Accepted Paper:

Not yet ethnic: Bosnian frontier families in Sweden  
Helene Brembeck (University of Gothenburg)

Paper short abstract:

This paper addresses Bosnian refugee families in Sweden. It focuses on women, and food and shopping, cooking and dining as a means of keeping the family together, negotiating old and new, and gradually becoming part of Swedish society. Ethnicity emerges as a potential difference later on.

Paper long abstract:

Not yet ethnic. Bosnian frontier families in Sweden

Ass. prof. Helene Brembeck

Center for Consumer Science (CFK), Göteborg university, Sweden

The data for this presentation is gathered from a Swedish study of values and behaviour in relation to food among consumers 55+. Three groups have been followed during 6 months. The respondents have been interviewed individually and in groups, they have been asked to fill in food dairies, to take snapshots of their cupboards, dinner tables, favourite grocery stores etc. A life course approach has been used focusing memories of yesterday, activities today and dreams for the future. One of these groups consisted of 24 households (represented by the woman) from former Yugoslavia, most of them Bosnian Muslims from the Banja Luka area. In analysing the results, the group of researchers felt uneasy with concepts like "diasporic space" and "transnational processes", that only seemed to capture part the families' stories. The emphasis on boundaries and space blurred aspects of agency and everyday practise, that seemed central to understanding the mobility, future orientations and dynamics of everyday life, found in the study. Instead we applied the term "frontiering families" introduced by Bryceson & Vuorela (2002), defining frontiering as agency at the interface between two (or more) contrasting ways of life. The image that comes to mind is of European migrants at the Western frontier in America one century ago. The same way they were searching for prosperity and democratic freedom, the Bosnian families in our study are forging new cultural, economic and social frontiers to benefit their families. They do not look upon themselves as "ethnic", but as individuals trying to survive in a new surrounding. What emerges is a picture of families trying their best to handle their lives, sometimes optimistic and empowered, sometimes reluctant and disappointed. Ethnicity only emerges as potential difference (Hall 1996/1989:446) later on, a potential identity that might be constructed and developed in the future depending on circumstances and the willingness of the Swedish society to embrace the newcomers.

Panel W094
Migration and cultural change in Europe