Gå til indhold

Resumé af Sarah Rindoms speciale

Specialetitel: Home and belonging - A qualitative study of identity and belonging among young Greenlanders in Denmark | Aalborg Universitet

1.0 Existing research and background for the thesis

This study deals with Greenlandic youth in Denmark, who from a sociological definition can be considered to be an ethnic minority group, and examines what opportunities and limitations they have for identity and identity formation, as well as their importance for belonging. The background for the study is that existing research shows that young ethnic minorities generally have to navigate a cultural crossroads where they are required to constantly deal with cultural clashes and/or pressure and expectations from the minority and majority culture, respectively. For that reason, it is pointed out that young ethnic minorities often develop double identities (Mørck 2008). Others point out that a double awareness is required where the individual young person is both aware of how ethnic Danes and different groups of ethnic minorities view them, in order to navigate the borderland (Fuglsang & Jensen 2014:33). Some describe it as ethnic ambivalence among the group of young ethnic minorities whose parents immigrated to Denmark, in relation to having to deal with ethnicity and culture (Bektovic 2004). Previous research has also highlighted how ethnic minorities are identified and maintained as an ethnicized outgroup through the discursive construction (Yilmaz 1999:3). In the case of ethnicization, it is fundamental that ethnic minorities, through a series of discursive strategies, are assigned a number of special properties and characteristics, which are also generalized to apply to the entire ethnic group. In this way, the ethnic origin takes on the meaning that the individual will have an invariable ethnic identity, which will govern all aspects of the lived life, including the individual's psyche, morals and behavior (ibid:11-12). It also means that the group will be collectively responsible for individual actions, as these are explained based on the constructed common and generalized identity features assigned to the "ethnic" group (ibid:12). Based on the existing research on ethnic minorities in Denmark, it is therefore depicted that there is partly a risk of experiencing ethnicisation, othering and discrimination in the meeting with the majority population, while at the same time it is required that any cultural clashes be handled (Jensen 2011). For young ethnic minorities, it is therefore about developing an identity that can accommodate and navigate the cultural crossroads.

This thesis therefore stems from a desire to investigate what conditions are associated with being young in Denmark and having Greenlandic roots, in a post-colonial context. The thesis is also based on a general wonder at the small number of studies dealing with the Greenlandic population in Denmark, in the otherwise wellsubstantiated research on ethnic minorities. The limited research, which is also often of an older date, may indicate that there is generally a certain anxiety about research concerning the Greenlandic population in Denmark. Of the ethnic groups in Denmark, the group of Greenlanders is also a very special case, in that the Greenlandic population in Denmark is not formally considered an ethnic minority group. The Danish citizenship means that Greenlanders in Denmark fall outside the political definition of ethnic minorities, even though Greenland is a partially independent nation and that the Greenlandic population has a different original ethnic origin than Danish. This also means that the Greenlandic population, for example, is not represented in the National Integration Council, which advises the government in relation to political decisions and initiatives, and thus functions as a mouthpiece for the common interests of ethnic minorities. 

However, research indicates that ethnic groups to some extent demarcate themselves from each other, regardless of whether the groups live in the same geographical area, have a common way of life or participate in daily collaborations with each other, since the search and delimitation of ethnic and/or cultural identities and communities are a way in which one's own culture and belonging are created and maintained (Eriksen 1993:12). Previous research shows that Greenlanders who have lived in Denmark for many years also encounter prejudice and stereotypes because they are Greenlanders (Togeby 2001:147). Greenlandic students on business, professional and university education in Denmark also have lower academic self-confidence, more often state that the study is difficult or express embarrassment at not being able to understand simple learning material, compared to ethnic Danes (Danmarks Evaluationringsinstitut 2019:8,68,84). Social life in Denmark can also be difficult, which is illustrated by the fact that fewer Greenlandic students are part of a project or study group (ibid:50). In perspective to this, Lise Togeby concluded at the beginning of the 00s that the biggest threat to Greenlanders taking up full and active citizenship in Denmark is that the ethnic Danish population does not perceive Greenlanders as full members, neither of Danish society nor its community (Togeby 2001:152). 

