From a place without speech : negotiations of othering among unaccompanied female minors in Sweden

Sammanfattning: The study presented in this thesis focuses on unaccompanied female minors and their experiences as newly arrived migrants in Sweden. As a group, unaccompanied female minors have until recently been rather invisible in both academic research and media. However, according to previous research on migration and integration, they risk being constructed as ‘others’ both due to their status as unaccompanied minors, being female and in relation to general perceptions of what it means to be Swedish.This study is based on qualitative interviews with 11 girls, 13 to 18 years old, who arrived in Sweden as unaccompanied minors in the period between 2014 and 2017. The interviews were conducted in two phases, with nine months to one year between the first and second phases. Whereas the focus in the first phase was on getting to know the participants, the second phase provided an opportunity to delve deeper into discussions on recurring themes from the first phase. The interviews were transcribed using a denaturalised approach and thematically analysed through an abductive process.The thesis explores the girls’ narratives of everyday experiences and interprets them through a theoretical framework of othering. Without losing sight of the social structures that situates the girls’ experiences, othering is approached as a reciprocal, three-dimensional relationship, focusing on knowledge, values and conduct towards the other.The findings indicate that the girls participating in this study were often seen through the normative perception of an already othered context, and as a consequence, their own voices and agency were disregarded. They were, metaphorically, put in places without speech. However, by engaging a critical perspective on their everyday interactions, the girls were also able to recognise and resist othering by keeping true to their own experiences. The thesis concludes that by exploring the margins between their comfort zones and new contexts the girls engage in an epistemic merging of different horizons, which can be understood as a slow but insistent process of moving out from the place without speech.