COMBATING UNCERTAINTY, COMBATING THE GLOBAL:
SCAPEGOATING, XENOPHOBIA AND THE NATIONAL-LOCAL NEXUS
Much current research tends to nurture the idea that the
influence of nation states is overall on the wane, squeezed as they
are between globalising influences and the concomitant greater assertiveness
of local belongings. Ulrich Beck (2000: 14), for instance, argues that
"globalization means one thing above all else: denationalisation".
Basically, I concur with this analysis, provided that it is designed
to point out a discernible, long-term trend. However, what seems to
be overlooked in much of the literature and above all in the general
public debate, is that we may well be talking of processes that could
take several decades to complete. In this sense, there seems to be a
lack of awareness that the sandwiched position of the nation-state might
in the interim give rise to rather violent recoils, as national identities
seek to assert themselves and stave off perceived dangers. Jan Aart
Scholte (2000: 160) is certainly one of those who displays recognition
of the processes that might occur in this context: "[N]ations have
remained buoyant and show little sign of disappearing". What has
happened, he concedes, is that the bond between state and nation has
loosened up to a certain extent (Scholte, 2000: 164). The state has
not "withered away" as predicted by Marxism in quite another
context, but it has "withered somewhat" (Waters, 2001: 158).
In discussing the effects of this process, Ole Waever and Morten Kelstrup
(1993: 69-70) some years ago sketched a scenario where the national
states are on their way out, but where national identities struggle
to defend themselves from local, transnational and global pressures.
As they (1993: 69-70) pointed out, "[l]eft behind we find nations
with less states, cultures with less shell". This might add up
to a situation where, for the first time in world history, national
sentiments are widespread among sizable collectives of individuals,
at the same time as there are dwindling numbers of territorial state
frameworks to defend and promote them. Such a world would be volatile
and unpredictable indeed, for we are here entering the realms of terra
Before we pass into this unknown domain, however, one might well envisage
that promoters and defenders of the national rally to defend their cherished
values against the perceived onslaught of globalism and its representatives.
In Giddens' (1999: 20-35) vocabulary, our times are fraught with risks
of a never hitherto experienced magnitude and variety. Globalisation,
being perceived as a cause as well as a symptom of many such risks,
seems to have prompted nationalists all over the globe to take reactive
measures. "The more that distance and borders have disintegrated,
the more national differences have seemed precious", maintains
Scholte (2000: 164). The globalising world, he goes on to argue, "has
left some people feeling torn and lost" (Scholte, 2000: 226). The
consequences of such feelings of loss are well worth delving into.
Considerable attention has in recent years been awarded the so-called
processes of glocalisation, whereby substantial effort has been spent
analysing the global-local nexus (Robertson, 1992). My own preference
is instead to study the somewhat neglected national-local nexus, where
I assume national and local identity structures interact and reinforce
each other. Together they combat the unknown, which one way or another
is perceived as emanating from the global. I hold that there is a need
to study these defensive mechanisms, as they might be expected to generate
tensions and conflicts in the interaction between majority and minority
groups. As Cris Shore (2000: 232) rightly admonishes, "[l]ike decapitating
the mythical hydra, the break-up of old nation-states may simply replace
them with a plethora of new nationalisms often more xenophobic and ethnically
exclusivist than that from which they seceded".
Class-segmentation further complicates the picture (Erlingson, 2001:
142-143). Arguably, national elite groups stand to gain the most from
globalisation. They are in a position to enjoy to the fullest the new
possibilities offered by rapid mobility, instantaneous communication,
and truly global networks and flows. Hence they become ever less willing
to associate their fate with that which takes place within the narrow
confines of state borders. They shred their previous nationally based
loyalties and fend for themselves; a process which Reich (1992) has
labeled "secession of the rich". The less well-to-do classes
are left behind and are prone to feel it. They do not really have the
choice of slipping anchor and leaving the national behind. Instead,
it might be a natural reaction for them to more strongly assert the
national belonging, and thus assemble closer together with compatriots
in defense of the national and its symbols (cf. Bloom, 1990). There
is surely a danger associated with this class-segmentation. Embittered
feelings of defense not only make for more ardent nationalist argumentation,
but xenophobic views are also more likely to find fertile soils among
those groups in society who in their daily lives have the least contact
with collectives that are labeled outsiders and strangers (Hartmann
et al., 1974; Van Dijk, 1987). As an added complication, relatively
low levels of education are often regarded as factors affecting the
susceptibility to accept prejudice at face value (Wigerfelt and Wigerfelt,
All in all, globalising influences on a world previously defined securely
in territorial terms have already fostered considerable insecurity among
many (Scholte, 2000: 227), and there are few signs that the picture
will brighten in the near future. "The challenge for social research
is to examine the intricate interplay of globality and territoriality",
argues Scholte (2000: 60). It is my contention that it is recoils to
the defense of the national against perceived Others and Strangers that
is one of the most burning issues to be studied in this regard.
In the remainder of this paper, I shall address the phenomenon of scapegoating,
as it illustrates how adherents of the national and the local can unite
in the defense against forces perceived as sinister and foreign. In
order to do so, I will first make some necessary clarifications regarding
the related concepts of images, stereotypes and scapegoats, so as to
develop my interpretation of their theoretical and analytical value.
I will then turn to two empirical cases, both of which illustrate the
dynamics of scapegoating: namely, the Moscow riots (referred to in Russian
media as pogroms) that took place in late October 2001, and events indicating
budding xenophobia in the Swedish municipality of Markaryd during the
spring of 2002.
