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Resumé af Ida Lei Nørgaard Christensens speciale

Speciale titel: Færøsk identitet – i Danmark. En undersøgelse af den færøske identitet i Danmark | Aarhus Universitet

Motivations for the thesis

In the aftermath of The Faroe Islands becoming a part of Denmark in 1814 (Jensen, 2018: 82), the hierarchy between Denmark and The Faroe Islands has been widely discussed. Denmark is often seen as a ‘big brother’ in comparison to The Faroe Islands, both politically and economically, which naturally effects the dynamic between both populations. However, it is not only in politics that the Faroese people often get neglected. The research literature on The Faroe Islands and the Faroese people is also limited.
Especially research regarding the Faroese population living in Denmark is lacking, which was one of the main driving forces of this research paper. The fundamental purpose of this master’s thesis was to shed some light on the Faroese identity in Denmark. According to the British sociologist Richard Jenkins, identity is fundamental for people’s existence (Jenkins, 2004; 7), which is why my main focus in my master’s thesis is the identity of the Faroese in Denmark. Understanding the identity is therefore vital when trying to understand, people and their actions. I have chosen to focus on the Faroese population, because I it is my belief that they are a special kind of ethnic minority in Denmark. The reason for this is that the phenotype of the Faroese is very similar to the Danish phenotype, which makes it almost impossible for Danish citizens to differentiate between the two populations.
It does however seem that the Faroese people differentiate themselves in other ways, they have their own language and their own culture. Both differ significantly from the Danish culture and language. Since almost all Faroese people speak and understand the Danish language, it makes it very interesting to examine the Faroese identity in Denmark. The reason being that language is often used as an exclusion criterion while also being vital for a common acceptance and feeling of identity (Simonsen, 2017: 312).

This master’s thesis will therefore investigate the Faroese identity in Denmark using the problem description:
A mapping of the Faroese identity in Denmark. What does a Faroese identity contain in Denmark, which factors influence its variance and is it possible to feel both Faroese and Danish at the same time?

Theoretical Perspectives

Identity, in general addresses the human socializing and the human capacity to know who they are. It involves both the understanding of oneself and the understanding of who others are and how they perceive us. (Jenkins, 2004: 5).
The ethnic identity is often understood as the individual’s primary identity, because this is the type of identity imposed on us from birth. Even though we are given this identity from birth, it is not meant to be understood as something unchangeable, because ethnic identity is something that can change throughout one’s lifetime. One way to look at ethnic identity is the way of Eriksen and Sørheim (2003). They argue that ethnic identity is more than just one’s nationality, but also include other identity markers like language, skin-color and religion (Eriksen og Sørheim, 2003: 58)
Since the Faroese people share the phenotype and religion with the people of Denmark, the language is the main factor separating these two populations. I therefore assume in concordance with Erikson and Sørheim, that language is an important ethnic marker for the Faroese identity in Denmark.

The understanding of ‘national identity’ is based on Benedict Anderson’s term ‘imagined communities’ and supplemented with David Miller’s four theoretical dimensions; national attachment, national pride, critical vs. uncritical patriotism, and civic vs. cultural conceptions of identity (Miller og Ali, 2014). National identity in this master’s thesis was measured by using three different reflexive indexes; national attachment, national pride and cultural conceptions of identity.

Dual identity addresses the ethnic minorities feeling of double identity and identity denial. What is special about ethnic minorities is that they often show signs of double identity and often experience identity denial from both their ethnic and national origin. According to Cárdenas et. al’s (2021), when you as a Faroese have a Danish citizenship while also having a Faroese origin, you will start to assume a double identity which both includes the ethnic belonging to The Faroe Islands and the national belonging to Denmark. Being both an ethnic minority and citizen of a country can often be quite difficult which is what intrigued me to look more into this. Cárdenas et. al’s (2021) does argue that an individual is capable of belonging to two groups at once, and argues that one’s feeling of belonging in one group can be self-reinforcing for the individuals feeling of belonging in a different group.

Because the research concerning the Faroese Islands and the Faroese citizens is so limited, I set up 6 different research questions which were created on the bases of the limited scientific research, and my own personal experience and understanding of the Faroese identity. At the same time, I have also supplemented with other relevant theories, to investigate which variables I can expect to have an influence on the Faroese identity in Denmark.

