Before rush hour at the päärautatieasema / Helsinki / 24 Jan 2016

Before rush hour at the päärautatieasema / Helsinki / 24 Jan 2016




The beach at Hiekkaranta / Helsinki / 11 Apr 2016

The beach at Hiekkaranta / Helsinki / 11 Apr 2016


Conversations about multiculturalism and immigration appear throughout the other sections here. However, their importance to the future development of Finland and their relevance after a year of terrorism in Europe and the U.S. and rising nationalism warrants at least minimal additional conversation.  

The best frame for conversation about multiculturalism and immigration in not just Finland and not just Northern Europe but really anywhere comes, at least most recently, from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

“The greatest challenge to multiculturalism may not be philosophical but political. At the start of the twenty-first century, there is talk of a retreat from multiculturalism as a normative ideal and as a set of policies in the West. There is little retreat from recognizing the rights of minority nations and indigenous peoples; the retreat is restricted to immigrant multiculturalism. Part of the backlash against immigrant multiculturalism is based on fear and anxiety about foreign ‘others’ and nostalgia for an imagined past when everyone shared thick bonds of identity and solidarity. Nativism is as old as migration itself, but societies are especially vulnerable to it when economic conditions are especially bad or security is seen to be threatened.” (Song 2014)

It must be mentioned that Finns as a whole are generally inviting to both recent immigration and the larger trend of increasing multiculturalism in Finland. But they also recognize that both these trends are changing the country, and change is difficult. Certainly, Finland has had a dramatically different relationship with immigrants and multiculturalism that its neighbors, Sweden most directly, and the reaction to the early arriving populations from Chile and Vietnam is different from the treatment of the recent Afghan and Syrian refugees. No matter where I was or whom I spoke to, the conversation always turned at some point towards demographics, population, and the future.

Tilework at the Helsinki Design School / Helsinki / 9 Mar 2016

Tilework at the Helsinki Design School / Helsinki / 9 Mar 2016


There have always been immigrants in Finland. Swedes and Russians entered the country for centuries. Estonians have been present in significant numbers since at least the fall of the Soviet Union. Somali communities began to appear in 1995. And Finns, too, used to immigrate in numbers larger than their population growth, mostly to Sweden, but also across the continent and the United States. In recent years, both the raw number of immigrants and the variety of countries of origin have been growing. 

But to talk about immigration in 2016 is to sometimes use it as a euphemism for terrorism, war, and the complicated legacies of colonialism.  The word itself carries many conflicting political charges, and to use the word in any context is to activate at least one of them. Immigrants, not just in Finland, but across the world can be simply that, immigrants, but they can also be refugees, asylum seekers, and others looking for a better life. Although I cannot dismiss politics altogether, I attempt to use the term in the most neutral of ways.

When many of the Finns I spoke with talked about immigration, the nearly always meant recent immigrants from the Middle East, refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War and the Islamic State and general political unrest – as opposed to multiculturalism, which some felt was part of a long-term trend of Finnish diversification. Finnish students seemed unfazed by the possibility of terror attacks, nor were many of them susceptible to the concern that immigrants will rape Finnish women. (Women in Finland appreciate a high level of independence and so maybe this claim appeals to an absent patriarchal reflex.) And when asked how immigrants had changed their community, their lives, their immediate surroundings, nearly all felt that their lives were basically unchanged.

The largest concerns students and teachers had about the recent influx of immigrants were economic. The post-2008 Finnish economy has been slow to recover, and the additional tax on the system by a relatively large and sudden population bump can have serious and immediate effects. Many students connected the additional funds needed to serve and assimilate these immigrants with the cuts in education and other social services – acts that are front-page news in Finland’s welfare state.  

Many Finns also understand that immigration of this sort, of any sort, is inherently international. It is not a one-way relationship between the departure and arrival state, but a long chain of international relationships and agreements. Nearly everyone I spoke with recognized that the refugee crisis does not have a unilateral solution.  Their government and institutions are the best resources for serving these immigrants, but that Finland alone cannot solve the problem.

There was a sort of xenophobia present in Finnish society. The problem is not immigration itself. The Finns recognize the need for growth and diversity. Students know the future of Finland lies in stronger connections with the rest of the world. The problem for Finns has to do with the speed. Finland would be comfortable with a slower rate of immigration sustained over a wider timeline. But, Finns say, these larger numbers are reinforcing prejudices towards non-white, non-native Finnish groups. Their biggest concern about this xenophobia: how it will change the world’s perception of Finland.