Images, Stereotypes and Scapegoats - Some Conceptual Clarifications
As argued in previous work on the subject, I understand
images to be cognitive and affective conceptual lenses, organising devices
and information filters. I thereby take issue with a prevalent tendency
in the literature about images to define away affective factors from
this theoretical domain (Petersson, 2001: 7). There is, however, one
more element that needs to be kept in mind, namely that these images
are socially constructed. Hence they stand to be deconstructed, reconstructed
or reconfirmed in daily life, whenever fixity or change is called for.
Theorists dealing with images within belief-system theory have often
pointed toward the great degree of permanence characterising images
(cf. Petersson, 1998: 42). They are construed as self-reinforcing devices
that structure incoming information to make it fit with prevailing beliefs.
Information that threatens to challenge existing beliefs is either discarded
altogether or bent to fit with the existing body of knowledge. Images
are thus considered to be "extremely change-resistant" (Elgström,
1998: 12) and are regarded as being "perpetuated" (Hirshberg,
1993: 78) on a continual basis. I argue, however, that the concept of
images must include the notion of fluidity as well as stagnation, since
there is potential for both.
As a matter of course, images of people with whom we frequently interact
gradually become more solidly entrenched. We are privy to first-hand
information on which to base these images, although, of course, we filter
and interpret this knowledge according to our own pre-existing beliefs.
Most of the time, we thus have a rather firm basis for our conceptions
of the significant Others in our closest proximity. Regarding those
of whom we do not have first-hand information, we are left to base our
images on hearsay; that is if we have reason to have any opinion at
all. There should be a substantial potential for fluidity in our conceptions
of individuals and groups with whom we do not regularly socialise. However,
human history is rife with examples of collectives of peoples who are
looked upon with suspicion from the very outset, and who are not given
a shred of opportunity to refute negative preconceptions about them.
The plight of Jews and the Roma people through centuries of wilful maltreatment
should obviously be mentioned here. In these cases, the images adhered
to by the different in-groups quite simply do not allow for change.
They have been frozen into stereotypes, comprising "beliefs about
characteristics associated with social category membership" (Austers,
2002: 274). And this is exactly what I would like to posit here, namely
that a "stereotype" can best be understood as a "frozen
It is reasonable to hold that there is a spectrum of Others relevant
to identity construction, ranging from good and benevolent to evil and
malevolent (Harle, 2000). Similarly, there is reason to argue that stereotypes
come in different varieties, and that they need not necessarily be negative.
What is it, then, that makes certain stereotypes stick? As argued by
Gilens (1999), most stereotypes are acquired not through first-hand
acquaintance, but are picked up through mechanisms of hearsay that is
conveyed through relatives, the education system, or the media. In such
a manner, individuals can subscribe to stereotypes about a group of
people, even if they have never met a single representative of that
group (Gilens, 1999: 161). This makes the prospects for the potential
flexibility of images to be realised seem poor. Many media analysts,
however, would argue that the media are not very likely to shape stereotypes
de novo, but rather they catch on to and reinforce ideas that are already
part of popular wisdom (Hartmann et al., 1974; Wilson and Gutiérrez,
To further narrow down the conceptual domain, it should be pointed out
that enemy images, which are the ones predominantly addressed in the
literature on images (cf. Harle, 2000), constitute a kind of negative
stereotype. Not only are the Others in this respect not part of Us,
they are wicked and evil at that. Wilson and Gutiérrez (1995:
152) argue that one can discern different stages in the media treatment
of marginalised groups. Most crucially, they posit that initial relative
neglect is likely to lead successively to the ascription of threatening
traits onto the Others, which will then result in some kind of confrontation
Consequently, an enemy image might prompt representatives of the in-group
to take preemptory action and nip the growing threat, perceived as
emanating from the Other, in its bud. However, an enemy image might
well connote that the enemy is a formidable one with whom one would
do wisely not to pick a fight. If this is the case, the image thus sustained
is not prone to lead to confrontation. The Others who are perceived
as weak, on the other hand, find themselves in a precarious position.
I would argue that this is the case with individuals and groups of individuals
who are subject to scapegoating. Conceptually, scapegoating can be understood
as a certain kind of enemy image, and also a negative stereotype. Indeed,
there may be a short distance between, on the one hand, embraced and
reinforced stereotypes of this variety and hostile action that is perceived
as preventive, on the other. Several externalities influence the eventual
process of scapegoating, and I shall turn to the subject of contextual
factors below. Suffice to say at this point, that given existing feelings
of frustration, uncertainty and wrath, the presence of scapegoating
phenomena might produce a highly explosive mix.
To sum up the conceptual discussion so far, I envisage images, in principle,
to be socially constructed, but also under several circumstances as
relatively impervious to change. They are most notably cemented in the
years of upbringing, as well as through the education system and the
media. Images that have become frozen in such a manner are here labeled
stereotypes. When the universe of stereotypes is envisaged as a continuum,
going from a positive to a negative pole, enemy images are those stereotypes
that take on a heavily negative value. Finally, I argue that collective
scapegoat images may be particularly harmful to individuals and groups
perceived to be in a vulnerable position. It is to this kind of phenomenon
that the remainder of this article now turns its focus.