Methodological foundation

I have chosen to use quantitative methods in the form of an electronic questionnaire. This questionnaire forms the empiric foundation of the paper. Because of limited resources, the data collection was quite challenging, this resulted in a relatively small sample size of 126 answers, which may have a considerable effect on the generalizability of the paper. Besides the quantitative part in the form of a standardized questionnaire, I have also chosen to include the qualitative aspect. I have done this using two textboxes in the questionnaire, where respondents have the option to formulate their answers using their own words. This allows me to get a more in-dept explanation of the important aspects of the Faroese identity in Denmark.

Analysis, results and conclusion

The significance of the ethnic composition in one's residential area has not, as far as I am aware, been previously tested for the Faroese ethnic minority in Denmark. There is, however, recognized and well-cited research which indicates that the ethnic composition of one's residential area is important for the individual's solidarity towards other ethnic groups. I therefore chose to investigate whether the number of Faroese citizens in the respondents' residential area is significant for the respondents' three dimensions of national identity. Unfortunately, the analysis showed no significant correlation, and it is therefore not possible to assess the importance for the respondents' three dimensions of national identity. I thus failed in substantiating Dinesen & Sønderskov's (2015) empirical evidence that the ethnic composition of one's residential area is important for one's solidarity with other ethnic groups. However, it is important not to reject this recognized and well-quoted contact theory completely, since the lack of statistical significance in the three models may be due to the low number of respondents, and thus not enough variation between the respondents who live between many, some, few, and no Faroese. I therefore encourage future research with greater resources and access to register data, to investigate whether the contact theory also applies to the Faroese living in Denmark. In addition to the lack of significant correlation, one can also question the causal direction. This is because previous research has shown that your personal characteristics have a great impact on where you settle. Previous research shows that people often actively choose to settle down among others whom they look like. However, my Faroese respondents turned out to very divided in relation to whether the proportion of Faroese influenced where they wanted to settle when they moved to Denmark. I therefore chose to assume that most theoretical evidence points to the fact that the proportion of Faroese in one's residential area had a significant effect on the three dimensions of national identity and not the other way around. The importance of the Faroese socialization and shared values in relation to the degree of dual identity has not previously been tested either. However, the literature shows that contact is crucial for the degree of double identity. I therefore had clear theoretical expectations that Faroese exposure to Danes and Danish values would have an impact on their degree of dual identity. I thus investigated the significance of the Faroese socialization and common values on the degree of dual identity and found a significant correlation. The results of the analysis thus indicate that when the Faroese respondents' socialization to common values increases, the degree of double identity also increases at the same time.
The importance of language for one's ethnic identity has a strong established correlation in the literature. I therefore had a theoretical expectation that this would also apply to the Faroese in Denmark. I therefore chose to investigate the importance of language for the Faroese’s ethnic identity in Denmark. However, the analysis showed no significant correlation, and it is therefore not possible to attribute a special importance to the language for the Faroese ethnic identity. However, the analysis showed a particularly interesting finding, which is that 45% of the respondents believe that one can be Faroese without being able to speak and understand the Faroese language. The fact that such a large proportion of my Faroese respondents believe that you can be Faroese without being able to speak and understand Faroese, therefore goes against my theoretical expectations.
However, I attribute this surprising finding to the fact that the Faroe Islands is a very homogeneous small country, and the Faroe Islands have almost no experience with immigration from countries other than Denmark. They are therefore, not used to being around other ethnicities and languages in the same way that other countries with more varied ethnicities are. Ones aptitude in the use of the Faroese language is therefore not a deciding factor for whether one can be awarded the title 'Faroese'. However, it turns out, somewhat surprisingly, that 63% of the respondents strongly agree that the Faroese language is important for the Faroese identity. It could therefore indicate that the language is important and unique to the individual, while the Faroese language skills are not a decisive exclusion marker for the Faroese people.
The thesis’ fourth research question was based on a well-documented connection between educational level and national identity. The literature shows that the higher level of education one has, the more solidarity one also has with other ethnic groups. On the contrary, one Faroese myth says that you go to Denmark to study, how to become a 'real Faroese'. I therefore chose to investigate how the education level of the Faroese affects the three dimensions of national identity. Here I found that the educational level of the Faroese does not have a significant effect on the strength of national attachment, but rather a significant effect on the degree of national pride and the cultural understanding of identity. There is a negative correlation between level of education and national pride, which substantiate the theoretical expectations that the higher one’s level of education is, the more solidary they become. However, this correlation is only significant for the short higher education, medium higher education, ong higher education, and the ‘other’ category.
There is also a significant negative correlation between educational level and the cultural understanding of identity. However, there are only significant effects for vocational education, medium-term higher education, and long-term higher education. Also, the effect of educational level on cultural understanding of identity is slightly lower than the effect on national pride. The thesis’ empirical findings thus debunk the Faroese myth that you go to Denmark to study how to become a 'real Faroese'. However, I highly suspect that if my primary focus was on the Faroese who already returned home after a temporary stay in Denmark, and not Faroese currently living in Denmark, that the effects of educational level on the three dimensions of national identity would have been very different.
The fifth research question investigated whether it is possible to combine being Faroese and Danish at the same time. Here my analysis showed that 57% of the respondents do not think it is possible to combine the Faroese identity with the Danish identity, while 27% of the respondents think it is possible to make this connection. The broad consensus that one cannot be both Faroese and Danish at the same time was very clear in the qualitative part of the analysis. Here, many of the respondents expressed that it is the Danes' lack of knowledge and acceptance of the Faroese people, as well as differences in family values and trivial boundaries, that create a distance between the Danish and the Faroese people. The analysis shows that the shared knowledge of the Danish language, contact and community through sports and sporting events, are crucial for one to feel both Danish and Faroese at the same time. So even though most respondents do not think it is possible to combine being Faroese with being Danish, it is the understanding of the Danish language, contact and sporting events that bring these two nationalities together.
In addition, I also analyzed the connection between the three dimensions of the Faroese national identity and the degree of dual identity. Here my theoretical expectations were that an increased Faroese national identity will lead to lower degree of double identity. The analysis shows that the effect of the three dimensions of Faroese nationality on the degree of dual identity is greatest when the connection between the three dimensions is combined in one overall model. In the overall model, I found a significant negative correlation between national attachment and dual identity, which supports my theoretical expectations. Surprisingly, I found a positive significant correlation with national pride and double identity, which I attribute to the fact that my respondents are very proud of their Faroese roots, and that individuals can identify with more than one group at a time. This is supported by previous research, which shows that strong identification with one group is often self-reinforcing, so that if one feels particularly attached to one group, you also find it easier to form bonds with other groups (Cárdenas et. al., 2021: 195).
The final research question of the thesis examined the effect one’s desire for Faroese independence had on the three dimensions of national identity. The analysis showed a significant positive correlation between the desire for Faroese independence and national attachment, which is in line with my theoretical expectations that when the desire for Faroese independence increases, the degree of the three dimensions of national identity will also increase. The model for national pride showed an insignificant correlation. The desired Faroese independence thus does not have a significant effect on national pride. Surprisingly, the analysis showed a negative significant correlation between the desire for Faroese independence and the cultural perceptions of identity. This negative correlation thus indicates that the desire for Faroese independence does not have a positive effect on the strength of the cultural perception of identity. At the same time, you can question the causal direction of this correlation, which of course means that I encourage caution in generalizing too much on the basis of the results for these correlations.

