘Xenophobia’ and ‘Flowered Hats’
Niko Pyrhönen (CEREN, The Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism, University of Helsinki) (details in English, here)
The municipal elections of 2008 marked the inception of the steep rise in the support for the True Finns party and their political agenda – in polls and in public debates the sentiments towards immigration and multiculturalism have become more hostile. However, significant challenges remain in attempts to explain the growth of anti-immigration and anti-multiculturalist (AIAM) voices in the public debate. In the recent scientific work their proliferation has commonly been attributed to relatively abstract developments, such as “work-related precariousness”, “the challenging of traditional ideas on national unity” or “ethnocentric in-group bias”. While these meta-narratives remain coherent, they also leave a crucial aspect of the phenomenon unexplored if they are not linked to actual articulations of AIAM sentiments that narratives seek to explain.
My work in progress seeks to help in filling this empirical gap by looking at the articulations of AIAM sentiments within the most commented news threads on the discussion boards of Helsingin sanomat during the years 2008–2010. My initial findings suggest that AIAM sentiments are not most commonly articulated with reference to concepts of identity and belonging such as “the national unity” or “the Finnish way of life.” Rather, these articulations appear to be outnumbered by references to redistributive issues whose implications go to the core of welfare ideology and its institutional manifestation in welfare state politics. This would suggest that the existing narratives behind the growth of AIAM sentiments need to be complemented with reference to the proliferation of an instrumental discourse whose AIAM underpinnings are regarded as rising from the redistributive demands of the welfare system.
Keywords: immigration, xenophobia, ethnocentrism, welfare policy, public debate.
5. Nationalisms and Europeanness in media discourses on Islam
Karin Creutz-Kämppi (CEREN, The Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism, University of Helsinki) (details in English, here)
The global aspects of media stories bring with them changes in spatial consciousness. This
means not only a greater involvement in events in other parts of the world, but also a
reassessment of one’s own position in the enlarged society. When the individual’s subjective world of knowledge is widened from the immediate surroundings to a global perspective, the self-categorization needs to be redefined to obtain relevance in the new context. In this paper, I examine the concepts that within the discursive othering of Islam
represent the notion of a We-collective. Through discursive polarization the boundaries for collectivity are clarified; these boundaries consist of typifications and routinized perceptions. As collectivity on a global level is distant to the everyday-life of the individual, without attachment to daily practices, it is from a sociological viewpoint interesting to look at how these conceptions of belonging are rhetorically constructed and legitimized as positions for identification. This assessment simultaneously shows articulations of the discursive power of specific institutionalized knowledge forms.
Nationalism is a central ideological aspect of boundary making – the nation, however, has a less important role as factor for identification in connection to global discourses on Islam. Instead the notions of Europe and the West function as the entities where the “own” and “right” values and traditions prevail. By excluding specific values, norms and cultural attributes from these concepts, denominators for collective identifications are constructed. Media rhetoric is a central element in the societal knowledge production; an inquiry in how the notions of collective identification are rhetorically mediated provides insight in the premises and knowledge structures of these positions. The analyzed data in this case study consists of all opinion articles debating the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad from seven Swedish-language dailies in Finland from a six months period in 2006.
Keywords: Othering, Islam representations, nationalisms, Europeanization, sociology of knowledge, media rhetoric
6. The Rhetorical (Re)Constructions of the Swedish Folkhem: A Feminist Reading of Conceptual Metaphors
Ov Cristian Norocel (Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki/ Department of Political Science, Stockholm University) (details in English, here)
Acknowledging that the construction of radical right populism around the metaphorical depiction of the national family at the beginning of twenty-first century is a little researched area, this article explores the discursive redefinitions of Swedishness enabled by the folkhem conceptual metaphor so that to accommodate centrally located heterosexist masculinities at the intersection of gender, class, and “race”, as it is heralded by the main Swedish radical right populist party, the Sweden Democrats (SD) and its leader Jimmie Åkesson.
In order to do so, the main tenets of the conceptual metaphor theory are discussed and criticisms to the present methodologies are presented leading to the suggestion of a new, genealogical approach. The research material is then analyzed with the help of the proposed method, evidencing Åkesson’s use of the national family metaphor over time. The concluding part provides with an overview of the findings and indicates possible extrapolations for studying masculinities in radical right populist discourses with the aid of the suggested methodological apparatus developing conceptual metaphor theory.
Keywords: conceptual metaphor theory, feminism, genealogy, heteronormativity, Jimmie Åkesson, Sweden Democrats
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