Strangers and Scapegoats
The concept of the Stranger is hard to come to terms with,
fraught as it is with uncertainty in all its aspects. "The ambient
security focuses on the fear for personal safety; that in turn sharpens
further, on the ambivalent, unpredictable figure of the stranger",
argues Bauman (1998: 142). There is it a tendency for individuals to
try to explain this uncertainty, or at any rate give it a face, by focusing
on negative characteristics. These are often given prominence in the
perception and assessment of the stranger. "A significant characteristic
of someone classified as 'them' is to let [him/her] be manifestly different
from the surrounding society, to possess a feature that stands out and
which can be stigmatised" (Argounova, 2001: 48-49). The stranger
is taken to epitomise all that is bad, inferior or deteriorating in
society. For, if perceived problems in society are seen to be connected
to common roots, the stress brought about by societal transformations
may become easier to handle for troubled individuals. Only rarely are
fights picked against looming windmills; instead it is much more convenient
to turn on groups that are already marginalised and excluded. As pointed
out by Barber (1995: 182): "'Foreigners Out!' is an easier slogan
to sell than 'McDonald's Out!'". Single, vulnerable groups are
thus easy prey.
Scapegoating is, according to Tatyana Argounova (2001: 51) "the
process by which bad luck, diseases, misfortunes and sins are symbolically
placed on an object, animal or person". This definition can no
doubt be used as a preliminary basis for further discussion, but I believe
it has to be amended in order to be fit for the analysis of contemporaneous
processes. First, the victims of scapegoating most often need to be
referred to in the plural. Second, and even more importantly, individuals
performing the scapegoating are often quite convinced that the scapegoats
are actually to blame for misfortunes of different kinds; there is in
fact little that is symbolic about the way the process is perceived
on the ground. Furthermore, as will be discussed below, even though
animals constituted the original target in ancient times, the scapegoating
of non-humans is not a very prevalent phenomenon in the contemporary
Western world. The provisional definition I propose would therefore
be "the process by which persons are ascribed the blame for the
incidence of bad luck, diseases, misfortunes and sins".
The term "scapegoat" originally derives from a practice described
in the Old Testament. A high priest laid his hands on a goat that was
chosen by lot to take on the collective guilt of the assembled people,
and then let it loose in the wilderness (Mellema, 2000). In this way,
people were redeemed of their sins, which were all transferred to the
wretched goat. People witnessing the ancient ceremony could hardly have
regarded the goat as an enemy; it was merely a vessel, an animal chosen
at random to perform an important function. When we refer to the scapegoating
processes of today, where whole groups are targeted, it is hard to reach
any other conclusion than that the scapegoats are ascribed malevolent
traits. Being connected with bad luck, disease, misfortune and sins,
these collective scapegoats indeed take on traits of an enemy.
The groups selected tend to be simply available; they are also likely
to have some noticeable basic differences, as well as quite probably
being internally disliked from the outset (Douglas, 1995: 63). Like
conspiracy theories, enemy images can never be falsified. If information
is presented that indicates the correctness of these particular stereotypes,
the preconceived unfavourable impressions are taken to be corroborated.
Information that does not quite match or even contradicts the stereotypes,
on the other hand, can conveniently be interpreted as affirming the
cunning and conniving nature of the enemy. They are even devious enough
to try to manipulate us into believing in their good intentions, or
so the argument might run. And once cast in the image of an enemy, the
very presence of the targeted individual or group in the society of
the majority is quite simply bad news. "The enemy's visitation
on our borders is tantamount to impending pestilence", writes James
Aho (1994: 109). The scapegoat becomes regarded as impure, as filth
and excrement that should be flushed out by society as soon as possible
(Sibley, 1995; Aho, 1994). The sooner this is done the better, or else
the health of the majority is thought to be held at stake.
Negative stereotypes and enemy images are highly instrumental in upholding
the borderlines that help collectives of people to establish their group
identities (Sibley, 1995). Most often it is far easier for a group of
people to agree on whom is not considered to be one of their peers than
to establish positive criteria for membership of the collective. Thus,
scapegoats, like excluded groups in general, contribute to reinforcing
the feeling of togetherness among majority populations. That is why,
according to Girard, scapegoating constitutes "the very basis of
both psychological and social order" (quoted in Aho, 1994: 116).
Chronic outsiders, such as the Roma people, serve to knit the insiders
closer together. Regardless of whether they have been depicted as exotic
and close to nature, or have been vilified outright, they have certainly
suited this function. "The Gypsies are nearer to the animals than
any race known to us in Europe", decried a British chronicler in
the 19th century, no doubt feeling himself very enlightened (cited in
Barany, 2002: 63). Throughout the centuries, the Roma people have been
stigmatised as "lazy, uninhibited, deceitful, dirty, unreliable,
and prone to theft and other criminal behaviour" (Barany, 2002:
63). And, in the process, the in-groups have been left to feel more
confident about their own cohesion and perceived excellence.
The potential for scapegoats to make majority populations aware of what
unites them becomes especially marked in times of unrest and trouble.
In the Middle Ages, someone had to be blamed for the scourge of the
Black Death, and so the Jews came in handy. Similarly, stories tell
us that if, during previous centuries, violent storms threatened to
smash a ship at sea, any present women were unceremoniously thrown overboard
in order to placate the weather-gods. One need not travel that far back
in time to encounter such phenomena of collective guilt-ascription.
News reports of events occurring in the wake of the atrocious terrorist
attacks on September 11 in 2001, for example, included one disturbing
item about a white, middle-aged American. In a blinding fit of rage
over what he had just seen and heard on the news, he walked down to
the local kebab restaurant and shot the Arabic owner dead on the spot.
