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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies (JCMRS) is a peer-reviewed online interdisciplinary journal dedicated to Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS). JCMRS functions as an open-access forum for critical mixed race studies and will be available without cost to anyone with access to the Internet. JCMRS is sponsored by UC Santa Barbara's Department of Sociology and is hosted on the eScholarship Repository, which is part of the eScholarship initiative of the California Digital Library.

Mixed Race in Nordic Europe

Issue cover
Cover Caption: The cover image is by Norwegian photographer Stein Egil Liland.
Numerous scholarly works have been published on the topic of multiraciality and mixed-race experiences in the United States and Great Britain. There has historically been limited research on Nordic Europe. These analyses seek to help further research on Nordic Europe in terms of critical mixed race studies.

Front Matter

Cover Art

This cover art is by Norweigian photographer Stein Egil Liland.

Table of Contents

A list of articles in this special issue on Nordic Europe.

Editor's Note

Numerous scholarly works have been published on the topic of multiraciality and mixed-race experiences in the United States and Great Britain. There has historically been limited research on Nordic Europe. This analysis contextualizes the importance of the articles in this special issue, which seek to help further research on Nordic Europe in terms of critical mixed race studies.



From ‘Something in Between’ to ‘Everything All at Once’: Meditations on Liminality and Blackness in Afro-Finnish Hip-Hop and R&B

Since its global spread in the 1980s, hip-hop has been a crucial cultural sphere in which Europeans of color have engaged the experiences of race and racism, gender, and national belonging, with hip-hop music and culture often considered to function as the cultural lingua franca of the African diaspora. Given the continued dominance of Nordic exceptionalism and formal color-blindness in both the Finnish national imaginary and public discourses, hip-hop emerges as an important site for examining the production of counter-discourses and -narratives by Finns of color, and Afro-Finns in particular. This article approaches Afro-Finnish hip-hop as an alternative archive of Afro-Finnish experience and thought. It centers three works by the Afro-Finnish R&B singer Rosa Coste and Afro-Finnish rapper Yeboyah to examine articulations of liminality in relation to Blackness, mixedness, and Finnishness. Exploring the multiple readings of liminality discernible across these works, the article shows that they offer meaningful meditations on Afro-Finnish identity and experience. In raising the multiple forms of liminality that shape the Afro-Finnish experience, these works also raise questions about the potentials and limitations of multiraciality as a category of analysis in the Finnish context.

"Stuck in Their Skin?": Challenges of Identity Construction Among Children with Mixed Heritage in Norway

This article, based in social anthropology, discusses challenges of ethnic identity construction among children and youth of immigrant origin in Norway, particularly those of mixed race. Compared to the United States, Norway has a short history of people of color immigrating. Since the Second World War, Norwegian official policy has underlined that “we are all equal” and “have the same worth,” regardless of gender, sexuality, and skin color. A color-blind ideology has been an ideal. Today, second- and third-generation immigrants speak Norwegian fluently and have good jobs in the public eye, including in radio and TV, and thus are often publicly exposed, but are still classified as “foreigners” because of their appearance. The article shows that the cultural schema/model of Norwegian identity includes white skin color only, which children of mixed race may experience as particularly challenging. They have one foot in White identity and the other in a colored one, and they may feel “White” on the inside but be labeled as “foreigner” (“Black”) by others. The article asks how children and young people of mixed-race origins experience ethnic identity construction in light of the categories “Norwegian” and “foreigner” and how this is to be understood. The overall conclusion is that mixed-race children and youth may experience being “stuck in their skin” more strongly than those with two parents of immigrant origin, because they also identify with the parent of White ethnic Norwegian identity. The article also concludes that Norway, as an “underdeveloped” country regarding racial reflexivity, needs more research on how White privilege results in “making up people” through racial hierarchical categories, understood as resistance strategies to White majority power and color-blind ideology.

