Welcome to the Migration seminar

Contesting the concept of “integration” on a local level: 
Perceptions of youth migrant integration among Swedish policy users 

Christina Hansen, Researcher, Malmö University
Mona Hemmaty, Associate senior lecturer, SKI, Malmö University
Nadeen Khoury, Research assistant, Malmö University
Jacob Lind, Researcher, Malmö University


A growing strand of literature brings forward integration as a contested policy and research field. Yet, more knowledge is needed on how local stakeholders perceive and interpret integration while directly engaging with integration activities on the ground. Through interviews and focus groups with local policy users, in this article we explore multiple understandings of integration among stakeholders working with young migrants in Scania, Sweden. 

A key argument in the article is that the stakeholders in our study shared pluralistic understandings of, and were discontent with, the concept of integration, albeit for different reasons. We put forward three main findings to support this argument. Firstly, whilst some of the stakeholders understood integration as a fundamentally racist and/or neo-colonial concept, others suggested that one should rather talk about integration as a matter of “adaptation” to the laws, rules and norms of the host society. Secondly, the stakeholders emphasised the ineffectiveness of official migrant integration activities for realising interactions between migrants and long-term residents. Ordinary activities organised by civil society that focus on specific interests, such as sports clubs or cultural events, were considered much more efficient at creating meeting points. Thirdly, in line with recent academic critique on “integration”, the article displays integration as an empty signifier by highlighting the seemingly never-ending list of societal issues that the stakeholders talked about when they talked about “integration”.  

We suggest that that the hyper politization and polarisation of migration and integration in Swedish political discourse have contributed to stakeholders’ divergent understandings of the concept. Despite Sweden’s reputation as a flagship for comprehensive integration policies, the findings show reservations towards the concept among policy users, although for a plurality of reasons. Thus, the article contributes to the critical literature on integration by showing how and why integration is disputed locally by policy users. 

The seminar will be held in English and via Zoom.

More about the project