It is a well-known phenomenon that in turbulent times, there is a widespread
tendency to reclaim one's perceived roots, and to try to re-embrace
more deeply entrenched group identities. Human history is replete with
such examples. After September 11, gathering around the American flag
turned out to be a more compelling alternative to many US citizens than
associating with more amorphous communities connected to the life-style
symbols of globalisation. As Naomi Klein (2001b) points out (in spite
of her claiming the demise of identity politics in her best-selling
book, Klein, 2001a), the US national flag rapidly overtook the Nike
swoosh as the most popular and widespread tattoo motif among American
youths in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
Having thus explained and exemplified scapegoating it is now time to
end the conceptual discussion and turn instead to the two empirical
illustrations of how a perceived defense of cherished values may bring
scapegoating in its wake.
The Tsarytsino Events
On 30 October 2001, a lynch mob consisting of some 300
young people stormed a market situated next to the Moscow metro station
Tsarytsino. Out-door vendors, above all those presumed to be of Caucasian
origin (i.e. originating from the Caucasus), were attacked. The police
arrived on the scene after a while and fired warning shots, but more
than 100 of the assailants escaped, continuing on to the Kakhovskaya
metro station where they targeted a nearby hotel. The attackers yelled
racist slogans and assailed dark-skinned persons - Chechens, Armenians,
Roma people, Indians and Afghans. As a result of the atrocities, at
least 3 people were lynched to death, and about 15 people severely wounded.
According to initial reports the mob consisted primarily of football
hooligans, who chose this way to celebrate a victory. Later, however,
it appeared that the group included a hard core, consisting of ardent
members of the neo-Nazi party "Russian National Unity". The
resulting press coverage made it clear that this was not an isolated
event. Similar cases had recently taken place in the Russian cities
of Kaliningrad, Krasnodar and St. Petersburg. On these occasions, Roma
people and students of African origin had been subjected to the lynch
As is common in entangled situations in Russian politics, conspiracy
theories flourished in the public debate. For example, it was maintained
that the domestic intelligence service, FSB, had instigated the pogroms
to play off extreme nationalists and anti-globalists against each other.
It was held the intelligence service cared very little about both constituted
groups ("FSB said
," 2001). Most commentators discerned
other driving forces behind the violence. Ramazan Abdulatipov, for instance,
a deputy of the Federation Council (i.e. the Upper House of the Russian
Parliament) as well as a former cabinet minister of nationality issues,
cautioned that the events of 30 October were a sign of an impending
national collapse ("
as Abdulatipov warns
The actions of the lynch mob should be assessed as something taking
place in the wake of post-September 11 anti-terrorist campaigns, he
argued. The carnage was proclaimed to be an expression of Islamophobic
sentiment, spreading like wildfire in the country after the terrorist
attacks against the Twin Towers and the Pentagon ("Abdulatipov
The leader of the ultra right-wing People's National Party, Aleksandr
Ivanov-Sukharevskii, came to the defense of the lynch mob. The actions
were, he claimed, "a natural reaction among young people to the
massive influx of non-Russians to Moscow" ("
," 2001). According to the decrepit logic of such
conspiracy theories, he was quick to discern the hands of several sinister
enemy groups behind the immigration situation that had made the young
people react with violence. It was time, he said, for "the consolidation
of the Russian people
to stop the expansion of Jewish pan-Americanism"
and polls suggest
," 2001). Similarly, the notorious
leader of the so-called Liberal Democrats, Vladimir Zhirinovskii, tried
to exploit the events for his own purposes. The incident, he remarked,
showed how necessary it was to "cleanse Moscow" from "criminal
groups consisting of people from the south" ("
," 2001). Without going to these extremes, but still
hinting at the same problematic, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov
said that the terrible actions should serve as a wake-up call to Russia,
because the country does not have "a normal nationality policy"
("Actions of young
," 2001). He was less clear, however,
on what such policy would contain. In essence, these political activists
transferred the blame from the perpetrators to the victims.
According to their arguments, then, the violent extremists had merely
taken commendable action to defend Moscow from the influx of foreign
elements. One of the participants of these actions, a skinhead, expressed
himself precisely according to such lines. The attackers were simply
"ordinary Russians fed up with foreigners", he said, going
on to add that he did not care that people were killed during the pogrom
as Russian papers continue
," 2001). Appalling
as the latter statement might be, it still did not match the shock produced
by an informal call-in poll conducted by TV6. It revealed that 87 per
cent of the Muscovite respondents actually supported the actions of
the pogrom participants (Taibbi, 2001). One witness to the Tsarytsino
events explained the rationale: "The Russians have to defend themselves
against the unbridled ways of the blacks. They just walk about here
on our lands, hands in their pockets, fiddling with their money"
(Ivashchenko, 2001). It should be pointed out that 'blacks' is Russian
street-level slang for people originating from the Caucasus. The eye-witness
was seconded by another man, who argued that "it is necessary to
apply a little pressure on the Caucasians, otherwise they become too
self-assured" (Ivashchenko, 2001). Statements like these bespeak
the popularity of anti-Caucasian sentiments, and may also go some way
towards explaining the statements made by highly profiled, vote-maximising
political figures like Zhirinovskii and Ziuganov.
As discussed above, enemy images and scapegoating phenomena
do not suddenly arise out of the blue. To be sure, they are social constructions,
but as such they are inherited from and even reinforced generation after
generation. These constructs find their institutionalised expressions
in legends retold by parents, the media and history books, and figure
in habitual modes of thinking and reasoning. They have a cumulative
effect and possess formidable longevity, due to perennial and repeated
chains of reconstruction. As enemy images and stereotypes of scapegoating
can never really be falsified, all evidence collected from popular wisdom
can be used as corroborating evidence.