Based on the existing research on ethnic minorities, Greenlanders in Denmark and the perspectives on ethnic border-drawing, it is my conviction that young Greenlanders in Denmark can experience similar challenges, or even be in a comparable situation, seen in relation to identity formation and belonging, such as the young, who are formally described as ethnic minorities. The common denominators are supposed to be that Greenlanders in Denmark can also have both linguistic and cultural barriers or feel excluded, which can have an impact on possible integration and the experience of belonging. In the same way, it can be interpreted as a sign that Greenlanders may also need support or targeted efforts in order to settle in, fit in and thrive in Denmark. In addition, it is assumed that young Greenlanders must also find the right balance between acquiring Danishness or becoming part of Danish culture, without becoming too Danish, which is why we are thus talking about conditions that are supposed to be special for young people who have to navigate a cultural crossroads, regardless of ethnic, national and cultural affiliation. Based on the background of the problem field, there is therefore evidence to investigate what special conditions and framework young Greenlanders in Denmark have for identity formation and the creation of belonging.

2.0 Problem formulation

What opportunities and limitations do young Greenlanders in Denmark have for identity and identity formation and how does this affect the sense of belonging?

3.0 Research design and methodological approach

The thesis' scientific theoretical starting point is philosophical hermeneutics, with an ontological and epistemological understanding that man cannot free himself from his historicity, and being in both temporal and spatial contexts. In this way, the subject is understood as a historical and finite being, which is born into a world of meanings that will already be given in advance. For this reason, the historical being becomes the framework for what opportunities and limitations the individual has for action and cognition (Juul 2012:123; Gilje 2017:145). In spite of this, the philosophical hermeneutics still considers individuals as reflexive, in the sense that they can reflect on their being in the world and articulate how they understand the world which they are "thrown into" (Juul 2012:122) .  

In addition, the research strategy is inspired by adaptive theory, which encourages interaction between more inductive and deductive research strategies, including the application of orienting concepts. The orienting concepts can both function as introductory and guiding resources, and then continuously be concretized, modified or developed into a more in-depth theory, model or conceptual framework, with a view to a more coherent theoretical understanding (Jacobsen 207:254). The fact that prior theoretical understandings, of both general and substantive theory, act as orienting concepts and are thus merely indicative for the analytical work, allows a relatively inductive approach, that the empirical findings in the study take on the guiding role for the development of theory (ibid:265). Methodologically, the survey is conducted on the basis of semi-structured interviews with 7 young Greenlanders, aged 17-34 years, who live in Denmark, where at least one of their parents is of ethnic Greenlandic origin.

4.0 The thesis' theoretical framework

Of the theoretical and analytical frameworks that are orienting for the study of Greenlandic young people's identity and sense of belonging are: Identity under late modern conditions, Identity in practice and Othering. For the choice of orienting concepts, the adaptive approach allows many and diverse parts of different theoretical frameworks or understandings to be used, while it is not necessary to take over the entire theoretical apparatus. Identity under late modern conditions implies a theoretical framework for identity formation in late modern society, including Anthony Gidden's understanding of detraditionalization and self-identity as a reflective project (Giddens 1996:68). Parallels are also drawn to the social psychological understanding of self-identity, where the assumption is that the individual's self-perception will be shaped by society's dominant perspectives on the individual, as these will inevitably be conveyed through the individual's social network. In this way, it is depicted how the individual's self-identity is predominantly socially created in that the individual's inner perception of himself is characterized by society's and close relationships' perception, categorization and typification of the individual (Jenkins 2014:228). Identity in practice constitutes Thomas Hylland Eriksen's theoretical understanding that young ethnic minorities have the choice between three different types of identity; the pure identity, hyphenated identity or creole identity, where culture is either mixed, switched between or lived by in pure form. The last orienting concept Othering, constitutes the encounter of minorities with discrimination, racism, ethnicization and estrangement.

