Tag Archives: integration

Nafisa Yeasmin, Waliul Hasanat, Jan Brzozowski, and Stefan Kirchner, eds. Immigration in the Circumpolar North: Integration and Resilience (London: Routledge, 2021)

The social inclusion of immigrants into local communities has been extensively studied in the Social Sciences. Since the mid-1990s, the sociology of migration has shifted from economic and demographic issues towards central sociological questions such as “how societies negotiate membership and boundaries in the face of globalization” (Kasinitz, 2012: 583). Most theories on the sociology of migration are based on research in urban places but there is an increasing interest in migration to rural areas (Marrow, 2011).

This new edited volume by Yeasmin, Hasanat, Brzozowski, and Kirchner is a noteworthy contribution to migration studies as it addresses the experiences of migrants in the Arctic, “the most sparsely populated world region” (Brzozowski, 2020: 163). The anthology brings together 10 articles on migration in the Arctic. Five of these case studies are based on research in Finland, one on research in Iceland, one on Canada, and three of these case studies are transnational studies. The book is divided into five chapters: An introduction written by the authors, a chapter on Youth Perspectives in the Arctic, a chapter looks on Family and Diversity Challenges, a chapter on Human Rights and Indigenous Communities in the Arctic, and a chapter on Migration and Development Issues in the Arctic.

The comparative approach is one of the strengths of this anthology. The case studies collected provide valuable and diverse approaches to migration to the Arctic, sometimes presenting contradictory results. For example, a comparison of the findings of El Hariri, Gunnþórsdóttir, and Meckl (2020) and Adams (2020) shows that immigrants in Iceland are critical towards the educational system but immigrants in Finland perceive the Finnish educational system positively. These findings show once more that the “Circumpolar North” is not a monolithic place where migrants have similar or even identical experience.

The editors of this book emphasize resilience and integration as the key themes of their publication. They understand community resilience as “a readiness to react in a positive and constructive way to social and economic transformation, but at the same time being able to preserve local cultural and social values and systems” (Yeasmin et al, 2020: 2). One of the limitations of this anthology is that the terms integration and resilience could have been challenged more. Both concepts are debated as they imply an expectation towards people to behave in certain ways, e.g. to integrate or to be resilient, without necessarily discussing structural inequalities that might hinder these people in complying to these expectations. In fact, one of the contributors to the anthology states that “There are strong critiques of this idea of resilience, tying it into the offloaded responsibility and entrepreneurialism of neo-liberalism” (Merhar, 2020: 134).

Despite these small limitations, this anthology overall tells a very interesting and valuable story about migration to the Arctic. In my opinion, this book provides an answer to a question which is not raised by the authors themselves, namely “What can we learn from the Arctic about theories of migration and integration?” One of the key findings emerging is the significance of place. This is particularly striking in the fourth chapter where Merhar writes that “the north (or maybe smaller communities in general exist as a protective factor against the alienation that the child welfare system provides through placement bouncing, as youth get to remain closer and connected to their cultural and spatial communities of childhood and adolescence” (Merhar, 2020: 135). Similarly, Kirchner discusses the dangers of cold temperatures for forced migrants from a law perspective. These statements shows that social inclusion is grounded in preconditions of places.

Another strength is that the anthology contains implications for theory building in the sociology of migration, e.g. the theory of superdiversity. Yeasmin and Uusiautti (2020) add to this theory which has been developed by the US-American sociologist Vertovec in 2007 (Vertoved, 2007). The authors reflect on the meaning of superdiversity for migration to rural areas in the Circumpolar North, finding that the concept of superdiversity theory can also be applied to places with a comparatively low in-migration rate. As mentioned above, theories on migration to rural places are underdeveloped and findings such as the one of Yeasmin and Uusiautti are thus important contributions to the field.

I will be assigning this book to my students when teaching about migration as it addresses aspects that have previously been understudied. It does so by closely observing and learning from the preconditions of places – in this case the Circumpolar North.



Adams, R. (2020) Immigrant Youth Perspective: Understanding challenges and opportunities in Finnish Lapland. In N. Yeasmin et al. (Eds.), Immigration in the Circumpolar North: Integration and Resilience (56-72). London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429344275.

