Ethnic Representation of ‘Them’ and ‘Us’ by the ‘Official’ Finland
The complex societal issues of ethnicity and migration have become increasingly central in Finland as well as in other European countries during the recent decades. The issues of ethnicity have been studied from various perspectives, and the significance of public officials in constructing the reality of migration and ethnicity has been acknowledged. Although some studies do exist and many projects have addressed the issue alongside other interests, there is still little research concentrating on the communication of public officials from the ethnicity perspective in Finland. The on-going PhD project focuses on how the ‘official’ Finland has constructed ethnic representations of ‘them’ and ‘us’ through communication at the dawn of the current century. The study approaches the construction of ethnicity in the framework of othering. Ethnic representations are analysed in an interdisciplinary way in the frameworks of social class and gender. In addition to the field of cultural studies, the work is situated in the field of public communication. Thus the research project makes visible how ideals and differences about ethnic identity are produced in almost invisible everyday routines by ‘official’ figures of influence and power. The research data consists of two sets of materials. The first set includes information booklets produced by governmental organisations in Finland between years 2000 and 2011 and the second comprises a sample of newspaper articles dealing with issues of ethnicity and migration published during the same time period. The two sets provide complementing perspectives on the issue, as not only the producer and genre of the sets but also their intended reader vary. Additionally, as background material, interviews with public officials involved in producing the communication materials are used. The study takes a social constructionist approach and the research methods are qualitative. The primary research methods are close reading of texts and images. Multimodal analysis is used as a secondary research method. Currently the PhD project is in the early stages of analysis of the first set of data. Preliminary findings are expected by April and more conclusive findings by summer 2013.