“Do You Feel Rather Swiss/Finnish or Somali?” : A Case Study on Young Somali Women’s Everyday Challenges in Switzerland and Finland

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Title: “Do You Feel Rather Swiss/Finnish or Somali?” : A Case Study on Young Somali Women’s Everyday Challenges in Switzerland and Finland
Author: Schneider, Selina
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, Sosiaalitieteiden laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Research
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Institutionen för socialvetenskaper
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2017
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201710315601
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Sosiaali- ja kulttuuriantropologia
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Social- och kulturantropologi
Abstract: This thesis examines female 2nd generation Somali immigrants’ life challenges experienced in Finland and Switzerland. More precisely, the present study is based on a combination of narrative and semi-structured interviews which provide phenomenological insights in the young Somali women’s own understanding of the difficulties they witness and their personal responses to identified challenges. Against the background of raising Islamophobic atmosphere in the West, the study lays special importance on challenges which arise for the Somali women based on their Islamic belief. By focusing on the women’s interpretation of Islam and their Islamic everyday practices in Switzerland and Finland the project examines in reference to the theoretical framework of everyday Islam outlined by Schielke and Debevec (2012), Dahlgren and Schielke (2013) and Marsden and Restikas (2013) how the Somali women evaluate the impact of their belief on challenges they face. Additionally, the project contributes to the limited literature on 2nd generations’ transnational practices. Hence, it answers the question of what role possible connections to and their feelings towards their heritage play in the Somali women’s lives. Finally, the thesis provides insights in differences between experiences of young Somali women in Switzerland and Finland. The thesis argues that the young Somali women’s experienced challenges can be best understood and explained by the application of the anthropological concept of belonging as for instance described by Pfaff-Czarnecka (2011), Tošic (2012), Rogozen-Soltar (2012) and Gammeltoft (2014). More precisely, the study illustrates how the unique position of 2nd generation Somali immigrant women in-between the three very different groups of “Swiss/Finns”, “Somalis” and “Muslims” asks them to find a balance between often conflicting value systems and how these negotiations lead at times to tensions, uncertainties and ambiguities in their lives. Further, the present project suggests that Islam is not the only way the participants explain hardships they face. Moreover, by applying the theoretical framework of social fields, transnational ways of being and transnational ways of belonging (Levitt & Glick Schiller 2004) the thesis found that the young Somali women are actively involved in transnationalism even though their transnational approaches differ from the ones of their parents. Hence, especially the wish to get to know more about their roots, the pride they displayed to be Somali, and the need they feel to help other Somalis in future illustrates the Somali women’s active way of belonging. Finally, the project implies that Swiss Somalis feel stronger impeded by the Swiss state structure and experience more often mistreatment based on the veil than Finnish Somalis. Moreover, individual understandings of piety and religiosity differ between participants in Switzerland and Finland. The thesis concludes that further research would be highly valuable in order to explain these differences.
Subject: Somali women
2nd generation
everyday Islam
everyday challenges
ordinary Muslims

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