Brzozowski, J. (2020). Mixed embeddedness of immigrant entrepreneurs and community resilience. In N. Yeasmin et al. (Eds.), Immigration in the Circumpolar North: Integration and Resilience (163-175). London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429344275.

El Hariri, K., Gunnþórsdóttir, H., Meckl, M. Syrian Students at the Arctic Circle in Iceland. In N. Yeasmin et al. (Eds.), Immigration in the Circumpolar North: Integration and Resilience (30-55). London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429344275.

Kasinitz, P. (2012). The Sociology of International Migration: Where We Have Been; Where Do We Go from Here? Sociological Forum, 27(3), 579-590. Retrieved January 18, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23262179

Massey, Douglas S., and Sánchez R. Magaly. Brokered boundaries: Immigrant identity in anti-immigrant times. Russell Sage Foundation, 2010

Marrow, H. B. (2011). New destination dreaming: Immigration, race, and legal status in the rural American South. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Merhar, A. (2020). Embodying transience: Indigenous former youth in care and residential instability. In N. Yeasmin et al. (Eds.), Immigration in the Circumpolar North: Integration and Resilience (126-144). London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429344275.

Vertovec, S. (2007). Super-diversity and its implications, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30(6), 1024-1054, https://doi.org/10.1080/01419870701599465

Yeasmin, N. & Uusiautti, S. (2020). The impact of superdiversity on the educational system. In N. Yeasmin et al. (Eds.), Immigration in the Circumpolar North: Integration and Resilience (163-175). London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429344275.

Alexandra Délano Alonso, From Here and There: Diaspora Policies, Integration, and Social Rights beyond Borders (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018)

Since the pivotal work on transnationalism by Glick-Schiller, Basch and Blanc-Szanton (1992), a number of studies have investigated transnationalism as a perspective on migration that goes beyond earlier concepts of one-way assimilation. Whilst the boundaries between host country and receiving country are becoming increasingly intertwined, studies on transnational migration have for the most part focused on the perspective of the receiving country. Immigrant integration is frequently framed as processes that are taking place in the receiving countries alone, placing the responsibility for integration on actors on immigrants’ countries of destination, e.g. migrants, migrant organizations or the government of the receiving country. The receiving country bias in migration research prevails (Castles, 2010; Czaika & De Haas, 2014). There remains a gap in the literature on the impact of actors in countries of departure on the well-being and incorporation of immigrants in the societies in which they reside.

Alexandra Délano Alonso book, “From Here and There: Diaspora Policies, Integration, and Social Rights beyond Border”, goes beyond the prevailing focus on the destination country in research on transnationalism as it looks at institutions supporting the integration of Latin-American immigrants in the United States and Canada, highlighting the role of the destination country. The book is a case study of initiatives in the United States and Canada, focusing primarily on Mexican diaspora organizations and other Latin American diaspora organizations. A central claim and contribution of this work is its focus on the responsibility and accountability of various actors, particularly actors in immigrants’ countries of origin, which have not been largely discussed in the literature. In order to analyze this claim, Alexandra Délano Alonso analyzes actors on several levels, such as civic participation and diaspora organizations as well as the consulates of the countries of origin and the country of destination.

After providing an overview of the theoretical background of looking at diaspora policies as integration, the book focuses especially on two case studies, namely two programs offered to Latin American immigrants in the United States by Mexican diaspora organizations: Ventanillas and Plazas Communitarias. While Ventanillas focuses on health care of migrants, Plazas Communitarians are a provider of adult education, for example English language training. Then, the analysis is extended towards collaborations between different diaspora organizations in the United States and Canada. Alexandra Délano Alonso demonstrates that there is a significant number of examples of collaborative projects across various Latin American diaspora organizations. The role of Mexico is in this context in some cases a best-practice example and Mexican diaspora organizations further provide resources used by other diaspora organizations. Subsequently, the author discusses aspects of return and reintegration.