5.0 Analysis and results

The analysis is thematic and consists of 3 main parts, which depict cross-cutting themes in the young stories. The first part Insight into the lives of young Greenlanders is an introductory descriptive account of the experiences that the young Greenlanders have had in everyday life in Greenland and in Denmark, respectively. The theme Identity in childhood, youth and early adulthood is the first central part of the analysis of identity and belonging, where it is highlighted how diverse strategies are used to deal with multicultural influence over time. The second and last central part of the analysis is Home and belonging, where it is interpreted what is significant for young Greenlanders in Denmark to feel at home and to have an experience of belonging. In addition to the orienting concepts, in accordance with the adaptive approach, new theoretical and analytical perspectives have also been included, which after the empirical collection proved to be relevant for the understanding of young Greenlanders' identity and belonging. In the following, it has only been possible to include a small section of the empirical material that forms part of the thesis on the identity and belonging of Greenlandic youth in Denmark, on which the thesis' interpretations and conclusions are based.

5.1 Insight into the lives of young Greenlanders

A common theme in the young people's stories, is that they encounter numerous prejudices in their everyday lives. It is to a large extent the same prejudices that are expressed, even though they reside in different places in Denmark, which indicates that these are prejudices that are general in the sense that they reflect constructions of opinion that exist on a more structural level. An informant says: "So there are ABSURDLY many prejudices about Greenlanders. And it's everything from alcohol and golden beer to suicide and domestic violence, incest, sexual
abuse, that the healthcare system is bad, that there aren't any educated Greenlanders, that the school system is at a low level... Well, there are a lot of people who are completely brain dead. ..that we live in igloos and that we learned to shoot before we could even walk”. My view is that the young people depict two types of prejudice, where the first type deals with a prejudice that there is a lot of social vulnerability in Greenland and among Greenlanders, which depicts prejudices involving incest, sexual abuse and alcohol among Greenlanders. Several of the young people express that it is experienced as a stigma that is difficult to deal with, as they themselves do not experience reality that way, while others put the prejudices in perspective, for example to the Danish alcohol culture. An informant says: "Many of the prejudices there are about me, they are from the vulnerable Greenlanders. The Greenlanders who drink in Denmark, they sit together and drink, Danes don't. They sit at home with 4 bottles of wine and are quiet about it, Greenlanders are not. Then it quickly becomes such a thing that this is how Greenlanders are. (...) I have also heard the excuse that it is the way we drink, not how much we drink. There is always something about it being wrong". The second type of prejudice, on the other hand, refers to natural determinism and what is interpreted as the level of civilization of Greenlandic society, including typical Greenlandic ways of life. This connects to the stories that they often encounter a notion that Greenland is not a modern society. For both types of prejudice, the young people experience that there is a big difference between different national contexts, with several of the young people experiencing that they do not feel limited by existing discourses or stereotyping in national contexts other than Denmark. In a Danish context, however, the prejudices have the consequence that many of the young people experience being looked down upon, due to their Greenlandic ethnic origin.

Discrimination or experiences with racism are also central themes in the young people's stories. Both in Denmark and in Greenland they have experienced being visible as 'Greenlanders' or 'Danes', which has both resulted in experiences with discrimination and affirmative action. Increased visibility in Greenland is expressed both by the young people who have an ethnic Danish origin, as well as by the young people who are exclusively of ethnic Greenlandic origin, but who speak Danish either as a mother tongue or as a preferred language. An informant who is half Greenlandic, whose mother tongue is Danish and who has lived alternately in Denmark and in Greenland says: “..I felt that I was treated differently because I look Greenlandic. It has also meant that many treat me like a Greenlander. ..I can feel that I am treated differently in Denmark than I was treated in Greenland. Typically I was the one everyone wanted to be in a group with in Greenland, people wanted to collaborate with me. But when we came to Denmark, there was almost never anyone who wanted to be in a group with me. So I was always the one who was chosen in the end”. The young people's experiences are largely linked to the feeling that because they are Greenlanders, they are treated differently in everyday life than the people around them who do not have an ethnic Greenlandic origin. Seen in perspective to the orienting term Othering, including the understanding of how ethnic minorities are identified and maintained as an ethnicized out-group through the discursive construction, it is interpreted that the young people's stories point to experiences with ethnicization, which have the function of pointing out otherness and delineate 'the others'. These empirical findings can first and foremost be seen in relation to the thesis' scientific theoretical recognition that prejudice can be an expression of  ideological power relations. Next, these findings are also important in terms of illustrating the individual's horizon of understanding, which encompasses what is possible to see from a certain position, which is why it is relevant to take into account what ideas the young Greenlanders have about the prejudices of others directed against them, in relation to understanding what opportunities and limitations are experienced for identity formation and the creation of belonging.

