(Re)producing a periphery : popular representations of the Swedish North

Sammanfattning: The discourse on Norrland (literally ‘North land’ in English) as essentially ‘different’ has been(re)produced in literature, politics and science for as long as the idea of ‘Norrland’ has existed. Thus,when investigating the discourse that constructs the identity of Norrland in opposition to a Swedishnational identity, it is important to connect these representations to their contemporary (andchanging) political-economic contexts. The aim of this thesis is to analyze contemporaryrepresentations in news, film, advertising and interviews to show how representations constructstereotypes informed by neoliberal ideals and internationally familiar stereotypes of a traditionalintransigent population positioned in Norrland and a modern and progressive population in theurban South. The findings in this thesis can be summarized as follows. First, Norrland has beenconsistently reproduced, resisted and reworked through various discursive networks and practicesover centuries, as simultaneously authentic and obsolete. Drawing on these discourses makes therepresentations of Norrland in the news become part of a wider discursive network that representsNorrland as an ‘internal other’ within Sweden. Secondly, discourses on Swedish modernity and onneoliberal growth and competition reproduce Norrland and its people as inferior to the rest ofSweden. These representations are reworked and resisted and result in ‘real’ material effects in, forinstance, the news media, place marketing and film. Thirdly, in order to resist these representationsand become part of the ‘modern’, progressive world, places and people need to adjust to neoliberalideals of competitiveness and growth. And, finally, people’s identities are affected by theseneoliberal ideals as they have to relate and react to the representations of different places andpeople and the discourse on the urban as progress. This results in different strategies in theconstruction of narrative identities. I conclude by arguing that these representations serve not onlyas contrasts but also as strategies in the quest to scapegoat certain groups for problems that initiallyoriginated in unequal opportunities and structures of power related to, for instance, ethnicity, class,gender and disabilities – something that is exacerbated by neoliberalist policies and ideologies. Themore pressure is put on individuals and places to produce constant growth, the more certain peopleand places are viewed as ‘unproductive’ and problematic. The problems of depopulation anddiminishing job opportunities in the inland areas of Norrland are thus blamed on the population through the representations of Norrland as an internal ‘other.’