Mimerbladet september 2021

Tips: Amerikansk avhandling om svensk folkbildning

Reviving Social Democratic Solidarity in Precarious Times: Community, Care, and the Politics of Well-being in Swedish Popular Adult Education.

Antropologen Carolyn Merritt åkte till Sverige för att under ett år delta i och observerat en folkhögskolekurs. Hennes avhandling från University of Californa, Reviving Social Democratic Solidarity in Precarious Times: Community, Care, and the Politics of Well-being in Swedish Popular Adult Education Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster., ger en utanpåblick av den svenska folkhögskolan. I senaste Mimerbladet Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster. skriver Staffan Larsson om avhandlingen:

Hennes tolkningar av relationen mellan folkhögskola och politik är intressanta, men mest bidrar hon med en mycket fyllig och tänkvärd analys av verksamhetens mänskliga vardagsdrama. Hennes perspektiv är "the anthropology of well-being", möjligen översatt till välbefinnandets antropologi: Om hur föreställningar om välbefinnande förverkligas och vilka konsekvenser det får.

Amid twin processes of large-scale refugee resettlement and rapidly growing far-right xenophobia, rhetoric of “democracy in crisis” has taken hold in Europe. Even in Sweden, which has long been held up as a moral bastion of solidarity and asylum, the extreme right anti-immigrant Sweden Democrat Party has surged in popularity and power. This reflects in part how, in an era that has ushered in Trump and other far-right nationalist leaders, far-right discourse has come to offer a mainstream vocabulary for articulating frustration with the damaging effects of ongoing neoliberal reforms; In Sweden, decades of such policies have increased socioeconomic divisions and weakened social protections, leading to widespread feelings of social isolation and vulnerability. This dissertation examines how the Swedish welfare state is responding to these interlinked forms of social fragmentation – increasing mental ill-health, waning civic engagement, a need for migrant and refugee inclusion, and the rise of the far-right – by investing in projects of social care at the country’s 150 “folk high schools” for adults. Drawing on 11 months of ethnographic fieldwork in a Swedish folk high school in 2016-18, I argue that these schools are using a local, social democratic framework of care and well-being as a tool to intervene in ongoing debates about who should be included in Sweden’s “imagined national welfare community.”

Swedish folk high schools provide an arena for attempting to (re)kindle collective solidarity and participation by bringing a range of marginalized and disaffected Swedes and newly arrived Syrian migrants together in community-based high-school completion courses. In folk high school classrooms, largely white, middle-aged teachers, who grew up at the height of postwar social democracy, negotiate social democratic “pedagogies of care” with their diverse young adult students, who have come of age in a very different historical present. The aim of these caring pedagogies, which emphasize face-to-face encounter across difference, is to get differently positioned students to recognize and care for one another, fostering experiences of well-being that are tied to emotional investments in a social democratic politics of universal inclusion. In spite or because of their cultural rootedness in a social democratic past, however, these projects of care and well-being do not always produce their intended consequences. Practices of care, while significant and needed, may not be a viable match for the larger structural forces driving rising political apathy and antipathy in the current global moment. Further, subtle dynamics that shape how care and wellness projects materialize in interaction may inadvertently reinscribe the very notion of racialized differentiation in imagined national belonging that they are meant to contest. In the tradition of psychological and medical anthropology, this research contributes to anthropological scholarship that casts care as a linchpin between intimate relations and larger socio-political structures, and extends this literature by illuminating the promise as well as the peril of using care as a political intervention in an era of advanced capitalism and accelerating polarization.