“The opening for the EU to regulate immigration has come from the need for free circulation of labor in the Single Market, which can only be achieved by open internal borders and cooperative control over external borders. Those EU citizens that understand this linkage, and support the project of economic integration (including the Euro currency), will also support Brussels controlling immigration policy, regardless of whether they identity with their nation-state, or how they feel about immigrants in general. This theory assumes a conscious cost/benefit calculus by EU voters, who are capable of understanding the link between economic unity and a harmonized immigration policy, and therefore assumes that there will be a pro/anti-EU immigration policy cleavage cutting across nationalities and even national identities. Therefore, if most Europeans see the EU as a project of economic integration, then those that support the single currency, the Euro, will also support the EU having control over immigration policy as a key area of economic unification.” Luedtke (2003), 13

It's also quite shocking how people talk. Here in Turkey they have control of the refugee flow and then people in Finland, the government, aren't really happy and now we have solved the refugee problem. Well not solved but the problem wasn't solved for the refugees in Turkey. People don't care about the refugees but more about the national economy. – Benjamin, 16, Helsinki

“North Atlantic countries are witnessing record levels of immigration. The volume and diversity of recent immigrants have raised concerns among some liberal nationalist philosophers the newcomers are not being sufficiently integrated into receiving societies, at a high cost to both citizens and immigrants themselves.” Wilcox (2004), 559

“In the face of unprecedented human mobility, political philosophers have become increasingly concerned with the issue of immigrant integration. Since naturalization policies the states primary formal means for ensuring that immigrants are sufficiently integrated before they are granted full citizenship, it is been central to these debates. Philosophers disagree about what a liberal state may legitimately demand of naturalizing immigrants. Some prominent liberals contend that a modest length of residence is the only justifiable naturalization requirement.” Wilcox (2004), 561

We have this immigration problem, so we have the people who are saying that, "No immigrants at all. Go back where you came from. All the borders should be closed. Things are getting worse and worse." Then there are people that think that "Okay, we need to help them. If they have problem, we need to help them." There's so many people in the middle, so I think that describes Finn like very good way. We vote and our government furthers the controversy, so there's so much people that is in the middle, they just, like they don't exist. Like I said, Finns don't like to express their thoughts that much, but still there is too. They read, and they think that, "Ah okay, I agree. Okay, I don't agree" but that's all. They don't like to say it out loud, which makes this immigration thing even harder, because they are not heard, because they are just thinking to themselves. – Reeta, 18, Helsinki

And then people are like, oh my god how can they have cell phones if they are refugees. They don't think of them as people. If we were from Finland I would of course take my phone with me. I don't think people think of them as just normal people and it's often the people that do have money that can flee the country. – Rebecca, 16, Helsinki

“It appears that enlargement is on the Finns’ minds when it comes to control over immigration policy, probably because those Finns that are against enlargement are afraid of increased immigration via Eastern Europe once those countries join, and thus would prefer for their national government to retain sovereignty over immigration. Interestingly, Finland and Austria (two of the four countries on the EU’s Eastern border) were the only two countries where feelings about enlargement were statistically significant predictors of feeling regarding immigration policy control, perhaps lending support to the geopolitical IR hypothesis that countries in the East will prefer national control, out of fears of a ‘swarm’ of Eastern European migrants in future years.” Luedtke (2003), 22

I have noticed, I see more immigrants that I haven't seen before, but it hasn't necessarily changed anything. – Eevi, 17, Tampere

I think we're more tolerant with the emigrants, because I feel like fore example my grandparents, they might be like, "Oh, that's a very bad thing." But I think the younger generation, which trying to understand be more, international and global. I think that's a big difference. – Iisa-Susanna, 17, Tampere

Accepting immigrants here is a big thing. Here, there are lots of people, for instance, if you look around this class, there's different nationalities, blah, blah, blah, and in the school itself there are people from big communities, different countries ... There's just everybody in one place so, obviously you have to learn to accept. That's one thing that's very pushed on here. People don't see a lot of people ... "Ah no, don't bring those people here. Oh no, this isn't right." There's a lot of acceptance and that's really great about this country. I think that Finnish people are anti-racist and stuff, and I think we're creating movements against that and it's changed a lot in years here. Even in the northern parts, people aren't as racist as they used to be even though they are still a little bit, and we're kind of proud of that, I think. Just trying hard to change it. – Girl, 15, Helsinki