5.2 Identity in childhood, youth and early adulthood

As I have argued, it is presumed that there are also special structures, conditions and frameworks for the formation of identity for Greenlandic youth in Denmark, which are comparable to the processes that young ethnic minorities must navigate as a result of the common denominator, that they have a different ethnic, cultural and/or national origin other than Danish. Across the young people's stories, there is a tendency that there have been a greater or lesser degree of inner identity doubt or division, especially in childhood and early youth. A cross-cutting theme in the young people's stories are also experiences with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and loneliness. Their feelings and perceived vulnerability seem to be largely linked to or influenced by the experiences the young people have had with bullying, racism and discrimination, which is why there has generally been a need to clarify whether they feel more Danish or Greenlandic. An informant says: "..because I am precisely half Greenlandic and half Danish, so throughout my teenage life and early adulthood there has always been a question inside me 'am I really Danish when I am in Denmark and really Greenlandic' , when I'm in Greenland?'. ..In Greenland I will not be considered a real Greenlander because I mostly speak Danish and am half Danish. But on the other hand in Denmark, I don't really think that there are very many people who would consider me to be particularly Danish. So there is always an internal struggle to adapt”. Others  also express that they have tried to adapt in Denmark. An informant says: “..in the end I was literally ashamed of being a Greenlander. I distanced myself from everything called Greenlandic and tried to be as Danish as possible". For the majority of young people who have moved to Denmark during their childhood or youth, it is my opinion that during the first years they have been largely aware of fitting in and adapting, thereby being as Danish as possible. Seen in relation to Thomas Hylland Eriksen's theoretical conceptual framework on the possible identity types of ethnic minorities (Eriksen 1999:III), the empirical findings for childhood and early adolescence are interpreted as that young people have predominantly constructed hyphenated identities as a way of dealing with multicultural influence and create belonging (ibid). Central to the understanding of a hyphenated identity is that the individual adapts his behavior according to the cultural arena, which is why the hyphenated identity in practice also functions as a double identity, where hyphens make it possible to navigate in different contexts (ibid). 

Although young people try to adapt to situational cultural contexts, it has also become clear that young people may risk never succeeding in being fully accepted or included, in the sense of being granted social membership or belonging. An informant says that he thinks the most difficult thing is: "Loneliness, because it is quite difficult to integrate. In Greenland I was Dane and when I come to Denmark I am Greenlander. ..so to be accepted”. Several of the young people have generally experienced not being attributed a Greenlandic identity in Greenland, while at the same time they have also not felt included in the Danish population despite their ethnic origins as half Danish. This indicates that the Danish identity becomes the master identity in Greenland, just as previous stories indicate that the Greenlandic identity becomes the master identity in a Danish context (Jensen 2011). The risk of identity division is interpreted in this context as being a condition that applies to Greenlandic young people who are either of both ethnic Greenlandic and Danish origin or whose mother tongue is Danish. In this way, it is interpreted that young people with a hyphenated identity may risk finding themselves in an unwanted ethnic no man's land.

If it is elucidated how the young people have constructed their identity across different times in their youth, it seems to be central that a large proportion of the young people's strategies have changed over time during their youth. For the majority of young people who have moved to Denmark during their youth, it is my opinion that during the first years they have been largely aware of adapting, thereby trying to be as Danish as possible. An informant says: "..when I'm in Denmark, it actually means a lot to me that I feel Greenlandic, but also because I'm precisely half Greenlandic and half Danish. (...) in the later years of my life, I have come to accept myself more. ..when I'm in Denmark, embrace my Greenlandic identity and not be so preoccupied with having to be really Danish. And when I'm in Greenland, embrace my Danish side". Since then, it is interpreted that there has been a shift in identity, where the identity to a greater degree embraces and includes their Danish and Greenlandic ethnicity in the identity, regardless of the social context they find themselves in. Seen in perspective to the previous interpretations of the young people's identity, this experienced identity change between childhood/early youth to late youth, based on Eriksen's conceptual framework, is interpreted as a development from a hyphenated identity to a more Creole type of identity (Eriksen 1999:III). Central to the Creole identity is  that cultural elements from different cultures are mixed to such an extent that the individual exceeds the existing boundaries for ethnicity, culture and identity (Eriksen 1993:III). Contrary to the hyphenated identity, the prominence of the identity is pervasive in various cultural arenas, which is experienced as being in accordance with the young people's stories of accepting and embracing their different ethnic, cultural and national affiliations. The way in which the young people seem to have processed or worked with their psychological challenges, which were the result of an identity split, seems to be by accepting and acknowledging their ethnic origin, and then integrating and reconciling their Greenlandic and Danish ethnicity in their identity. It is interpreted as such that the process of processing internal identity-related division has taken place in conjunction with the development, cf. Eriksen, of a more creolized type of identity. Based on the young people's stories, it is interpreted that a Creole identity, on the other hand, can be considered a self-chosen no-man's land, where the individual constantly does not fit in, but that the individual also does not strive to adapt to existing classifications, since cultural elements are mixed into a unique hybrid version, why a Creole identity type might also make it easier not to be influenced by the dominant perspectives in society.

