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100% Swedish: Working for recognition through Hip-Hop from the suburbs of Stockholm
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2024 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation examines the role of hip-hop in shaping identity, immigrant integration, and social belonging in the Swedish context. It discusses how Swedish hip-hop artists with immigrant backgrounds and from segregated suburbs use their art to translate personal narratives, communicate social realities, and imagine alternative conceptions of Swedishness. The research draws upon Civil Sphere Theory (Alexander, 2006) and Recognition Theory (Lamont, 2018, 2023), which focus on symbolic boundaries that are in play in the conception of who “we” are as a society and associated processes of inclusion, belonging, and recognition. The study investigates how hip-hop assists immigrant-Swedish artists to articulate their experiences, construct identities, and navigate processes of integration and instances of exclusion. By describing the impact of the work of hip-hop artists and other key actors in the hip-hop scene, the dissertation considers the implications of hip-hop for immigrant incorporation, social recognition, and belonging within Swedish society. 

The analysis is based on qualitative data, including interviews with immigrant-Swedish hip-hop artists and other stakeholders of the hip-hop scene related to the suburbs of Stockholm, observations of significant places and performances in the Stockholm hip-hop scene, analysis of lyrics, and interpretation of secondary sources like media coverage. Through the analysis of this data, the dissertation uncovers how hip-hop artists challenge territorial stigmatization, work against racialization and discrimination, and strive for a greater appreciation for cultural hybridity and the multicultural reality of Sweden. 

The findings provide a nuanced portrait of hip-hop as a site of both empowerment and struggle for immigrant-Swedish individuals and communities. While hip-hop offers a platform for artistic expression, economic advancement, and agency, it also confronts tensions between commercial success and social marginalization that can reinforce stigmatizing stereotypes and social exclusion or support recognition and integration. As hip-hop becomes more mainstream, artists appear on public TV shows, perform on national stages, and enter the finer rooms of the cultural landscape. Hip-hop from the suburbs has become more present and widespread. However, it continues to be seen as produced in symbolically excluded spaces by immigrant-others. A substantial factor in this is the disproportionate attention to gangster-rap, which emphasizes criminality and exclusion, undermining other hip-hop artists that try to convey messages that facilitate belonging and recognition. 

The dissertation clarifies symbolic boundaries between the construction of a dominant and conventional 'lagom' Sweden and an immigrant-Swedish multicultural suburban 'orten' Sweden, and argues that artists often work towards new forms of belonging and recognition, potentially redefining these symbolic boundaries and contributing to immigrant incorporation on a larger scale. But this depends significantly on the artists’ ability to balance a mastery of knowing how to approach the wider audience through hip-hop and change-making in sharing messages to discuss redefining symbolic boundaries in favor of a more inclusive society. It can be concluded that Swedish hip-hop does not only work on an individual level for creating alternative forms of identities and routes to belonging but also adds to a social critique of how symbolic boundaries are drawn and can work towards imagining a multicultural and inclusive Sweden that is both 'lagom' and 'orten,' thus 100% Swedish. 

Ultimately, this dissertation contributes to research on immigrant incorporation, belonging, and recognition through the arts and music – specifically popular culture – and demonstrates the value of hip-hop for research on immigrant inclusion and belonging. This dissertation underscores the transformative potential of hip-hop as a catalyst for broader societal change, reshaping conceptions of Swedish identity and challenging existing boundaries of belonging. By identifying translation, communication, and imagination as the key actions of hip-hop artists and other cultural agents, the study contributes to theoretical advancements bridging Civil Sphere Theory with Recognition Theory. Contributing to the sociology of immigrant incorporation by clarifying the interplay between symbolic boundaries and music, the research offers new insights into how immigrant-Swedish artists and their communities navigate processes of integration and belonging.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Sociology, Stockholm University , 2024. , p. 285
Series
Stockholm studies in sociology, ISSN 0491-0885 ; 85
Keywords [en]
hip-hop, Sweden, belonging, recognition, immigrant incorporation, identity, symbolic boundaries, popular culture, multiculturalism
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-227937ISBN: 978-91-8014-807-8 (print)ISBN: 978-91-8014-808-5 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-227937DiVA, id: diva2:1853882
Public defence
2024-06-12, hörsal 3, södra huset B, Universitetsvägen 10 B, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2024-05-20 Created: 2024-04-23 Last updated: 2024-05-07Bibliographically approved

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Joosten, Sjors

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