Afghan Women in Sweden: A Qualitative Study of Their Socio-Cultural Integration and Sense of Belonging
Abstract: This study aims to investigate on the social and cultural integration experiences of Afghan women in Sweden, in terms of their social networks and their socio-cultural practices. In addition, this paper questions where the Afghan women feel belonging to and what factors shape this sense of belonging. For this reason, a qualitative methodology is applied and the data is compiled through semi-structured interviews with ten Afghan women residing in Malmö, Sweden, with using both focus group interviews and individual interviews as the data collecting procedures. The concepts of socio-cultural integration, sense of belonging and social network have been utilized as the theoretical and conceptual frameworks of the study. With regards to social networks, this research intends to investigate on the social interactions of the participants with people of their own ethnic group and also with Swedes. Regarding the socio-cultural practices, the eating habits and the holiday celebration and participation of Afghan women participating in the research are examined as indicators of their cultural integration. The findings of the study reveal that language proficiency is considered as the key factor for socio-cultural integration among the participants. In general, the participants experience different levels of social interactions both with other Afghans and with Swedes. The study also shows that while the participants are committed to the Afghan cultural practices such as eating Afghan foods and celebrating their holidays, they also welcome some of the Swedish cultural practices. In addition, mutual respect has a fundamental place in Afghan women‟s interactions with the host culture and values. Moreover, the participants of this study experience different notions of belonging, and factors such as their family ties, safety, and discrimination vs. acceptance shape their feeling of belonging to both Sweden and Afghanistan. In general, the findings of this study confirm Beg‟s statement (2005) that Afghan women are not a homogenous group, and experience different varieties of socio-cultural integration and different notions of belonging.
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