The fault lines defining the conflict between Russians and Chechens
date at least 150 years back in time. Old patterns of hostility and
enemy images prevail on both sides and have been used consistently by
the two in the current secessionist war. I have elsewhere recounted
how Vladimir Putin's landslide victory in the Russian presidential elections
of 2000 was due primarily to his renewed war effort against the Chechen
separatists (Petersson, 2001). Prior to the elections, several concerns
had been voiced about the pending political collapse of the country.
It became a prominent theme, especially in view of the increasingly
rambling and irrational statements by his ailing predecessor, Boris
Yeltsin. Major topics of concern included the following: the increasing
separatist tendencies in different regions of the Federation; the mounting
and seemingly ever present political and economic crisis; the particular
threat emanating from Chechnya and the northern Caucasus; Islamic fundamentalism;
organised crime; and, finally, the perceived impotence of Yeltsin's
The ingenuity of the Chechnya campaign was that it, in one masterstroke,
took care of all these concerns. It combated the regionally specific
threat, countered separatism and Islamic fundamentalism, and indirectly
dealt with organised crime, as Chechnya had for several years been perceived
as a hothouse of mafia activities. It should also be recalled that the
forceful war effort was launched against the background of devastating
terrorist attacks on apartment buildings in Moscow and other Russian
cities and towns during the summer and autumn of 1999. The campaign
stood in stark contrast to the first unsuccessful war on Chechnya during
the period 1994-1996, and above all to the Yeltsin administration's
subsequent wavering on the issue. And, since Putin had at times been
criticised for not having a proper political platform, or even a political
program indicating his preferred policies for dealing with the perennial
economic and social crisis in the country, the Chechnya offensive had
the tactical advantage of buying him time to consider these matters
at a later stage. In sum, Chechnya was perfect. And Chechens were the
ideal scapegoat for welding the Russian people together. Without being
entirely convinced of what united them, Russian citizens could at least
be fairly sure of whom they were not to accept in their community. By
transferring blame for all the Russian Federation's present ills on
this scapegoated category of people, uncertainty could be reduced, and
the continued weakness of the country-heir to the once superpower the
Soviet Union could be explained. In other words, the situation was ideal
for everybody but the Chechens.
Moscow - and Elsewhere?
The domestic Russian debate that followed the pogroms
of October 30 shows that people originating from the Caucasus were legitimate
targets, as they epitomised the influx of perceived "foreign elements"
into Moscow. As a contrast to Zygmunt Bauman's (1998: 75-76) "far-away
locals", who tend to be associated with "murder, epidemic
and looting", the Caucasians are not perceived as being far away,
but are rather situated in the midst of Russian nationals. That is,
the strangers are already there, the frightening far-away locals have
arrived, and they could cause mayhem. Indeed, there are certain physical
attributes that may help to tell the foreign elements apart from the
majority population; they have relatively dark hair and complexion.
The victims of the pogroms of October 30 were killed as a result of
the ensuing deadly logic.
But are the Moscow events really good examples of the effects of the
dynamics resulting from the national-local nexus? I believe that they
are. It is however less evident that they should be taken as indications
of popular defensive reactions to the effects of globalisation. Indeed,
as pointed out earlier, Russians and Chechens have been at each other's
throats for more than a century, long before it became à la mode
to discuss the phenomenon of globalisation. And the world out there
seldom offers clear-cut examples to be used in our textbooks. Nonetheless,
the aftermath of the Tsarytsino events show that arguments pertaining
to the added uncertainty of globalisation could be found in the rhetoric
of Russian extreme nationalist leaders. So, although globalisation may
not have been the primary driving force behind the grisly acts at Tsarytsino,
it provided part of the context, and it also supplied excuses for the
action. And this is alarming enough.
It is my fear that these kinds of mechanisms can be discerned universally.
Othering is an omnipresent phenomenon, even though the Russian case
brings it out with unusually brutal clarity, In order to bear this out,
I will now turn to a decidedly less dramatic, but still rather unpleasant
case of Othering and budding xenophobia. It is to be found in my home
Even in Sweden - the Markaryd Case
Sweden is certainly not immune to tendencies of xenophobia.
In a trial election on the Internet in the spring of 2002, high-school
students all over Sweden had the opportunity to cast their votes. In
the final analysis, it turned out that the xenophobe party, the Swedish
Democrats, got 3.8% of the overall vote. Also, in the general elections
in September 2002, xenophobic political parties gained considerable
ground at the municipal level, especially in southern Sweden. The Swedish
Democrats more than quadrupled their total number of seats won in municipal
representative assemblies. They also made headway in the parliamentary
elections and gained 1.4% of the total vote.
In the following pages, I shall offer an account of other disturbing
tendencies at the level of municipalities in Sweden, focusing on Markaryd
in the southern part of the country. With less than 10,000 inhabitants,
Markaryd ranks among the smaller municipalities in Sweden. According
to official statistics for the year 2000, 10% of the inhabitants were
born abroad, which is somewhat below the national average. There are
no permanent facilities for receiving refugees and asylum seekers in
Markaryd, but a temporary compound has occasionally been put to active
use. There have therefore been notable swings in the numbers of refugees
that have been received. There was a peak in the early 1990s in connection
with the wars in former Yugoslavia; Markaryd received 284 refugees in
1994 for example. This can be compared to a downturn in the late 1990s;
the municipality received a mere 4 refugees in 1999 ("Välfärdsdata
Kronobergs Län," 2000).
