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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2001, Vol. 4 No. 1 .

Even in Sweden: Racisms, Racialized Spaces, and the Popular Geographical Imagination
Allan Pred

Berkeley and London: The University of California Press, 2000
338 pp. Biblio. Index. Pb.: $18.95, 11.95; ISBN 0-520-22449-3.

Dealing with the phenomenon of 'cultural racism', Allan Pred challenges the image of Sweden as a society of tolerance, social equality and solidarity when dealing with Muslim or non-European immigrants. By drawing on a broad pallet of sources he creates a mosaic of voices, including his own, that serve to expose underlying structures and mechanism of Swedish racisms. To paste together this montage the author uses examples from media, political discourse and social interaction, showing how overt racism is used as a scapegoat in order for Swedish society to avoid facing its deeper cultural racism. Pred concludes that past and present policies dealing with integration of immigrants into Swedish society need to address the deeply embedded structures of cultural racism in order not to repeat past failures.

As I myself am of Swedish non-immigrant origin this book has not been easy to review, especially since the text in many parts is designed to provoke new thinking by questioning basic social 'truths'.

The montage structure presents the reader with a multitude of discourses with the goal of making the reader a part of the overall discourse on cultural racism. The transgressions of boundaries: conceptual, academic, linguistic etc., serves to create metonymical links between the text and its subject. But even though this is a very interesting approach, the text itself often overpowers the discourse(s) blurring the boundary between the academic and the polemic. Conversely it can sometimes feel like the author is quite absent from the text, leaving the discourse to the collage and the reader. The result is a tension between expression and conclusion which could be traced to an inherent limitation to post-modern discourses.

With this kind of transgressionary approach comes a certain degree of denial of the humanity of classification and juxtapositioning as processes of identification. Calling for the reframing or restructuring of all social discourses, central power relations, state bureaucracy, economic redistribution, popular history and the habits of the mind (pp. 283f) balances on the border between an active civil society and public paranoia. If we are to eliminate existing boundaries, where are the new lines to be drawn and on what basis? How are 'bad' classifications to be isolated from 'good' ones? In which situations should difference be highlighted/ignored/explained? In short, were do we draw the boundary between (cultural) racism as a social problem and/or as a human problem?

In conclusion it can be said that, while this book may be inappropriate for those seeking answers, it is certainly a goldmine for those who seek questions on the subject of racisms in liberal democracies.

Christer Grenabo

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