Swedish Antiracism and White Melancholia: Racial Words in a Post-racial Society

Tobias Hübinette


In recent years, a number of heated public debates have taken place in Sweden concerning the on-going use of racially and colonially marked words and expressions in everyday life and public discourse. As Swedish society views itself as, ostensibly, an antiracist and post-racial society, these debates raise uncomfortable questions regarding Swedish antiracism. This article looks at three examples of how the use of colonial and racial words and expressions is defended by predominantly white Swedes in the name of a Swedish antiracist exceptionalism which says that Sweden is a non-racist society, and which therefore means that words such as ‘Oriental’ and ‘Negro’ cannot be denigrating in a contemporary Swedish setting. The article argues that the general inability of institutions, media, academia, individuals and public discourse to take in and accommodate the histories and perspectives of minorities which are inscribed in such words is an expression of a white melancholia which harkens back to an imagined and idealised racially homogenous Sweden, when it was purportedly easier both to be a racist and an antiracist.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7227/ERCW.4.1.2


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