5.3 Home and belonging

The theme of feeling at home in a country, a city, a society etc. is derived from the empirical material and is interpreted as a way in which young people frame or describe identity through experienced belonging. The feeling of having a home or belonging seems to be closely linked to identity creation, as it involves, among other things, taking a stand on national, cultural and ethnic affiliations. Five different themes have been identified, which appear across the young people's stories and which seem to be important, regardless of whether they grew up in Denmark or came to Denmark later in their youth. The young people's stories about feeling comfortable or at home touch on experiences in several local contexts, including memories from Denmark, the time in Greenland, as well as trips abroad and often appear contrasting in relation to each other. The empirical themes for the feeling of belonging are: 1) The close and meaningful relationships, 2) Thriving with cultural norms and practices, 3) Identification with non-significant others, 4) The diversity of the context, and 5) Non-significant other’s recognition of belonging. Unfortunately, due to the framework of the summary, it has not been possible to include the empirical material nor to go in depth with all 5 empirical themes, which is why a few have been selected.

First of all, the themes illustrate to a great extent the process of the feeling of home, where several of the young Greenlanders have experienced that their belonging to either Denmark or Greenland has been changing in strength. The themes of thriving with cultural norms and practices and identification with non-significant others primarily deal with the way one interacts with non-significant others, understood as the general population in society, who are not part of the individual's close and significant relationships. Here, several of the young people state that they can better identify with the cultural norms, for example practiced in Southern Europe, compared to the social norms that they experience as being dominant in Denmark, which is interpreted to be the meaning of not standing out and/or experience that others relate critically or with a degree of skepticism to what are experienced as significant cultural practices. The themes of the diversity of the context and recognition of belonging by non-significant others are partly about the fact that the context allows you to be yourself without feeling that you stand out. Copenhagen is highlighted, as a regional context, as a more tolerant and inclusive arena, where as a Greenlander you stand out less and therefore experience a higher degree of anonymity, which is interpreted as being a liberation for young Greenlanders in Denmark in that it also is synonymous with a lesser degree of otherness and alienation. In the young people's stories, both North Jutland and Denmark as a national context are contrasted with Copenhagen. Several of the young people also dream of living abroad, either because they have an imagined experience that the same negative stereotypical ideas about Greenlanders do not exist outside of a Danish national context. The last theme also illustrates how the encounter with prejudice, discrimination and racism has an impact on whether one experiences belonging, because the feeling of belonging is to a large extent influenced by whether non-significant others recognize that you, as an individual, belong in the specific context. Just as it applies to identity formation, it is not necessarily up to the young people themselves to define where they belong and where their home is, but that an individual's home is also something the individual ascribes to them in their encounters with others. Several of the young people even express that they experience greater cohesion with formally considered 'ethnic minorities' than the compatriots who are given the commonwealth. It can be interpreted as an expression of the fact that because they also experience alienation and/or otherization and thus have a number of associated stigmas, on the basis of their ethnic origin, it is experienced that they both occupy 'them' in the us and them relationship, between Danes and 'all the others'.

