University of Oulu

“There we were, now here we are” : an analysis of the exceptionalist discourses underpinning the relationship between finnishness and the other

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Author: Last, Ashley1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Educational Sciences
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
Persistent link: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:oulu-201702231224
Language: English
Published: Oulu : A. Last, 2017
Publish Date: 2017-03-20
Physical Description: 84 p.
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Haapakoski, Jani
Reviewer: Jokikokko, Katri
Haapakoski, Jani
Description:

Abstract

Over the past few years, there have been some noticeably problematic trends threatening the place of the Other in Finland. Globalisation, as theorised in neo-liberal paradigms, calls for the opening up of markets, as well as a mobile citizenship able to meet the needs of economies underpinned by competition and innovation. This has led to a state of affairs in which hundreds of millions of people feel insecure about their place in both the employment market and wider society, with the Other as the most visible manifestation of this fear. Finland continues to have particular difficulties in adjusting to this situation owing to a specific journey towards nationhood, in which its public education system was given the twin tasks of engendering a national ethos and social equity. It is contended in this thesis that nation-building stories always carry the potential for ethnocentrism as they must — of necessity — define who belongs to the nation and who does not. This relationship between the national ethos and equity has never seriously been critiqued, and Finland’s growing far-right movement has thus been able to posit consensus and a culturally homogenous state as solutions to the challenges of neo-liberal globalisation.

This thesis aims to understand the contemporary difficulties in the relationship between Finnishness and the Other, and is grounded in the disconnect between rhetoric and what can be observed on a daily basis. Finland has been framed as a tolerant nation with no history of racism or colonialism, and yet the anti-immigration Finns Party won the second largest number of seats during the last parliamentary election, there is still some debate as to whether the Finnish ‘n’-word is offensive or not, and successive administrations have pursued assimilationist policies towards the Sami and Roma minority populations.

The thesis provides a holistic picture of the problematic discourses delineating the relationship between Finnishness and the Other. The epistemological and ontological assumptions here are based on the post-structural position that power and knowledge are continuously constructed and contingent, and the postmodernist distrust of metanarratives. This allows for a destabilisation of the socio-historical factors contributing to Finland’s mainstream nation-building narratives in order to demonstrate their subjective and provisional nature.

The methodological framework of this thesis is critical discourse analysis, in which the utility of research is to find a social problem grounded in semiotics, investigate the factors that prevent the problem from being addressed and whether the issue is caused by the existing social order, before suggesting how things might be otherwise. The first research question asks which exceptionalist discourses can be found in research on the relationship between Finnishness and the Other and identifies three ‘Traits of Exceptionalism’ stemming from historical amnesia towards Finnish colonial complicity, Finland’s place in the West, and the popular image of Finland as a tolerant nation. The second question assesses how these discourses are reproduced and/or contested in the student responses to the EIHE survey on internationalism in higher education. Based upon a discourse analysis of these responses, the thesis asserts that these discourses are largely being reproduced and goes on to discuss the limitations this places upon interactions between Finns and the Other.

In common with research orientations based upon post-structuralism and postmodernism, this thesis does not call for a prescribed solution to the existing problem but is rather part of wider calls to broaden the conversations it is possible to have regarding Finnishness and the Other. It recognises that the exceptionalist nature of this relationship is vital for the legitimacy of the existing social order, but also explicitly lists the possibly catastrophic implications of allowing this kind of relationship to continue. Finally, it challenges universalist assumptions about what constitutes a human subject and tries to offer more pluralistic lenses that position the Other as a subject in her own right.

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Copyright information: © Ashley Last, 2017. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.