This week was core course week, which means that I spent all week working with my European Security Dilemmas class at DIS in Stockholm, before heading out to end the week on the west coast in the city of Göteborg. There was a lot to digest as we tackled issues of immigration, integration, and multiculturalism in one of Sweden’s most diverse and troubled cities.
Although core course week had fewer classes at DIS, it proved an intense six days of learning as we strived to understand the problems facing Sweden, which became Europe’s second largest home to refugees fleeing crisis in the last decade. Talks in the classroom engaged the idea of multiculturalism and immigration in theory, accompanied by fascinating guest talks from Lars Åberg, a renowned Swedish journalist and author, and Omar Makram, founder of the group ‘Ex-Muslims of Sweden’. The topics were often difficult to grapple with, given the nature of the issues at hand, but they made for insightful discussions nonetheless.
By Thursday we were ready to set out to Göteborg, a 3.5 hour train ride west, to see the problems first-hand. The city had been home to around half of the Swedish-based individuals who left to join the Islamic State during its peak, and under relaxed immigration laws, had also managed a high number of those fleeing that same violence. From discussions with city officials, police officers, and youth politicians, we began to unpack how the city is struggling to manage the suburban segregation of refugees- a city which, according to Ulf Boström, a police officer from the Hjällbo suburb, is home to 184 different nationalities. The short time we spent in the city called for deep reflections and many challenging questions.
Amongst all the security issues, however, lies a quaint little city with deep cultural roots. Göteborg central, with its canals and iconic blue and white trams, was also a great backdrop as we bonded as a class over activities like Boules, a French bowling game, and a series of tasty dinners. The differences from Stockholm were noticeable, and though I ended the trip missing my Swedish home city, I valued the opportunity provided by DIS to see another side to Sweden. As a class, I think we definitely became closer and that’s what core course week at DIS is all about.
I mentioned in my previous post that I hoped to talk about another interest of mine, vexillology, a little in this blog- and this week, it makes sense to look at the flag of Göteborg, which I was surprised to see flying over many buildings in the city, both official government ones and regular shops and homes. I liked the city flag so much I decided to buy one of my own. It features the city’s coat of arms, which dates back to the 17th century, against a blue and white striped background. The golden lion is apparently from the House of Folkungar, and wears a Swedish royal crown. Check it out in the picture below!
That’s all for this week- see you back in Stockholm next time!