“The liberal idea of moral equality also weighs against cultural preservationist naturalization policies. Equality requires that the interests of resident immigrants be given serious consideration and naturalization policy decisions along with those of citizens. Although immigrants typically assimilate to many aspects of the culture of their new society voluntarily, rapid an extensive acculturation would have a detrimental effect on their well-being.” Wilcox (2004), 568

They must do the things that Finnish people do. Educate themselves, work, just the normal things. Through every day routine it comes ... You do it by learning, not by telling. It teaches Finnish. There is not, "Do this. Don't do this." By living normal life in Finland and going out with Finnish people, not just being together with themselves. Yeah. It's not an obligation, but that's what I strongly advise. – Matti, 19, Helsinki

Right now the crisis with Syrian refuges affects the openness to internationalism, especially when the media concentrates on the bad things. Of course they should be telling about that, no question there but people are getting worse and worse way of thinking of those people, and maybe one day, in some time, when new people are coming, they will have the same thoughts about them as they do about Syrians. A lot of them have a very negative way of thinking about them, especially when they are telling about how they raped some girls or something like that. It's always puffed up, it's subconscious maybe, like "Oh no, he came from Africa," so kind of scared of them.

That's some problems that are international. If the Syrian crisis continues the same way it does right now, and even more refugees are sent to Finland and people are not adapted to society, and they're being left, kind of like it is in France where they have their own little society, then we're going to have very negative, a very big obstacle. – Timofei, 18, Helsinki

Also the immigrants that come all the time and all that. We have no money. It's the same issue. We have the immigration problem, we have the economic problem, which it's tied to. Something that I noticed ... I don't remember when it was, but I think a little bit with the immigration and the people that came here, some of them were in a way, a little bit, in a way, desperate because it had just gone one month since they came here and they started complaining, "Why aren't we getting any jobs, houses", but it takes time and they started going back to their own country. Yeah. It is. Because we don't have many safe houses they can stay in. Then there's the possibility to just take someone's vehicle. – Adam, 15, Helsinki

“Finland is been a very closed state with respect to foreign refugees or immigrants and the official policy seems that continue this tradition. Only 2% of the present population (100,000) were born outside of Finland. In spite of this, there have been attacks against immigrant groups, carried out mainly by young extremists.” Passi (1997), 49

Yeah. We would be more open to other countries and other religions. Now, in Asia there's, I can't pronounce the word, but they have the- Yeah, they don't have so many temples in here. They have 1 or 2 in here. We should get more of them. We should be more aware that there's coming new people in here. We should be more open to them. We should be more open to other people and we shouldn't be so full of ourselves. Some people are so closed. They don't want to talk to anyone. – Olivia, 13, Helsinki

S: Maybe we don't fear Russia as much as we used to but nowadays, the threat comes from within the society and it breaks the consensus apart because ... one of the things is the immigrants, it's sad but there are really a huge amount of people who are afraid of these new people who come from Iraq and Syria, mostly and I don't know. The conversations that I've heard, they just take on this really ridiculous kind of vibe. There was this ... first there was one, then there were more of these cases where at least allegedly an immigrant or a refugee had raped a girl in Finland, and then the whole conversation went ... got kind of warped, it was all about how these people come to our country and they rape our girls and ... as if rape hasn't happened in Finland, as if it doesn't happen every day by Finnish men by white, Finnish men. It's like ... I don't know, people like to kind of make really sharp comments and not really think things through.

P: They kind of highlight all the bad that's going on, and instead of concentrating on all the good stuff, they just kind of ... whatever argument they can use to basically drive people out of our closed off society, they'll take it.

