Ulrika Wernesjö

Doktorsavhandling
Uppsala universitet, Sociologiska institutionen

Abstract på engelska

This thesis explores negotiations of belonging among unaccompanied young refugees in Sweden. The thesis further aims to shed light on methodological aspects of bringing out their voices. The analysis draws on postcolonial and poststructuralist approaches to belonging and relates belonging to the concepts of home, place, racialization and notions of “Swedishness”.

The thesis analyses qualitative interviews with 17 young people, who arrived in Sweden as unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors and have been granted permanent residency. The interviews are complemented with walk-alongs and photography-based interviews.

Paper 1 gives an overview and discussion of research on unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors. I argue that there is a lack of their voices in the research, and that their own agency and perspectives are not addressed due to a focus on vulnerability and emotional health (or lack thereof).

Paper II, which is delimited to participants in a rural village, shows that they negotiate belonging and a sense of home related to places but that othering is constraining. In paper and I suggest that the participants’ belongings and position in Sweden can be understood as conditional due to othering and racialization. In paper III, I argue that expressing gratitude can be understood as a form of impression management and, thus be a strategy to negotiate their position in the interview setting as in the host country.

I finally argue that in order to understand the participants’ negotiations of belonging attention has to be paid to their agency as well as the conditioning of belonging in discourses and in interactions on the local level.