Rumours in Botkyrka – a study of common rumours which harm an intercultural Botkyrka
The spreading of rumours is a central feature of the mechanisms which exclude and stigmatise marginalized groups in the society. The Multicultural Centre has been commissioned by the Municipality of Botkyrka, Sweden, and the Council of Europe to make a study of common rumours which are circulating in the munic-ipality and which impede the development towards an intercultural Botkyrka.
This study is a step in the anti-rumour work which Botkyrka wishes to develop, following the work against rumours carried out in recent years in Barcelona, Spain. Research into rumours has shown that these cannot be understood outside the social, cultural and economic context within which they circulate. Vanja Möller, the project manager for Botkyrkas anti-rumour campaign, is very pleased with the study:
This study has laid the foundation for our anti-rumour work and inspired our anti-rumour network Botkyrka Fördomsfritt where the civil society, locally based researchers and the municipality work together to identify, nuance and counteract rumours that lead to xenophobia and racism. During the spring 2014 The Multicultural Centre will make a follow-up study to identify the arguments, reasoning and facts that can be used in the work to eliminate these rumours.
Botkyrka as a context
Botkyrka is the poorest municipality in Greater Stockholm measured by income per capita. It also has the third youngest population of all Sweden’s municipal districts. In 2010 Botkyrka became the municipality with the largest proportion of citizens with a foreign background (53.2%) in the country. Most of the people with background in a non-western country live in the northern part of the municipality, usually called Northern Botkyrka. This are is both geographically and symbolically separated from the southern part of the municipality. Southern Botkyrka has a longer urban history, while the greater part of northern Botkyrka has been developed more recently.
From the 1980’s and particularly during the 1990’s and onwards, the immigrants who settled in the northern part of the municipality came increasingly from lands other than the western countries. Now, the three administrative districts in northern Botkyrka, i.e. Fittja, Alby and Hallunda-Norsborg, are among the most diverse and resource-weak municipal regions in Sweden. In northern Botkyrka, more than 65 per cent of the population have a foreign background, and in some parts the figure is 90-95 per cent. Of these, almost 70 per cent have a non-Western background. The majority in the southern parts of the municipality have a Swedish background, and they also have on average a higher income per capita and a better attachment to the labour market.
Common rumours which harm an intercultural Botkyrka
The rumours identified in this study are linked to the socioeconomic pattern which characterises Botkyrka as a municipality:
1. People in northern Botkyrka are criminal
2. The culture of the immigrants is incompatible with the Swedish culture. Immigrants do not want to be integrated.
3. The distribution of resources in the municipality is unfair, the northern part gets all the tax money.
4. It is upsetting that the Swedish traditions are forbidden.
Each one of the formulated rumors in this list concentrates a variety of differ-ent rumors articulated in the studies that were analysed. These rumors are often interconnected. In an analysis of these studies, certain patterns have become clear regarding the spreading of rumours that are antagonistic to the intercultural processes in Botkyrka. It is apparent that certain rumours circulate more among some groups than among others.
A challenge in the work has been to find a suitable level of abstraction to identify the rumours. While some of the expressed rumours can be very general and diffuse, others are very detailed and relate to specific persons. The next step will now be to identify the arguments, reasoning and facts that can be used in the work to eliminate these rumours.