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Sweden's Burka Ban: Policy Proposals, Problematisations, and the Production of Swedishness

Journal article
Authors Sylva Frisk
Maris Boyd Gillette
Published in NORA - Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research
Volume 27
Issue 4
Pages 271-284
ISSN 0803-8740
Publication year 2019
Published at School of Global Studies, Social Anthropology
Pages 271-284
Language en
Keywords Burka ban, policy, problematisations, Sweden, national identity
Subject categories Social Anthropology


Between February 2002 and November 2018, Swedish politicians from the Centre, Christian Democrat, Moderate, Liberal and Sweden Democrat parties proposed policies to ban clothing variously referred to as the “burka,” “full-covering veil,” “face veil” and “niqab” (Arabic for face veil) at least 38 times, six at the national level and thirty-two at the municipal. Research suggests that circa 100 women in Sweden wear a “burka”; clearly these policy proposals have little to do with the burka’s prevalence. What, then, do these policy proposals attempt to govern? In this text we adopt feminist political scientist Carol Bacchi’s “what is the problem represented to be?” approach to analyse Swedish bills to regulate the burka. These policy proposals, we contend, have more to do with conceptualizing Swedishness than addressing an existing “problem” of women who wear burka.

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