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Keeping Sweden Swedish: Folk Music, Right-Wing Nationalism, and the Immigration Debate


Today’s Swedish folk music community skews generally to the political Left, thanks largely to the 1970s countercultural folk revival. Previous to that revival, however, the concept of ‘folk music’ in Sweden had been shaped by predominantly conservative nationalist forces. Revivalists of the 1970s redefined the genre in their own terms. However, they allowed its core repertoire to remain regulated according to pre-revival standards, according to which modern international influence was anathema. As a consequence, the recently reinvigorated Swedish extreme Right has been able to stake a claim to folk music as part of its anti-immigrant agenda. In this article I analyze the ensuing debates between right- and left-wing claimants on Swedish folk music. I suggest that in failing to reinvest the cultural capital of ‘Swedish folk music’ in alternative forms during the 1970s revival when it had the opportunity, the Left has put itself at a possibly insurmountable disadvantage in those debates.

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