– Saara and Paulina, Student Teacher, Joensuu

“[N]ational identity is obviously not the only significant predictor of feeling towards immigration policy harmonization in the EU… National identity is not even statistically significant in Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg and Finland.” Luedtke (2003), 20

A lot of foreigners are moving here, and refugees from other countries. They're going to get their Finnish citizenship. I think our generation is much more open about that than the ones before. It's really weird how older people seem to actually be scared of someone moving to Finland. Whoa, another Finnish person. What is that? Because Finland is changing, maybe the Finnish identity is also changing with that. The stereotype of drinking beer and all that, I think it's going to live on for a long time but it's always going to be that stereotyope, not the real thing. I guess Finland's becoming more multicultural. I don't know how to say it. – Anni, 18, Tampere

“How can this republican philosophy of integration be summarized? Four basic policy principles can be delineated: (1) the integration of immigrants must be in accord with the secularism of the state: the latter respects religions, philosophies and beliefs but gives them no special support;(2) it is individuals rather than groups that integrate and at no time can or ought the action of integration to contribute towards the constitution of structured communities;(3) integration presupposes rights and duties: an immigrant must respect French law as it is: in return, the law naturally respects their culture and traditions; (4) immigrants and the French must be treated equally, without developing the sentiment that immigrants are better treated than French people who are their neighbors. As such, integration is not designed in order to favor immigrants but for the benefit of all and their collective cohesion.” Jennings (2000), 583

Right now what I can think of is the biggest political discussion is crisis with people, like Syrians - Immigrants, refugees. The refugee crisis is the biggest topic politically here. Something is going to happen with that, I haven't been following it enough to say where it's going to go. – Emma, 18, Helsinki

The military's role in the refugee crisis? Controlling the borders, not overflowing people; but people coming safely. Then protecting the refugee centers so everything's peaceful there and helping the refugees to live and continue their lives as normally as possible. I know the border control have already been helping the refugees to settle in. – Matti, 19, Helsinki

“Although it currently receives less attention than data regarding the low levels of civic and political participation, data regarding the inequitable nature of civic participation and influence is also troubling. Low-income and less educated citizens, as well as recent immigrants and those less proficient in English, are often underrepresented in the political process and have far less voice. “ Kahne and Sporte (2008), 739.

My dad when he came here, he got a job here already. For him, he just came here. He didn't have to learn the language I guess because his job was in English, but then my mom, she had to learn Finnish so that she could work here. That was hard for her, but then when they came here, they thought it was really bad. I guess compared to Germany, they just enjoyed Germany more. After a while it got hard. – Basant, 14, Helsinki

“If national identity means self-definition and belonging in the national polity, then immigration cuts to the heart of this concept, because it raises political questions of how the nation-state should be defined. Immigration policy determines who should belong to the nation-state (and who should be excluded), and determined the very nature of that belonging.” Luedtke (2003), 6

I think well most of the cities have like the population is almost like we don’t have much like Finns. Now we have the refugees, there’s a lot of Russians. – Anna, 15, Joensuu

I believe Finland is slowly changing people as a whole because it slowly may just become more open and to more international presence. It’s more changing the people and what they think. – Vilppu, 15, Joensuu

“[T]he homogeneity and fragility of the Finnish cultural tradition may lead to a sharp negative reaction to foreign influences. Attitudes towards refugees and immigrants -whose absolute and relative number is among the lowest in Europe- appear more negative than in most other Western countries.” Alapuro (1992), 707

There, the immigrant problem is definitely bigger, because they have always ... When you live here in Helsinki, we see them everyday. It's so usual to us, but there, when there comes 100 people from Congo, they are like, "Oh my god. What terrorists are those?" They have never seen them before, and of course it shocks them, and they think, what they have heard, what has happened here, they already think way. It's really difficult. When I was last time there, my aunt was like, "Oh my god. Look, there are terrorists walking." I was like, "Please." Please. What they have done? It's difficult up there. There's lots of space, but people there are very very ... There's not much people there, and plus, the immigrants, it's making them feel uncomfortable, really uncomfortable. I think they should be more open minded, because looking from their perspective, you come to country you have never even heard of, and people are not welcoming. It's wrong that people accuse all people because just some of them did horrible things. That's affecting all in a bad way. – Reeta, 18, Helsinki

These guys used to make fun of me for it, but if this goes on, it doesn't stop, I could see like more Islamic culture taking place here, if this continues. I think there will be a shift in cultural balance. Other than that I think we will become even more international, open, and ... I can see that happening to Western Europe, but Eastern Europe not so much. I know. We might suffer from immigrants. I think that we should allow people to come in here, but too much ... It's too much. We should check what kind of people come in here. It's easy to just say you're on an unaccompanied child and get through here, no questions asked, no problem. I think we should really focus on the people who actually need help. I think it was like 3% of the people who come here are actually Syrians, from the conflict area. Most of them are just people from Afghanistan and Iraq. Iraq ... Baghdad is safe, only the western part of that country isn't safe. I think maybe, I don't know what's going to happen in the next few years. I think the next few years will be a lot of turmoil. Going on all over the world. I don't know what it's going to look like. I think that the current immigration situation is easily the worst obstacle to Finland in the future. – Mikko, 15, Helsinki

