Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Alison Cool

Second Advisor

Carla Jones

Third Advisor

Benjamin R. Teitelbaum


This thesis is an ethnographic study that examines contemporary discourses of cultural and national identity in Sweden. Fieldwork for this study consisted of interviews with fourteen Swedish individuals and participant observation in several locations in Sweden. Relying on insights from scholarship concerning the ethnographic study of Sweden, the study of the Nordic social welfare states, and studies of race, nationalism, and cultural identity, this thesis describes the historical, political, and social factors that influence how Swedish people form perceptions of cultural and national identity. Taking inspiration from Allan Pred’s theory of “the unspeakable”, this thesis develops a theoretical framework based on three sociolinguistic registers: the spoken, the unspoken, and the unspeakable. Using this framework, as well as theories on nostalgia, Benedict Anderson’s theory of imagined communities, and Pierre Bourdieu’s theories of distinction and taste, this thesis analyses situations and concepts that articulate common Swedish themes of belonging, inclusion, and exclusion. The conclusions of this study offer insights into the contemporary discourses surrounding who is a Swede, and what it means to be recognized and accepted as a Swede in Swedish society.