I den moraliska periferin : Ungdomskultur, värden och politisk subjektivitet i rurala rumsligheter

Sammanfattning: This dissertation is centered on the everyday spatial practices, identity work and political subjectivities of Swedish rural youth. It explores and challenges widespread notions of rural backwardness and moral inferiority by studying youth’s navigations and negotiations on a classed, gendered, spatialized and economically produced moral field. The material that the study builds on was produced during a ten month long ethnographic fieldwork with 14-16-year-old youth in their small community in western Sweden. The main method for data collection was participant observations in the local school and in two confirmation groups organized by the Swedish church in the community. In addition, I conducted approximately 70 qualitative interviews with youth and a few adults with insight in the youth’s lives.In the study, a point of departure is the state of ‘depolitization’ that political theorist Wendy Brown (2006a) has argued characterizes contemporary Western societies. Depolitization entails a displacing of a societal phenomenon or conflict from its political origins, and a placing of the solutions to these problems on individuals. This tendency is visible both in the reoccurring Othering of the rural as responsible for increased right wing populism in Sweden, and in the way in which the Swedish state deals with this issue by implementing educational projects directed at raising knowledge and tolerance in (individualized) youth. Making use of neomarxist perspectives on the production of space (Lefebvre, 1974/1991; Harvey, 2009), and postmarxist understandings of subject formation, I explore the interplay between space, identification and political subjectivities (Butler, 1997; Hall, 2011) among youth most often understood as situated in the geographical, economic and moral periphery. In the study, I show how certain political positions where made intelligible on different ideological arenas (Althusser, 1970), and through ideas associated with urbanity and rurality, which in turn affected the youths’ tendencies to identify with them. I explore these political identifications or disidentifications as a form of ‘moral work’ (Uhnoo, 2011) closely tied to the historically produced spatialities in which they occurred. Rather than viewing problematic expressions of racism, sexism or homophobia as individualized traits or opinions of youth, I illustrate how they can be understood as positionings in a matrix of moral intelligibility, positions that are (humorously) inhabited or rejected differently with regards to gender, class and emplacement. While Swedish educational policies enforce norm critical pedagogy as a way to educate youth on tolerance and antiracism, the dissertation shows how this reproduces ideas of rural moral inferiority. By engaging with the reoccurring use of irony and parody among the youth, analyzing the (satirical) embodiment of the politically incorrect rural racist as trolling practices which require youth to be well-informed of contemporary cultural politics, the dissertation argues that racist trolling is a way of critiquing national imaginaries of urban progressiveness and rural Otherness. Theoretically, the study concludes that rural youth politics need to politicize rural identity, experience and marginalization – rather than arguing for a recognition of the same – as well as the economic-material histories of different (rural) spatialities.