Speaking Swedish while Black in Norway

Swedes are almost unambiguously considered White in Norway and, therefore, labeled as non-strangers and non-marked. One of the most striking aspects of studying young Swedish labor migrants to the Norwegian capital is their positioning vis-à-vis the (White) majority and other (Black) minorities; they are immigrants categorized as “not quite” or “not real” immigrants. However, this position is contested in different ways, among other things, by othering processes taking place through the microaggressions of “What are you?” encounters, when linguistic differences are noted. This article argues that Swedes are an invisible, but audible, minority in Norway, categorized as outsiders not through phenotypical difference but through linguistic otherness. This labeling through language takes on extra dimensions when the individual migrants in question do not fit phenotypically with the stereotypical understanding of Swedes as the epitome of Northern European Whiteness. Many Swedes arriving in Norway as migrants are neither blond nor blue-eyed; they may be adopted, be of mixed race, or have Middle Eastern, Asian, or African family backgrounds. This article discusses aspects of the negotiations that take place in the intersection of phenotype and linguistic labeling when Swedes are Black migrants in Norway.

The Swedish Disconnect: Racism, White Supremacy, and Race

This article examines how the Swedish state, by eliminating race as an official demographic category, effectively promotes social and legal conditions that allow racism and White supremacy to proliferate unaccounted for and often also unattended. In doing so, Sweden undermines anti-racist efforts to counter prevalent racial discrimination, creating a disconnect between the country’s progressive liberal image and the lived reality of its residents of color.

Melting Pot or Salad Bowl? An Overview of Mixed Families in Sweden

Due to globalization and international migration to and from Sweden, the option to choose a life partner who is of migrant background has been increasing in Sweden. Despite the growth of and greater ethnic and racial diversity in mixed marriages in Sweden, however, few researchers have studied such unions to any great extent. This article focuses on mixed marriages in which one person is of Swedish background and the other of a different ethnic or racial background. It questions whether Sweden is becoming what is metaphorically described as a melting pot or a salad bowl. The article, first, includes a meta-analysis of existing research on mixed marriage and families in Sweden. These studies present the actual numbers and patterns of mixed marriages and the socioeconomic status of mixed families as well as attitudes toward mixed marriage. The second part turns to analysis of 2014 register data, which shows how such factors as gender, country of origin, and immigrant generation affect the composition of mixed marriages and the socioeconomic status of mixed families.

If I Can’t Say I Am Swedish, What Am I? Freedom within Limits of Choosing Identity

One in ten Swedes today is of mixed background, with parents of differing countries of origin. Despite mixed Swedes being an integral part of Swedish society, little is known about their experiences. Based on fourteen qualitative interviews with mixed Swedes who reported to be racialized as Latino, Asian, Arab, or Black, this article explores the freedom and limitations in asserting their ethnic and racial identity. Mixed Swedes’ experiences show that while identification is flexible and the choice to identify as Swedish or mixed reflects their personal decision to connect with their national, cultural, and ethnic background, they cannot choose whether or how they will be racialized or racially categorized by others.

Dark Blood: An Analysis of Slaves in the Family (Slavernes slægt)

The article presents an analysis of the Danish documentary series, Slaves in the Family. It demonstrates how an analytics of hybridity can unpack the naturalizations and denaturalizations of categories of purity, arguing that it is vital to capture the unstable tension between understanding “hybridity” as a mixing of elements on the one hand, and as a displacement of categories on the other. Slaves in the Family criticizes and destabilizes ideas of purity by rearticulating the story of Danish colonial history and of Danish national identity. However, the article argues that the series’ narrative about family and race is uneasily situated between the two conceptions of hybridity. Consequently, notions of purity are reinstalled by the way the series articulates “kinship” as the basis of true relations and authentic identity.