There was another crest in 2002. After having been closed for 18 months,
the reception facilities in Markaryd were reopened in January. The Swedish
Migration Board indicated to the municipal housing company that approximately
200 asylum seekers were to be expected during the year. In fact, the
numbers skyrocketed, and already in March 341 refugees had arrived;
191 of them were located within Markaryd itself, while the other 150
were located in another village, Strömsnäsbruk, in the same
municipality. The municipal authorities were harsh in their criticism
of the Swedish Migration Board, arguing that the Board had failed to
inform them about the size of the expected influx.
In early January there was a notable increase in shoplifting incidents
in Markaryd. There was also a simultaneous rise in burglaries of private
villas. A newly appointed municipal commissioner, Mr. Joakim Pohlman,
representing the Social Democrats, was quick to make a statement about
the situation. He observed that there had been 7 shoplifting incidents
reported to the police during one single week in January, which in itself
was as many as there had been during the whole of 2001. Apparently,
asylum seekers had been implicated in several incidents. The commissioner's
conclusion was rash. The perpetrators should be evicted from the country
without further ado. The inquiry into their rights to gain asylum protection
in Sweden should be aborted at once, he remarked (Askemyr, 2002b). Other
leading politicians in Markaryd were more cautious and refrained from
backing Mr. Pohlman's statements. The only exception was the representative
of a local populist party called the Alternative, who agreed that asylum
seekers should be automatically evicted if they committed any kind of
offence, such as shoplifting, during the time of investigation (Askemyr,
2002a). Among the public, however, several voices spoke out in favour
of Pohlman's suggestion. Anyone displaying a "criminal disposition"
should be sent back immediately, said the writer of a letter to the
editor of the local newspaper (Askemyr, 2002a). Local merchants also
backed the idea of the municipal commissioner: "We are quite a
few who support Pohlman, but everybody is afraid of being branded as
a racist", remarked one shopkeeper, who wished to remain anonymous
Local representatives of the Swedish Migration Board tried to respond
to the discontent, and indicated the possibility that the length of
inquiries be shortened for people who had committed serious offences
while in Sweden. They were less sure, however, whether cases of shoplifting
belonged to that category. The local director of the Migration Board
made an estimate that 5-10 of the 350 asylum seekers at Markaryd might
be suspected of having a criminal record (Sandberg, 2002g).
In early February, the situation got more inflamed. The series of burglaries
and shoplifting incidents proliferated. Another municipal commissioner,
Mr. Jörgen Johansson, representing the Christian Democrats, remarked:
"These burglaries are a tragic fact, and of course we do suspect
that they have something to do with our guests here in the municipality.
But I do believe that even the Swedes make use of the situation [with
a low level of accessibility on part of the police]" (Sandberg,
2002f). Clearly, the public was alarmed. Disabled people were among
those who voiced their concern (Sandberg, 2002f). Parents were afraid
of leaving their children at home on their own (Sandberg, 2002d). To
make things worse, the community started to sizzle with rumours.
Matters came to a head in mid-April, when an armed robbery occurred
in central Markaryd, in which a local taxi owner was assaulted by a
man speaking "broken Swedish" (Hartwig, 2002a). Additionally,
during the months of March and April, the local newspaper had reported
several incidents at the reception facilities themselves. One asylum
seeker was threatened with a knife by another refugee after having tried
to talk the wrongdoer out of occupying himself with stealing and hoarding
, 2002). A female refugee reported
that she had been raped by two male fellow asylum seekers ("Asylsökande
, 2002). And in mid-April, one worried asylum seeker
spoke to a journalist at the local newspaper explaining that he felt
wrongly accused, along with most other refugees at the camp. He desired
to work and make himself useful. But, he conceded, "I know that
there are sex criminals as well as thieves among the asylum seekers"
The Community Responds
In the Markaryd case, there was a clear response from
the local community. Its representatives certainly did not sit idly
by, waiting to become victims of new thefts and burglaries. Several
strategies were formulated to counter the perceived threat. Neighbourhood
action networks were established to prevent and forestall burglaries
in private homes. There seems to have been a discernible risk for these
initiatives to turn into vigilante action; on one occasion the police
informed people in neighbourhood community action that "violence
might be legitimate, but you do not have the right to knock anyone down"
("Initiativ från BRÅ
," 2002). The local
merchants convened and drew up a six-point programme, which they presented
to the municipal authorities. The first point was quite draconian, as
it stipulated that all asylum seekers should be forced to stay indoors
between 7 am and 5 pm, and that they should be kept busy during these
hours in different compulsory activities. "All of us have to work,
so we think it is proper that those who come here have to do so as well",
the chairman of the local committee for prevention of crimes argued
(Sandberg, 2002e). "They are parasites using our welfare system
without having to do anything in return. They should be kept in compulsory
activity programs eight hours a day", he later remarked (
and continued, "I get annoyed as I go to work every day and see
groups of relatively well dressed asylum seekers just drifting around"
It seemed to be of no avail that representatives of the regional police
authorities pointed out that the crime statistics could be questioned,
and that the total amount of reported crimes had actually decreased
since the corresponding six-month period a year ago. It also seemed
to be of little use that, in March, the police authorities reported
that six persons had been apprehended for a series of burglaries in
private homes in Markaryd. All of these burglars happened to be native
Swedes (Karlsson, 2002; Sandberg, 2002b; Hartwig, 2002b; "Inbrottstjuvar
," 2002). It was instead another piece of information
that caught the public attention, as a representative of the police
conceded that the shoplifting incidents could in their entirety be attributed
to asylum seekers (Sandberg, 2002c). According to the tainted logic
of stereotyping, all criminality was thus attributed to the refugees,
even though only a fraction of them had been implicated in the crimes,
and for the pettiest variety at that, namely the shoplifting and not
In this poisoned atmosphere, more manifest and physical conflicts were
only to be expected. Sure enough, in early April there was a violent
incident as Swedish teenagers started a street fight with immigrant
youths in central Strömsnäsbruk. What started out as a minor
clash rapidly developed into an all-out fight. It culminated with assault
charges and police action with patrol cars from the neighbouring towns
Ljungby and Kristianstad called to the scene. The fight had apparently
erupted as two teenage immigrants were pushed off their bicycles by
Swedish attackers. The single most violent act of the incident took
place as a Swedish 18-year old rioter beat an antagonist over his chest
with an iron bar ("Svenskar och invandrare
Even though it is of course hard to prove conclusively, it certainly
seems as though it was the general climate of suspicion that finally
resulted in this outburst of violence.
