Native Finns, Finnish Somali and Finnish Swedes – Group Formation in Interaction

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:30
Oral Presentation
Otto SEGERSVEN, University of Helsinki, Finland
The Finnish Somali arrived in Finland in the 1990s as the biggest influx of refugees at time.
In 2016, there were about 7000 Somali citizens and almost 20 000 (less than 1 % of the general population) Somali speaking people in Finland, making them the fourth largest foreign language speaking population and the biggest African, Muslim and Refugee immigrant group. Despite the group size, the Finnish Somali are at the bottom of the so-called ethnic hierarchy in Finland, which indicates a relatively high exclusion from the social life of the Finnish majority population (Liebkind, 2000). On the other side of the spectrum is the relatively privileged Finnish Swede minority (5.4 percent of the population), who’s share of elite positions in Finnish society is twice as high as the general population (Ruostetsaari, 2015). It is officially a language minority, although it meets the four major criteria of ethnicity, i.e. self-identification of ethnicity, language, social structure and ancestry (Allardt & Starck, 1981). Group size, political power, race, ethnicity, language and class are variables which contribute to patterns of intergroup behaviour, making the Finnish Swedes and Finnish Somali salient cases for studying how socially constructed categories of differentiation interact to create a social hierarchy in a national context.

We apply the Imitation Game (IG) approach in which participants, via typed questions and answers, intend to distinguish group members from pretending non-group members. By focusing on the participants’ interactive methods of distinguishing group membership, the Imitation Game sheds light onto processes of group formation and maintenance (Arminen et al. 2017). This paper presents the preliminary analysis of two IG experiments organized in Helsinki with 40 native Finns, 20 Finnish Somali and 20 Finnish Swedes.