Implications and relevance for the Danish Realm

I find this thesis particularly relevant for the understanding and recognition of the Faroese minority in Denmark. This thesis thus provides insight into the Faroese identity in Denmark, something which has very limited representation in the research literature and is not really discussed in general. It also sheds light on some of the challenges that the Faroese minority face in Denmark. While working on the thesis, it has become very clear to me that the Faroese population lacks recognition from the Danes, and that the interactions the Faroese have with Danes when they move to Denmark is crucial for their continued attachment to Denmark and the Danish values.
It is therefore very clear to me that it would benefit both the Faroese minority in Denmark and the unity among the citizens of the Kingdom of Denmark if there was a greater focus on integrating the Faroese who settle in Denmark, and it would create greater understanding of the Danish Realms citizens among Danes. I would therefore encourgage that Faroese integration should be put on the political agenda in Denmark, since it seems that a more focused socialization process and better contact between the Faroese and Danes strengthens the Faroese's sense of dual identity.
An increased effort in relation to Faroese socialization to common values when they come to Denmark will thus create a greater sense of community within the Danish Realm. This thesis thus presents evidence that it is beneficial to alllogate resources to this type of integration in Denmark to create a sense of community in the Danish Realm.
Lastly, I hope that with this thesis, I have been able to inspire others to do future research on the Faroese people, as research within this population group is very limited.

Specialet er indstillet til specialekonkurrencen 2022.

Senest opdateret 16. november 2022