It is easy to see how local media reports like those in
Markaryd can be taken out of their context and used by adherents of
stricter immigration policies. They can be used to feed xenophobic sentiments
and to legitimise populist policies aimed at further marginalising and
squeezing out refugees. The media have a huge responsibility to shoulder
here. Unless they do so, they can easily turn into peddlers of stereotypes
and unsavoury enemy images that can never be falsified. When confronted
with a barrage of negative reporting about incidents and crimes purportedly
committed by asylum seekers, readers, who were convinced from the outset
that the foreigners ought to go home, were prone to become even more
entrenched in their views, and those who were ambivalent on the matter
were likely to start to wonder (cf. Entman and Rojecki, 2000: 57). Maybe
the overall lesson from the two empirical cases recounted above is that
Markaryd and Moscow are really not a world apart. The difference in
the general distrust on the part of the majority populations toward
marginalised Others might, in fact, only be a matter of degree. The
street brawl in Strömsnäsbruk and the full-scale riot in Tsarytsino
have at least two things in common. They both testify to the importance
of studying the national-local nexus in the age of globalisation. In
addition, they both indicate how scapegoating phenomena may contribute
to the ever-increasing vicious circle of suspicion and violence.
An earlier version of this article has been published in Bo Petersson
and Eric Clark, eds., Identity Dynamics and the Construction of Boundaries,
Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2003. The permission to reuse the text
is hereby gratefully acknowledged.
"Actions of 'Young Nazis' in Moscow Decried
2001. RFE/RL Newsline, November 2, <http://www.rferl.org/newsline/>.
"Abdulatipov Decries Rise of Islamophobia." 2001. RFE/RL Newsline,
November 6, <http://www.rferl.org/newsline/>.
Aho, James A. 1994. This Thing of Darkness: A Sociology of the Enemy.
Seattle: University of Washington Press.
and Polls Suggest Nationalism Growing Among Young Muscovites."
2001. RFE/RL Newsline, November 5, <http://www.rferl.org/newsline/>.
Argounova, Tatiana. 2001. "Scapegoats of Natsionalizm: Ethnic Tensions
in Sakha (Yakutia), Northeastern Russia." Ph.D. dissertation. Scott
Polar Research Institute: University of Cambridge.
as Abdulatipov warns of more nationalist actions
2001. RFE/RL Newsline, November 5, <http://www.rferl.org/newsline/>.
as Russian Papers Continue to cover Skinhead Violence."
2001. RFE/RL Newsline, November 14, <http://www.rferl.org/newsline/>.
Askemyr, Marie. 2002a. "Få Politiker Vill Utvisa Snattare."
Smålänningen, January 17, p. 10.
Askemyr, Marie. 2002b. "Pohlman om Snattare: - De Har Förverkat
Sin Rätt till Asyl och Ska Ut." Smålänningen, January
16, p. 10.
"Asylsökande Anmälde Våldtäkt." 2002.
Smålänningen, March 28, p. 15.
"Asylsökande Häktades för Knivhot." 2002. Smålänningen,
April 11, p. 4.
Austers, Ivars. 2002. "Attribution of Value Stereotypes as a Consequence
of Group Membership: Latvian and Russian Students Living in Latvia Compared."
Journal of Intercultural Relations, Vol. 26, No. 3, May,
Barany, Zoltan. 2002. The East European Gypsies: Regime Change, Marginality,
and Ethnopolitics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Barber, Benjamin. 1995. Jihad vs. McWorld. New York: Ballantine Books.
Bauman, Zygmunt. 1998. Globalization: The Human Consequences, Cambridge:
Beck, Ulrich. 2000. What is Globalization? Cambridge: Polity Press.
Bloom, William. 1990. Personal Identity, National Identity and International
Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Douglas, Tom. 1995. Scapegoats: Transferring Blame. London: Routledge.
Elgström, Ole. 1998. "Do Images Matter? Explaining Swedish
Security Policy Strategies in the 19th Century." Paper presented
at the International Studies Association Annual Convention, 16-19 March,
Entman, Robert M. and Andrew Rojecki. 2000. The Black Image in the White
Mind: Media and Race in America. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Erlingsson, Gissur Ó. 2001. "Globaliseringen, Välfärdsstaten
och Demokratins Förutsättningar." In Christer Jönsson,
Magnus Jerneck and Lars-Göran Stenelo, eds., Politik i
Tid. Lund: Studentlitteratur.