The prepared topics on belonging are in perspective to Nira Yuval-Davis's analytical understanding of citizenship and belonging, as well as the politics of belonging, which go beyond the orienting concepts of the thesis. On an individual-oriented level, she finds that emotional attachment to a society is a prerequisite for experiencing that one belongs (Yuval-Davis 2006:199). Yuval-Davis distinguishes between what she describes as social locations, identifications and emotional attachments, as well as ethical and political values (ibid:201-203). Viewed in perspective to the first 3 empirical themes of close and meaningful relationships, thriving with cultural norms and practices, as well as identification with non-significant others, the young people's narratives of feeling at home and belonging seem primarily to connect to the concepts which Yuval-Davis describes as identifications and emotional attachments. Special for this level of analysis is that identity is created from individual and collective identity narratives, which are told both to oneself and to others about who the individual or the collective group is, and especially who they are not (ibid:202). Seen in perspective to Yuval-Davis's understanding, it illustrates how the young people's stories relate to their own and others' perceptions of the significance of being a member of a specific social group, including ethnic, national, racial or cultural groups (Yuval-Davis 2006:202). The young people therefore also describe their own identity through the emotional attachment to Danish and Greenlandic society and their populations.

Common to the last two empirical themes, The diversity of the context and Non-significant others' recognition of belonging for the sense of home and belonging, is that they seem to a greater extent to be directed towards society as a context, including whether the young people experience being included or excluded. As part of Yuval-Davis's theorizing about belonging, there is also a more structural concrete part, where the term politics of belonging constitutes a kind of 'dirty work' in maintaining normative boundaries and internal cohesion (Yuval-Davis 2006:207). In a national context, the politics of belonging has the function of separating 'us' from 'them' and thus assessing who belongs and excluding those who do not (ibid:205). Yaval-Davis finds that the politics of belonging can be based on 2 types of demarcation, where one refers to the population's heritage and ethnic origin and the other refers to the population's cultural heritage, including language, values, habits and religion (ibid:207). A practical example of the politics of belonging, which Yuval-Davis has identified in her previous analyses, is what she calls The cricket test, which can best be regarded as a social test that determines whether, in addition to official citizenship, there is also an emotional attachment to the country and its population (ibid:210). The study shows how ethnic minorities in England were first considered 'British', in the sense that they belong to the British community, on the day that they supported the English cricket team rather than the country of origin (ibid). In this way, it is illustrated how strong feelings about the country or society are given great importance for the boundaries of who is considered to belong. Several of the young people express what one informant called "feeling at a nationally loss". On the one hand, the understanding based on the politics of belonging can depict that, although the young people have an emotional attachment to both national contexts, they risk neither passing the 'cricket test' in Greenland or Denmark, in that their emotional attachment does not necessarily belong to one society or one population group (Yuval-Davis 2006:210). On the other hand, the politics of belonging can help to depict a general risk for young Greenlanders in Denmark, that they may experience an emotional attachment to Danish society, at the same time as they have official citizenship, but that they can stand in a position where they do not 'belong' anyway, in the sense that the majority population or the 'original' population do not consider them to belong (ibid:205).

6.0 The conclusions of the thesis

In the thesis, insight has been gained into the fact that young Greenlanders in Denmark can experience being stigmatized and discriminated against in the various arenas of everyday life, which indicates that young Greenlanders in Denmark are also exposed to ethnicization, as well as alienation and othering processes. This indicates that, in a Danish context, ethnic boundaries are drawn within the group of Danish citizens, including between ethnic Danes and ethnic Greenlanders. Furthermore, the results show that young people who are half Greenlandic and half Danish, or Greenlanders who speak Danish, can also experience illegitimate discrimination in a Greenlandic context, either in the form of positive discrimination or worse treatment, due to their 'Danishness'.
Insights have been gained into how childhood and early youth are associated with an identity split and/or an experience of having to constantly adapt to different cultural contexts, which indicates that experiences with ethnicization and othering have an impact on the young people's self-identity and perceived belonging. For this age period, experiences of loneliness, lack of legitimization of feelings, anxiety and depression appear across the young people's narratives. A central theme for the investigation of young Greenlanders' identity and belonging is the tendency for the strategy to navigate and deal with multicultural influences to change over time, during youth. The tendency is interpreted as a shift in identity from trying to be as Greenlandic or Danish as  possible to an identity that embraces and includes to a greater extent their Danish and Greenlandic ethnicity in the identity, regardless of the social context or everyday arena in which they find themselves in. The study also shows that belonging is closely linked to identity, where an analytical distinction is made between narratives dealing with the feeling of home and the feeling of belonging. Through the themes, it is expressed that, in addition to having Danish citizenship, young Greenlanders in Denmark can experience an emotional attachment to Danish society. At the same time, they may risk not being attributed a sense of belonging, understood as the fact that the majority population in Denmark does not consider that they belong. Viewed in perspective to the historical context and the results of the study, which indicate a risk of identity-related division, psychological vulnerability, otherization and/or multi-contextual or double-sided illegitimate discrimination, it is assessed that young Greenlanders in Denmark, regardless of whether they are exclusively of ethnic Greenlandic origin or whether they are both of ethnic Danish and ethnic Greenlandic origin, are potentially a particularly vulnerable group of young people in Denmark.