Slipping and Sliding: Wielding Power with Slippery Constructions of Danishness

This article addresses implicit and underlying discrimination in public and private interactions in Denmark. In particular, it examines racial structural discrimination in regard to citizenship and belonging in Danish contexts. Two cases are presented in this analysis, both from the fall of 2015, in which mixed race figures either directly or indirectly. The first case is a public debate concerning Danish citizenship as presented in news coverage and the second is an everyday private interaction at a dinner party in which the author was a participant. The study assesses how (racialized) Danishness, citizenship, and entitlement are constructed in the two cases. Further, it introduces the notion of “slipperiness” as a mechanism in discriminatory interactions (in regard to defining “Danishness”) and discusses how this notion functions to maintain and enforce racial discrimination.

Crossing the Colorline: Biracial Identity in Sweden and Denmark

Migration to Scandinavia has increased in the last fifteen years. Still, little scholarly research has been devoted to the topic of mixed individuals, particularly those of African Danish or African Swedish heritage. This study seeks to fill this gap by delving into how individuals of mixed heritage navigate their identities in the Danish and Swedish contexts, a region where there are no socially accepted terms for identifying or classifying them. This study can provide an excellent starting point into the race discourse that is being overlooked in both Denmark and Sweden. Drawing from qualitative data, this article examines the position of mixed heritage individuals with a special consideration of their sense of identity and belonging as well as the reality of being mixed. Consequently, three pivotal questions drive this research: What are the individuals’ realities in the context of understanding mixed heritage? How do they define themselves? How do they navigate the challenges that come with mixedness? The mixed heritage individuals in this study reveal two common strategies of identity: they position themselves as possessing an “in-between” identity or one that is simply “Black.” Sometimes they use the term “African” to imply Black and “European” to refer to either a Dane or Swede. None of the respondents self-identify as White.

Blame, Shame, and Atonement: Greenlandic Responses to Racialized Discourses about Greenlanders and Danes

Outside Greenland, many believe that the Greenlandic name for Greenland means “Land of the People.” However, the Greenlandic word for human being or person is inuk (plural: inuit), and Greenland is called Kalaallit Nunaat not Inuit Nunaat. Kalaallit is the West Greenlandic term for modern-day Greenlanders who trace their ancestry along two lines: to the Inuit in the West and the Scandinavians in the East. During the first half of the twentieth century, this mixed ancestry was an important argument for the Greenlandic claim for recognition and equality. This article examines a literary source, Pavia Petersen’s 1944 novel, Niuvertorutsip pania (The outpost manager’s daughter). The novel’s female protagonist, who is of mixed ancestry, is staged as a national symbol for modern Greenland, a country that appropriates European culture while remaining Greenlandic. After the end of the colonial period, the Inuit legacy and Greenlanders’ status as an Indigenous people became important drivers of the Greenlandic claim for independence. In present-day Greenlandic film and literature, Danes are often left out of the story entirely, delegitimizing much of society’s genetic and cultural legacy. Naturally, this poses a problem for the Greenlanders who not only number Europeans among their remote ancestors but also live with a dual identity, with one Danish and one Greenlandic parent. This article illustrates that the notion of “mixed-breed” or “half” Greenlanders is currently regarded with such ambivalent feelings because it accentuates unresolved tensions among the ethnic groups, including the continued dominance of the outdated (colonial) affective economies in Danish-Greenlandic relations.

"Where Are You From?": Racism and the Normalization of Whiteness in Iceland

Within European and Nordic contexts, scholars have disputed how to understand racism and racialization in a context historically different from the American one. While the analysis below underlines the global characteristics and thus mobility of racist discourse, the article seeks to show how racist classifications are understood in different localities. This article explores, in particular, the intersection of race and national identity in Iceland. The primary data consists of interviews with fifteen adults who are identified as mixed, in terms of both race and origin. The analysis shows that Icelandic identity is strongly normalized as a White identity, with the Icelandic body always assumed to be “white.” Thus, by definition, “non-white” bodies must be from somewhere else. However, the interviews also indicate that while constantly having to explain themselves as non-White, these “mixed-race” individuals did not feel rejected as Icelandic nor strongly discriminated against, which contrasts with experiences from other European countries. Finally, the discussion focuses on Iceland’s outward image and the recent branding of Iceland as a destination by the tourism industry, which works toward further racialization of the Icelandic population as a White population.