“The recent success of Finland as a nation has often been explained by its lack of ethnic minorities and a relatively homogeneous society. Although ethnicity in Finland among a population of 5.3 million is not as diverse and apparent as it is in some other European nations, migration trends since the early 1990s indicate that Finland is rapidly transforming into a multi-cultural society.” Sahlberg (2007), 149


  1. What overall relationship do you think exists between national identity and recent immigrant populations?
  2. American audiences: In what way is the Finnish reaction to immigration similar to and different from your American experience?
  3. Finnish audiences: What factors do you think create the attitude towards immigration described above?
  4. Although Finland is traditionally homogenous, how might immigration change the country, it's culture, and the public institutions?
  5. What kind of gaps can you find in either the academic research or the interviews?
  6. What comments from the Finnish students do you agree with, disagree with, or find interesting? 
  7. In what way do the selected images in this section complement or relate to the text?
The edges of lake Saimaa in Southern Karelia / Lapeenranta / 28 Feb 2016

The edges of lake Saimaa in Southern Karelia / Lapeenranta / 28 Feb 2016


Historically, Finland has been a homogenous country. Yes, there have been populations of Russians and Swedes there since the 13th century and the Sámi have been present – albeit in much smaller numbers – for far longer than that, but for nearly all of recorded history, Finland has been, for all intents and purposes, overwhelmingly Finnish.  

Since World War II, and even more after the fall of the Soviet Union, Finland has become a destination for immigrants. Other than Russia, Sweden, and Estonia, the rest of Europe is pretty evenly represented in Finland and has been growing steadily. North and Northeast African communities, on the other hand, have blossomed much more quickly and grown larger in the last two decades. And even more recently significant Kurdish, Arabic, and East Asian immigrants have become some of the larger minority populations in Finland. These groups have more or less become accepted parts of Finnish society.

But acceptance does not necessarily mean integration.  

Without a long history of diversity, Finland lacks a native idiom for discussing multiculturalism in the country. Instead, they appear to be leveraging the strong community identity and urge for consensus to include everyone in the evolving Finnish society. What this looks like is a piecemeal approach to multiculturalism. Culinary traditions and holidays are integrated easily. But, like the Sámi often point out, these make for reductive inclusion.  

These constituent communities remain incompletely integrated into the whole of Finnish society. Those I spoke with, especially those second- and third-generation Finns of immigrant background, always identify as Finnish, but also always as something more: Somali-Finnish, Kurdish­-Finnish, Afghani-Finnish. Even the Swedish-speaking Finns underline their Swedishness more heavily.

Although Finland is more inviting, hospitable, and generous by default than much of the rest of Europe, the perceived threat of multiculturalism to “native” Finnish culture is enough to spur a knee-jerk reaction in some Finns. While I did not see much prejudice or fear-mongering of non-white and foreign-born populations, there is generally an awareness that the population and thus the country are changing. 

“Ignoring differences within groups contributes to tension among groups.” Crenshaw (1991), 1242

“[T]he divided nature of cultural communities strengthen the case for not thinking in terms of cultural rights. Cultural groups are not undifferentiated wholes but associations of individuals with interests that differ to varying extents. So within such minorities are to be found other, smaller minorities. To regard the wider group as the bearer of cultural rights it to affirm the existing structures and therefore to favor existing majorities. Minorities within a cultural community which might over time have formed quite different coalitions within their interests may find that their interests are to a significant degree subject to control by the larger rights-bearing community. More important, it restricts the opportunity of minorities within the group to reshape the cultural communities, whether directly or through its interaction with those outside the group.” Kukathas (1992), 114

“Critical, liberal, postmodern understandings of culture, identity, difference, and dialogue all challenge this sort of thin and happy multiculturalism. A different way of thinking about cross-cultural knowing is to begin with the idea that whoever the ‘other’ is, the ‘other’ can never be fully known and that coming to know across difference is an acutely difficult process.” Heilman (2006), 196

