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Free Content What is a blatte? Migration and ethnic identity in contemporary Sweden

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Contemporary Sweden is experiencing an interesting sociocultural phenomenon of redefinition of national identity as a result of the rise of awareness of the everyday reality of discrimination and segregation of first- and second-generation immigrants from the Middle East, North Africa and Africa.

My article examines the formation and manifestations of a new kind of collective consciousness of immigrants living in Sweden called blatte identity, defined by ethnic markers constructed by opposition to the nationalistic ideals of an ethnically pure Swedish identity. More specifically, my article examines the construction and affirmation of a special kind of blatte. identity, called a thought sultan (tankesultan). Briefly, a tankesuktan is a Swede of Arabic descent, proud of his Muslim background, and actively engaging in resisting the assimilative forces within Swedish society. The concept was coined by the author Jonas Hassen Khemiri in his debut novel entitled An Eye Red (Ett ga Rtt) published in 2003. My argument discusses the trajectory of the concept from the artistic and literary realm into public discourse through the help of mass media, as well as the relation to other terms in the official and public discourse, such as immigrant, black skull (svartskalle), or ethnic Swede (svenne). From being an individual marker of ethnic belonging to the community of Arabic-speaking, Muslim immigrants to Sweden, a thought sultan (tankesultan) is used as a common denominator for some of the members of the immigrant community living in Sweden who like to consider their marginal social status and their everyday life marked by ethnic and religious discrimination. An instance of such use can be found in the magazine Gringo that is distributed for free in Sweden's large urban areas, which made use of this concept as a categorizational tool of ethnic otherness for blattar, or immigrants, alongside other stereotyping concepts and images circulating in the public discourse of contemporary Sweden.

Keywords: Arab world; Islam; Sweden; blatte; cultural expression; diaspora; ethnic identity; literature; mass media; migration

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Publication date: December 21, 2007

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