Eugenics, Admixture, and Multiculturalism in Twentieth-Century Northern Sweden: Contesting Disability and Sámi Genocide

This article examines twentieth-century northern Swedish geographical isolate studies in Norrbotten Province involving Torne-Finns and northern Sámi, who have historically shared pronatalist Laestadian religious beliefs pathologized by mainstream eugenicists. Deemed a sign of religious fanaticism, Laestadianism was associated with the eugenic stigmatization of Torne-Finns and Sámi people and beliefs were conceptualized as an early sign of schizophrenia. Geneticists, as an outgrowth of early twentieth-century eugenics, structured schizophrenia as a genetic disease caused by first-cousin marriage. These consanguineous marriages that were reported as prevalent in Tornedalian and Sámi reindeer-herding communities practicing Laestadianism, legitimated race-based sterilization of psychitrized Torne-Finn and Sámi women. Similarly, the Swedish State Institute for Race Biology, established in 1922 by Herman Lundborg, advanced reorganizing race along family lines and populations, which supported gendered disability and Sámi genocide. Torne-Finn, as well as Sámi, religious minority women, who were sterilized at first admission to psychiatric facilities, require redress for colonial violence. Current academic and direct-to-consumer admixture research on Finnish and Sámi peoples is recognized as upholding colonial logics of difference in Swedish multicultural policies. This, in turn, results in ongoing gendered genocide. It is concluded that in a radical break from eugenic theories, major psychoses associated with common infections lie in the neglected half of the human genome rather than according to classical genetic rules.

Sámi Identity across Generations: From Passing for Nordics to Sámi Self-Exposure

Following histories of racism and abuse at the hands of Norwegian and Swedish authorities, many Indigenous Sámi have chosen to disconnect from everything Sámi and instead pass for ethnic Norwegians and Swedes. As a result, their children and grandchildren have grown up with no or little knowledge of their Sámi heritage. In the 2000s, several of these children and grandchildren, who were born after the Second World War, are eager to reconnect with their Sámi identity. This article fleshes out the entangled road back to Sáminess through a close analysis of two Norwegian documentaries—Suddenly Sami (Min mors hemmelighet) (2009) and My Family Portrait (Familiebildet) (2013)—in which the women directors discover their Sámi identity in front of the camera. A central point in the discussion is how the directors use discourses of biology and genetics to recuperate their Sámi identity in the 2000s. The article raises several explanations as to why they retreat to these discourses byputting the two Norwegian documentaries in conversation with the Swedish feature film Sami Blood (Sameblod) (2016).

Book Reviews

Zélie Asava. Mixed-Race Cinemas: Multiracial Dynamics in America and France

A transnational film studies and mixed race studies analysis comparing French and American cinemas, which have had significant international exposure and have constantly strengthened exchanges between their national talents.

Remi Joseph-Salisbury. Black Mixed-Race Men: Transatlanticity, Hybridity, and ‘Post-Racial’ Resilience

Deepens critical mixed race studies as a transdisciplinary endeavor and also takes a transnational turn by bringing into conversation voices from both sides of the Atlantic. This is particularly the case in terms of the relationship between ongoing structures of White supremacy and the situation of Black mixed-race men, subjects whom he situates not apart from Blackness but within its political and cultural formation.

Mengzi Pang. Family, Identity and Mixedness: Exploring ‘Mixed-Race’ Identities in Scotland

Provides insight into the experiences of the Scottish mixed-race population.The author’s study is timely as the majority of British mixed-race scholarship has tended to emanate from England. This also further aligns with the transnational focus of the field of critical mixed race studies, which seeks to incorporate notions of diaspora and to promote understandings of mixed-race experiences across different national contexts.

The Contributors

About the Contributors

Bios of the contributors to this special issue on Nordic Europe.