7.0 Perspective

As is discussed at the outset in the thesis, there seems to be a certain anxiety about dealing with topics that deal with Greenlanders and the conditions they live under in Denmark. From new insights, the results of the thesis indicate that young Greenlanders in Denmark experience limitations for identity formation and the creation of belonging, which are comparable to the complex processes that previous research points out, that ethnic minorities go through as a consequence of having to navigate a cultural crossroads. For future research, it may therefore be appropriate to consider Greenlanders in Denmark as ethnic minorities, if the subject is treated as a special case, with attention to the special conditions that are the result of the current, as well as former colonial and historical relations between Denmark and Greenland.

It is also assessed that the thesis contributes an important and up-to-date knowledge base in relation to the fact that young Greenlanders in Denmark – anno 2022 – experience limitations for identity formation and the creation of belonging, which of course has a significant impact on mental health and well-being. Among the possible measures that seem relevant to support young Greenlanders in Denmark is to recognize the group of Greenlanders in Denmark as a resident national- or traditional minority, as has been done with the German minority group in Denmark. This recognition and legal status can help to prevent individuals with Greenlandic origin from becoming strangers in both cultures, by giving the Greenlandic population in Denmark a better opportunity to preserve Greenlandic culture, traditions and language. The recognition as a national minority can also help to legitimize experienced ethnic ambivalence or identity-related division among the group of young Greenlanders in Denmark, and thus legitimize the feelings that are generally associated with having to navigate a cultural crossroads.

Furthermore, there is still considered to be a need to reduce ignorance about Greenlandic society, including Greenlandic culture. This ignorance, which is most often reflected as prejudices and stereotypical notions that seem far from social reality, is to a large extent limiting for young Greenlanders' identity positions and the possibility of attachment. In addition to the fact that there can be a continued focus on increasing statutory education about the Commonwealth, its history and current framework, there also seems to be a need for a targeted dissemination of this knowledge among the rest of the Danish population who do not is associated with various educational institutions, in order to break with stereotypical notions about the Greenlandic population. A strategy could advantageously be several TV series or the like, where Greenlandic society is not portrayed, but also has a voice in relation to portraying Greenlandic way of life, in order to avoid cultural appropriation and mutual ownership in relation to strengthening cohesion within the Commonwealth of Nations. 

In the meantime, one way to strengthen young Greenlanders' well-being and sense of belonging in Denmark could also be to offer a scheme that involves mentoring and/or professional and linguistic support for admission to Danish youth, vocational and higher education, as a way to prevent what previous research has identified as low academic self-confidence, challenges in understanding learning material, as well as difficulties in settling in socially during the course, which increases the risk of dropping out. 

A general point for this thesis is that the fear of structural stigmatization of Greenlanders in Denmark must not stand in the way of several national, regional, municipal and/or voluntary efforts and offers targeted at the ethnic Greenlandic population in Denmark being offered, as a recognition that ethnic minorities can be a particularly vulnerable or exposed group, among other things because linguistic and cultural barriers have an impact on possible integration, which is why there may also be a special need for support to be able to commit, integrate and thrive in Denmark and thus to strengthen the internal cohesion of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Specialet er indstillet til specialekonkurrencen 2022.

Handlinger tilknyttet webside

Uddannelses- og Forskningsstyrelsen
Senest opdateret 23. juni 2024