Alexandra Délano Alonso discusses the efforts of diaspora initiatives and the countries of origin to support immigrant integration into both the destination countries and immigrants’ countries of origin. The author particularly highlights imbalances in efforts of immigrants’ countries of origin, which tend to focus on the integration of immigrants in the destination countries, especially “in relation to migrants with precarious status” (p. 158).

In her work, Alexandra Délano Alonso raises questions about “Rethinking transnational responsibility for the well-being of migrants, including their social and political rights in another country” (p. 174). This approach, therefore, shifts the responsibility towards the perspective of the governments of the sending countries. The book further highlights various points and limitations in research, for example that the programs and initiatives discussed in the research have favored certain groups of migrants and that efforts of the governments discourse have for the most part focused on the integration of migrants in the country of destination. Drawing on these findings, Alexandra Délano Alonso makes a claim for an extension of these efforts towards more intersectionality and increased inclusion of groups of migrants, which at the point of this study benefit less from the organizations and programs discussed in this case study than other groups of migrants.

The term “integration” features prominently in the title of the book. Alexandra Délano Alonso highlights that her work looks at integration as a two-way process in contrast to previous notions of one-way assimilation. Whilst being one of the key word in the title of the book, in the conclusion the term “integration” is discussed in a rather short paragraph. As, in fact, the book does not simply look at integration as a two-way process between the destination country and migrants, but includes actors on various levels and across several borders, the study provides a new perspective on migrant integration. While the author does acknowledge the need for new theoretical perspective, discussing migrant integration and concluding that a “multilayered approach” (p. 186) is much needed, this aspect is not emphasized in the contribution. The conclusion primarily emphasizes the relevance of the work in the context of current political developments in the United States. In addition, however, the data collected and the original angle of this work could provide material for a more in depths discussion of the implications of this work and its original contribution to transnational migration research from a theoretical angle. As mentioned earlier, the work does for example provide material to rethink “integration” as a concept through the findings of this case study.

The book shifts the perspective of the analysis towards the responsibility of actors in immigrants’ countries of origin to support the incorporation of immigrants into the receiving countries. Even though the author does not provide an in depth discussed of the findings of the study on a theoretical level, the shift in responsibility suggested by the researcher can be adapted to other case studies as well. As the receiving country bias in migration studies prevails, this work provides an interesting angle on the role of immigrants’ countries of origin. Alexandra Délano Alonso’s work is thus a continuation of immigrants’ involvement in the receiving countries from a transnational perspective and provides valuable insights for a further reconceptualization of theories of immigrant integration.





Castles, S. (2010). Understanding Global Migration: A Social Transformation Perspective.      Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36(10), 1565–1586. doi: 10.1080/1369183x.2010.489381


Czaika, M., & Haas, H. D. (2014). The Globalization of Migration: Has the World Become More Migratory? International Migration Review, 48(2), 283–323. doi: 10.1111/imre.12095


Schiller, N. G., Basch, L., & Blanc-Szanton, C. (1992). Transnationalism: A New Analytic Framework for Understanding Migration. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 645(1), 1–24. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1992.tb33484.x


A Presentation of IDIN

The network has been established with financial support from NordForsk for four years, 2011-2014, and has initiated in the project period several scientific events. Many researchers and PhD candidates have participated in the activities, and the increasingly diversified realities in the Nordic context have been approached from various angles. Contributions have come from a wide range of disciplines in the social sciences, humanities and economics, and from network members as well as invited scholars. Continue reading A Presentation of IDIN

Nation-building in the Scandinavian Welfare State: The Immigration Challenge


Scandinavia is the area where trust in political institutions and the role of the state is greatest in the world. Political actors in all three Scandinavian countries now compete for the honour of having created and developed the welfare state. It is such a central part of their self-understanding that this political framework can be said to have become a part of the Scandinavian national concept.

Continue reading Nation-building in the Scandinavian Welfare State: The Immigration Challenge

Pragmatic Universalism – A Basis of Coexistence of Multiple Diversities

“You who live safe

In your warm houses,

You who find, returning in the evening,

Hot food and friendly faces:

Consider if this is a man”

P.Levi, If this is a man (1947)


Despite numerous initiatives to encourage combating discrimination against race/ethnicity and cultural diversity the problem of peaceful coexistence and positive integration surfaces again when new examples of discrimination, mortification of those of different faiths or different ethnic origins arise in Europe.