"FSB said Uninterested in Fighting Extremism Among the Young."
2001. RFE/RL Newsline, November 7, <http://www.rferl.org/newsline/>.
Giddens, Anthony. 1999. Runaway World: How Globalisation is Reshaping
our Lives. London: Profile Books.
Gilens, Martin. 1999. Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media, and the
Politics of Antipoverty Policy. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
"Handlare Ger Pohlman Medhåll." 2002. Smålänningen,
January 29, p. 13.
Harle, Vilho. 2000. The Enemy with a Thousand Faces: The Tradition of
the Other in Western Political Thought and History. Westport, Connecticut:
Hartmann, Paul, Charles Husband and Jean Clark. 1974. "Race as
News: A Study of the Handling of Race in the British National Press
from 1963 to 1970." In Race as
News, Paris: Unesco Press.
Hartwig, Torbjörn. 2002a. "Misshandlad med Järnrör
och Rånad." Smålänningen, April 11, p. 15.
Hartwig, Torbjörn. 2002b. "Ännu en Stor Stöldhärva
Uppklarad i Västra Länet." Smålänningen, March
19, p. 4.
Hirshberg, Matthew S. 1993. "The Self-Perpetuating National Self-Image:
Cognitive Biases in Perceptions of International Interventions."
Political Psychology, Vol. 14, No. 1, March, pp. 77- 98.
"Inbrottstjuvar Fick Fängelse." 2002. Smålänningen,
April 10, p. 7.
"Initiativ från BRÅ och Polisen. Grannsamverkan skall
Inledas Mot Brotten." 2002. Smålänningen, February 27,
Ivashchenko, Elena. 2001. "Po obe Storony Pogroma." Moskovskie
novosti, No. 45, November, 6-12, p. 3.
Karlsson, Anders. 2002. "Bra med Samhällsengagemang!."
Smålänningen, March 5, p. 19.
Klein, Naomi. 2001a. No Logo. Stockholm: Ordfront.
Klein, Naomi. 2001b. Lecture at Malmö University College, Sweden,
Mellema, Gregory. 2000. "Scapegoats". Criminal Justice Ethics,
Vol. 19, No. 1, Winter/Spring, p. 3-9.
Petersson, Bo. 2001. National Self-Images and Regional Identities in
Russia. Aldershot: Ashgate.
Petersson, Bo. 1998. "Russian Self-Images in Perm." In Klas-Göran
Karlsson, Bo Petersson and Barbara Törnquist-Plewa, eds., Collective
Identities in an Era of
Transformations: Analysing developments in East
and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union. Lund: Lund University
Reich, Robert. 1992. The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st
Century Capitalism. New York: Vintage Books.
Robertson, Roland. 1992. Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture.
London: Sage Publications.
Sandberg, Angela. 2002a. "- Som Gäst Vill Jag Visa Respekt.
Behrouz Berättar sin Historia som Asylsökande Flykting."
Smålänningen, May 7, p. 13.
Sandberg, Angela. 2002b. "Väpnat rån mot taxiföretagare."
Smålänningen, April 11, p. 15.
Sandberg, Angela. 2002c. "Grannsamverkan Lockade Fullt Hus."
Smålänningen, March 8, p. 14.
Sandberg, Angela. 2002d. "Markaryd ska Åter Bli en Trygg
Kommun." Smålänningen, March 6, p. 15.
Sandberg, Angela. 2002e. "Företagarna Kräver Svar på
Åtgärder mot Brotten." Smålänningen, February
28, p. 12.
Sandberg, Angela. 2002f. "DHR Menar att Inbrotten Leder till Upplösningstillstånd.
Länspolismästaren Vill Ha Förebyggande Arbete - Påpekar
att Inbrott Minskat i Länet."
20, p. 12.
Sandberg, Angela. 2002g. "De Flesta Asylsökande Följer
Lagen. Snabb Behandling av Ansökan Minskar Risken för Brott."
Smålänningen, February 8, p. 14.
Scholte, Jan Aart. 2000. Globalization: A Critical Introduction. Houndmills:
Shore, Cris. 2000. Building Europe: The Cultural Politics of European
Integration. London: Routledge.
Sibley, David. 1995. Geographies of Exclusion: Society and Difference
in the West. London: Routledge.
"Svenskar och Invandrare i Slagsmål." 2002. Smålänningen,
April 4, p. 1.
Taibbi, Matt. 2001. "Pogroms Return to Russia." Johnson's
Russia List, November 15, <http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/5546.cfm>.
Van Dijk, Teun A. 1987. Communicating Racism: Ethnic Prejudice in Thought
and Talk. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.
"Välfärdsdata, Kronobergs Län 2000." 2000.
Waever, Ole and Morten Kelstrup. 1993. "Europe and Its Nations:
Political and Cultural Identities." In Ole Waever, Barry Buzan,
Morten Kelstrup and Pierre Lemaitre, eds.,
Identity, Migration and the
New Security Agenda in Europe. Copenhagen: Centre for Peace and Conflict
Wallgren, Marie. 2002. "Lars-Inge Kristiansson Ryter till om Flyktingar."
Smålänningen, April 25, p. 11.
Waters, Malcolm. 2001. Globalization. London: Routledge.
Wigerfelt, Berit and Anders S. Wigerfelt. 2001. Rasismens Yttringar:
Exemplet Klippan. Lund: Studentlitteratur.
Wilson II, Clint C. and Félix Gutiérrez. 1995. Race, Multiculturalism,
and the Media: From Mass to Class Communication. Thousand Oaks: Sage