I think what is actually proving more serious is the fact how black people are treated. I'm a bit worried about the rise of Right Wing sort of nationally, even in Europe. Such as the entire Europe basically and Hungary. I guess the two biggest parties are one is the extreme Right Wing Nationalist party and the other one is basically a Nazi party I guess. That's a bit worrying to me. I am hoping that, yeah. It is interesting that through the years, well 80 years after the rise of Nazis and we are already seeing a ton of the same kind of thoughts coming out again. Well I'm hoping that the Finnish people are maybe a bit more, well, yeah. I don't know. I think the Finnish people are not quite as conservative. Of course the Hungarians also have a history in the Soviet Union so that might also be a part of why they are feeling this way. – Nicholas, 15, Helsinki

“In the past decades, migration flows to European countries have increased substantially and have become more diverse. Today, many countries in Europe have become culturally and ethnically heterogeneous and consist of immigrants from all over the world. The immigration of outsiders has led to xenophobic counteractions on the part not only of these extreme nationalists, but also of established populations.” Arts and Halman (2005/2006), 71

A: Russia, sometimes I have felt like I'm worse than others because, of course, there are stupid people saying stupid things, but sometimes I have met teachers that take too seriously, like saying, "I'm not Finnish".

Q: Do you feel Finnish?

A: Yeah.

Q: When did your mother move from Russia?

A: Twenty-five years ago, maybe. She has lived for a very long time.

Q: Does she feel Finnish?

A: Her home country is always her home country, but she respects Finland and maybe not ... she's not full Finnish, of course, she is full Russian, but maybe she talks ... I think she talks really great Finnish, speaks very well, but that's Finnish, maybe she can feel like a Finnish, but she is still, in fact, not. For her, I feel bad for her because getting jobs may be hard. – Alina, 17, Joensuu

P: I think school is good, it teaches us as Finns a lot and ... because we've always been like this little nest here and everything's safe and now we just have to see that there is something different around there and in the world. It teaches us a lot, probably gives more perspective to our students and make them realize that it's not the only thing that there is in this world. Very often ... especially, I have to say older Fins maybe have this tendency to say that ... since we're Finnish, that this Finnish food is the best and the cleanest and the Finnish this is and that is the best, and can't really see beyond that, that there is life, there are good things outside the borders. I think it's a good thing.

S: The funny this is, that some things people think are Finnish actually come from somewhere else, and they just don't see that. The immigration issue, it has shown ... if anything, it has shown that we are still learning, we're not ready ... we weren't ready for this wave of different nationalities and now we're kind of in it. There's a lot of kind of ... how should I put it ...

P: There's a lot of tension.

S: Tension and anxiety, and it takes different forms and the school is there obviously. The school has a great responsibility to kind of show that it's not a bad thing, difference is a strength, not necessarily a weakness.

P: It becomes bad if we don't know how to deal with and we don't do anything. If we don't educate ourselves and others, but basically it's a good thing. I mean, we're all people and that's it. No matter where we're from, we're people. We need security.

S: There's a lot of fear surrounding the issue at the moment, because people just don't really know how to respond to it. There's even cases in the paper, and some people that have lived here for 20-30 years and they get the same sort of treatments as refugees that just got here and they're kind of feared and told to go back to their own country and they're like "I was born here" ... "Go back where? To my moms home?"

P: That's a kilometer away.

S: "Sure, I'll just go there." – Paulina and Saara, Student Teachers, Joensuu

“Historically, Finland has been a country of population outflow. A peak was reached in the early twentieth century, with large-scale overseas migration. Contrastingly, in a European context, Finland has never experienced more than a modest immigration. There are only 18,500 foreigners resident in Finland. A third are Scandinavians, who have the right of entry to Finland through the common Nordic labor market. As a result of its demographic history, Finland has one of the most homogenous populations of any European country – biologically as well as ethnically.” Mead (1991), 313

“Increasingly, the impact of the larger society on the cultural integrity and durability of ethnic minorities has come to be a matter of debate, if not a concern. And to a significant extent, it is cultural integrity which now forms the basis of the moral claims, and political demands, advanced by these minorities.” Kukathas (1992), 105

“In a society composed of countless sub-groups with distinct histories and identities, how can we include the voices and experiences of all or most of our various sub-cultures? If we strive for multicultural inclusion, which of the myriad groups should we single out for our students to be exposed to?” Smagorinsky (1992), 216

