Bridging Nordic and Baltic Research on Multiculturalism and Generations

In the 1990s, Finland witnessed a significant increase in the number of immigrants arriving to the country. The country had by no means been monocultural prior to the millennium’s last decade, but there was arguably something different in terms of the volume of immigration as well as the countries of departure that featured in the national statistics on arriving immigrants.

Now a bit more than two decades later, the so-called second generation of migrant parentage, the children born to migrants, are reaching adult age. Those, who arrived to the country during childhood or in their early teens in the 1990s, the so-called generation-in-between, are currently aged approximately between twenty and thirty years old. In fact, in 1990 the number of migrants and their children counted less than a percent of the total population. In 2012, five percent of the total population were listed as having migrated themselves or having migrant parentage.

The national statistics reveal this generational dimension of immigration towards Finland. However, the numbers reveal only part of the whole picture. During the last decade, academics have been increasingly focusing their attention on the younger generations of migrant parentage born and raised in the country.  Numerous scholarly studies have shed more light to how young people of migrant parentage born in Finland fair in schools and in upper education, how they understand questions that relate to home and belonging, how they live transnational lives and what kind of mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion they possibly face in various sectors of the society.

This growing interest towards the situation of the subsequent generations in the labour market, education, on their experiences of discrimination and racism, and understandings of national identities, to list a few themes, have been recurring themes in the Nordic scholarship on migration for quite some time already. This is not surprising as such. Research literature on subsequent generations of migrant parentage in Sweden, Norway and Denmark has been quite abundant due to their more long-standing and voluminous immigration histories in the latter part of the 20th century. However, cross-country research collaboration that would focus on the generational dimension of migration-related phenomena in the region has mainly been based on bilateral or trilateral research initiatives, including two or three countries at most.

This was one of the motivating aspects that led to the formulation of a successful network funding application for Nordforsk in 2010. It resulted in two-year long research collaboration between 2011-2013 with partners from each of the Nordic countries and Estonia. The network, called Generations, multiculturalism and Nordic identity (MCgen) was operated by the University of Turku with Emeritus Professor Auvo Kostiainen serving as the project leader. Needless to say, Emeritus Professor Kostiainen’s input was essential in the establishment of a Nordic research network that brought together scholars from six different countries and institutions and from the Humanities and the Social Sciences in a truly interdisciplinary manner.

Indeed, Emeritus Professor Kostiainen’s efforts towards the network provided doctoral students and more established scholars from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Estonia the opportunity to meet on a regular basis to discuss theoretical and methodological challenges in the study of migration, generations and multiculturalism in the Nordic and Estonian societies. The six seminars and two coordination meetings that were organised in six different universities and research institutes within the period of two years and a half bear evidence to the time, energy and motivation that Emeritus Professor Kostiainen put towards establishing a platform for scholars who strive to better understand the generational dimension of immigration-related phenomena in the Nordic region and Estonia.

Furthermore, the network laid a robust foundation for future cross-Nordic and Baltic collaboration on the topical and intertwined themes of multiculturalism, nationalism and generations.

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