Battling for citizenship

A case study of Somali settlement in Lieksa, Finland

Tiina Sotkasiira 1  and Ville-Samuli Haverinen 1
  • 1 University of Eastern Finland
Tiina Sotkasiira
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  • Tiina Sotkasiira works as a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Eastern Finland. Her current research project is called From integration to autonomy: the meaning of welfare for immigrants in rural Finland.Between 2013–2015, she was involved in a project Contexts of Diaspora Citizenship – Transnational Networks, Social Participation and Social Identification of Somalis in Finland and in the U.S., which is a transatlantic, comparative set of interconnected sub-studies analysing the social participation, transnational networks, and identities of the Somalis living in Finland and in the United States. Sotkasiira’s principal research themes are ethnic relations and migration and integration policies of Russia and Finland.
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and Ville-Samuli Haverinen
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  • Ville-Samuli Haverinen works as a project researcher in a 4-year research project titled Contexts of Diaspora Citizenship – Transnational Networks, Social Participation and Social Identification of Somalis in Finland and in the U.S. at the University of Eastern Finland. His current research interests focus on the extent to which the national models of immigrant integration can provide an explanation for the reality of different political–juridical surroundings in Finland and the United States.
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Abstract

The article addresses the disjunction between the theory and practice of citizenship through a case study concerning the settlement of Somali refugees in Lieksa, a small town in eastern Finland. We use the concept ‘acts of citizenship’ to highlight how the Somalis in Lieksa have worked toward inclusion in the Finnish society. We also highlight how contested the citizenship position of even members of the Finnish society who, by law, are citizens and/ or legal residents can be. The attempts to undo Somalis’ acts of citizenship are presented as a continuum on which racist violence represents the most aggravated, and rare forms of resistance by locals, while more subtle forms of everyday racism, such as disparaging looks and Internet slander, represent the more common acts performed to prevent Somalis from constituting themselves and acting as citizens.

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