Continue reading Pragmatic Universalism – A Basis of Coexistence of Multiple Diversities

Philip J. Anderson and Dag Blanck (eds.), Norwegians and Swedes in the United States: Friends and Neighbors (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2012)

The collection is divided into four distinct sections—Context, Culture, Conflict and Community—each undertaking a thorough examination of the relationships and interactions between the largest immigration populations from Scandinavian to the United States. As the subheadings suggest, a comprehensive study of the relationship between Norwegians and Swedes in the United States cannot be sustained on comparison alone. Indeed, as Donna R. Gabaccia outlines in the very useful foreword to the book, the narrative of this relationship continues to develop new strains due in part to increasing attention to “inter-ethnic perspectives” concerning American immigration history in general and Scandinavian interactions in particular. It is the developing story of Scandinavian “inter-ethnic perspectives” that the collection aims to uncover and narrate and as a whole this aim is successful. As Gabaccia rightly points out, however, the collection downplays the “importance of contention” between the two groups, by choosing to highlight “the Americanization that brought both groups of immigrates closer to each other.”


The first section on context contains two substantial introductory chapters: “Friends and Neighbors? Patterns of Norwegian-Swedish Interaction in the United States” by co-editor Dag Blanck and “Norwegians and Swedes in America: Some Comparisons” by H. Arnold Barton. The opening chapters strive to broadly describe the identities of each group and the patterns of interactions between them. Blanck develops a useful chronology for grappling with the complex issue, dividing recognizable patterns of interaction into three periods. Blanck emphasizes that although there has yet to be a systematic and comprehensive study of the history of the Scandinavians in the United States, certain patterns emerge from the studies that do exist. When division did occur between Norwegian and Swedish immigrants it was along religious lines, more so than national ones. In matters of the heart, however, Norwegians and Swedes found each other the most desirable and within the political sphere they were each others’ closest allies. Barton’s comparative study of the two groups is admittedly more speculative in nature, but no less productive in results by focusing on the differences between the groups. Some of Barton’s findings are less surprising than others. That the Norwegians were the more nationalist of the two immigrant groups makes sense in term of Norway’s political development over the nineteenth century ending with its independence in 1905. That Norwegian Americans wrote more novels than Swedes was unexpected. As was the conclusion that Swedish Americans generally outpaced their Scandinavian neighbors in the sciences and technology, the visual arts and business. As Barton states, differences such as those I have pointed out are compelling and open new lines of investigation for further research. How to assess why these differences occurred, however, is not as easy or apparent.


The second section examines the central position that diverse aspects of culture held in the Norwegian and Swedish immigrant experience. The following three chapters stood out: Odd S. Lovoll’s opening chapter, “Preserving a Cultural Heritage Across Boundaries: A Comparative Perspective on Riksföreningen Sverigekontakt and the Nordmanns-Forbundet” skillfully depicts how even as societies were started in both Norway and Sweden to promote home colonization, the two societies mentioned in the title were founded to cope with expanding populations outside the nation state. Lovoll’s explanation of how each society aimed to create a notion of worldwide nationality founded on the promotion of cultural retention within emigrant populations is thought provoking, particularly regarding the underlying conservative politics at its core, a point I would have liked to see more thoroughly developed. In “Freedom, Identity, and Double Perspectives: Representations of the Migrant Experience in the Novels of Vilhelm Moberg and O.E. Rølvaag,” Ingeborg Kongslien illustrates that although each author penned works of historical fiction and not historical accounts per se, due to the authors’ personal experiences the novels nevertheless provide ample and reliable insights into Scandinavian emigration, including those historical, psychological, sociological and existential. James P. Leary’s “Är Du Svenske?”–”Norsk! Norsk!”: Folk Humor and Cultural Difference in Scandinavian America” is the highlight of the section as it is rich with familiar jokes that become compelling examples of the development of cultural difference between Norwegian and Swedish Americans. Leary convincingly maps how “Scandihoovian” humor is more about negotiating relationships between Norwegians and Swedes in the United States than about any actual reference to the homeland. Indeed, he illustrates that what often appears as insider teasing is in reality a way to communicate cultural difference to the wider, and often undiscerning, American public.