“In the case of minority nations, cultural structures are threatened by unwelcome policies imposed by the broader and more politically powerful society. Yet in the case of multicultural immigration, immigrant groups are the minority groups, and thus have little power to impose unwanted changes on the cultural structure of the majority society. Although immigrants can contribute new cuisines, art forms, and religious and moral perspectives to existing natural cultures, altering them in the process, such changes to the character of a culture tends not seriously to influence its deeper structure.” Wilcox (2004), 567

“The discourse of multiculturalism represents, in part, the emergence of new voices that have generally been excluded from the multiple histories that have defined our national identity. Far from being a threat to social order, multiculturalism in its various forms has challenged notions of nation al identity that equate cultural differences with deviance and disruption. Refusing a notion of national identity constructed on the suppression of cultural differences and social dissent, multiculturalism, especially its more critical and insurgent versions, explores how dominant views of national identity have been developed around cultural differences constructed within hierarchical relations of power that authorize who can or cannot speak legitimately.” Giroux, H. (1995), 53

“This ideal of the nation state as a social justice community remains a potent myth. Indeed, some have argued that even the vulnerability of the modern state to ethnic nationalism is a sign of its enduring strength rather than its weakness as a political ideal. State failures to deliver equal treatment to its ethnic minorities simply invites counter-elites to promote the appeal of a breakaway state where equal treatment may more readily be accomplished…. [A]lmost all modern states are multinational or polyethnic in character and are thereby exposed to the threat of ethnic dissension.” Jones and Smith (2001), 104

“Historically, pluralism pure and simple (the idea, not the word, which is of recent vintage) came into being with the gradual acceptance of toleration in the aftermath of the wars of religion that ravaged Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Toleration and pluralism are different concepts, to be sure, but they are strongly related. Pluralism presupposes toleration, which is to say that an intolerant pluralism is a false pluralism. The difference is this: tolerance respects values, whereas pluralism posits values. For pluralism affirms the belief that diversity and dissent are values that enrich individuals as well as their polities and societies.” Sartori (1997), 58

For me that's enough. If you want to build something, and if you want to bring something to the country. You can be an immigrant for a long time, and sometimes I wonder when do you stop being an immigrant? Is it when you learn Finnish, or when you went to the sauna, or whatever. Somebody was saying that in the U.S. it was different, at some point you were just an American. I don't know how that transition happened. – Vuokko, Religions Teacher, Tampere

They have their own culture. They're hanging with each other mostly. Most of the Somalis, they're Finnish; but they're like their own group of Finnish people. When I was working last fall, there was this girl who was Somali. She was Finnish. She spoke Finnish very good. We shared a lot of opinions. We had same opinions on things. I'd say most of the Somali's are in that group. They have their own culture. They're Finnish. They have blended in in the Finnish society. – Matti, 19, Helsinki

“Taken as empirical premises, it is simply false that states are unified political communities, that citizens belong to one and only one state, and that identification with this state is their most important political identity. Most societies are multicultural and multinational, and their members hold a variety of overlapping and sometimes conflicting political loyalties and identifications. Moreover, the number of people with dual or multiple citizenships is growing, as a result of processes of immigration and changes in the rules for conferring and withholding citizenship—rules that vary from country to country and interact in complex ways.” Costa (2009), 100

I'd like to maintain the Finnish culture, but at the same time, make it more global and take a bigger role in global politics. – Tia, 17, Joensuu

“If identity is on shaky philosophical grounds because it denies the relational character of subjectivity, it is also on insecure political grounds. Upholding distinctive attributes or experiences as essential to group membership breeds inward-lookingness and animosity towards others who do not share the same identity. Far from building bridges between marginal groups, it contributes to reifying specific differences and excluding others and ultimately fragmenting progressive politics.” Stavro (2007), 442


  1. How would you explain the difference between 'multiculturalism' as described here and 'immigration?'
  2. American audiences: How is multiculturalism a much more historically important aspect of the American experience than the Finnish one and what secondary impacts might that difference have?
  3. Finnish audiences: How can Finland become increasingly multicultural but at the same time, Tia points out, "maintain the Finnish culture?"
  4. Explain Sartori's distinction that "tolerance respects values, whereas pluralism posits values." 
  5. What kind of gaps can you find in either the academic research or the interviews?
  6. What comments from the Finnish students do you agree with, disagree with, or find interesting? 
  7. In what way do the selected images in this section complement or relate to the text?
North Ostrobothnian woods in late winter / Oulu / 10 Feb 2016

North Ostrobothnian woods in late winter / Oulu / 10 Feb 2016