Recent years have seen increasing debate and research into identity and belonging in rural areas. The northernmost region of Sweden, Norrland, has been identified as the rural internal other to the modern, progressive, youthful and urban Swedish state (Eriksson, 2008). Young adults are underrepresented in and often expected to leave small municipalities, but an increasing body of international research focuses on rural stayers. This study aims to investigate how young adults choosing to live in rural Northern Sweden negotiate their identity in relation to representations and Othering of Norrland and the rural. The research is based on eleven semi-structured interviews with people between 19 and 25 years old living in the counties of Norrbotten, Västerbotten and Västernorrland. The findings show that young adults are aware of prejudice and negative representations surrounding their localities. These representations are approached in different ways, either seen as true, upsetting or irrelevant. The concept of Norrland was often understood as oppressive, prejudiced or one-dimensional when used by people who do not live there. Participants perceive that they and their places do not matter to authorities at any political level and worry about losing access to public services. As an effect of stigmatisation and generalisation of rural Norrland, injustice was seen as natural and difficult to complain about. These findings are important as they give voice to people who are often made invisible and because it shows alternative reactions to rural marginalisation than radicalisation.
- Sparsely populated rural areas
- Geographical imaginations
- Political disengagement