The third section of the collection identifies areas where conflict arose between the Scandinavian immigrant groups. The first two chapters examine how Norwegian independence affected relationships between Norwegian and Swedish Americans, while the second two chapters scrutinize the complex divides, factions and mergers within the varying denominations of the Lutheran Church in the United States. Jørn Brøndal’s “We are Norwegians and Swedes Now, Not Scandinavians”: The Impact of Norwegian Independence on Scandinavian American Politics in the Midwest” and Ulf Jonas Björk’s “An End to Brotherhood?” Swedes and Norwegians in America Discuss the 1905 Union Dissolution” are complimentary chapters that detail the ramifications of Norway’s independence on political and social alignments between Norwegian and Swedish Americans. The conclusions of both chapters reflect back to my earlier statement concerning the collection overall: conflicts were limited and those that arose were short-lived. As each chapter suggests, pan-Scandinavianism seems to have post- dated any animosity, albeit at varying levels across time and place. Kurt W. Peterson’s “A Question of Conscious: Minnesota’s Norwegian American Lutherans and the Teaching of Evolution” is the stand out piece of the collection. Peterson targets the imperative position that Norwegian American Lutherans held in early twentieth century debates concerning the status of evolution in public schools and by doing so, places current discourse on the subject into a new, and nuanced historical context. The chapter is filled with—what was for me at least—compelling insight into how Lutheran history supported the separation of church and state, thus ultimately rendering null the scheme to legislate the exclusion of evolution in Minnesota’s public schools and universities. Peterson asserts that, “many Lutherans wanted nothing to do with [legislation] because they wanted nothing to do with the Reformed tradition. Their fight was not simply over the teaching of evolution; for them, the heart of their Lutheran theological heritage was at stake.” Equally compelling is the way in which Peterson details the close ideological ties between Norwegian American Lutheranism and the broader Evangelical movement.


The closing section of the collection is a fitting bookend to a study that casts a wide net as it examines both distinct features and broad trends within the Norwegian and Swedish American community. That this section is the largest reinforces the collection’s unifying intentions. Each chapter features a case study of a specific cluster of Norwegian and Swedish immigrants within the United States. The section is rich with description and details, demographics and specifics, whether investigating the nontraditional immigrant position held by many Norwegian and Swedish engineers and architects, as in Per-Olof Grönberg’s contribution, or chronicling the narrative of an insulated Scandinavian enclave on the shores of Lake Superior, as in Philip J. Anderson’s piece. All but one chapter, however, focuses on Scandinavian communities in the Midwest. The exception being Jennifer Eastman Atterbery’s “Scandinavian’s in the Rocky Mountain West: Pragmatic and Programmatic.” Atterbery’s very interesting examination of Scandinavian settlements in Montana and LDS Utah (touching only briefly on California) broadens the scope of what is an otherwise very regional-specific section. In fact, the exclusion of the West is one of the shortcomings of the collection as a whole and I would have liked the same rigorous scholarship that pervades the collection applied to Norwegian and Swedish communities in California, Oregon and Washington, or for that matter, to those in New York and the East. One of the most outstanding features in this section is the way in which personal narrative and family history interjects into large-scale and oftentimes characterless demographic statistics. In more than one instance, particularly in Byron J. Nordstrom’s “Norwegians and Swedes in Willmar, Minnesota, in the Early Twentieth Century,” general and sweeping statistical information is transformed from the tedious to the compelling by granting the dates, numbers, and anonymous names on the page, a narrative. By fleshing out both the communities under study and particular individuals within those communities, the closing section is a fitting end to what is a comprehensive, informative and insightful study of Norwegians and Swedes in the United States. The information presented in this study will most certainly fuel and encourage subsequent research and publication in the field.