Between Faith and Bureaucracy : The treatment of immigrants’ religion in Swedish integration policy, 1974 –1986

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Historiska institutionen

Abstract: This essay contributes new knowledge on Sweden’s immigrant- and integration policy during the years 1974–1986 by researching the policy’s treatment of immigrants’ religion and that of their faith communities. This is achieved through an empirical analysis on how immigrants’ religion was understood, argued for and regulated during key points of policy evaluation, as well as how this was expressed in practice by relevant actors and measures. The analysis focusses on the official government investigations that respectively formulated and evaluated Sweden’s integration policy. It furthermore delves into how immigrant faith communities were institutionally represented and allocated state support by the two state-affiliated organizations associated with these tasks, namely the Swedish Free Church Council (SFR) and its Cooperation Committee for State Support to Faith Communities (SFRS/SST). The essay draws its inspiration and theoretical departure points from theories on secularism, bureaucratization and models of immigrant incorporation, which are operationalized using a ‘What’s the problem represented to be?’ (WPR) methodology. The essay’s empirical findings indicate that religion was initially understood to have reduced cultural and societal significance than ethnicity and language. This understanding gradually changed over time and was amended when Swedish integration policy was evaluated during the 1980s. The empirical analysis furthermore shows that immigrant faith communities received reduced state support in relation to immigrant ethnic organizations, which resulted in administrative and representational dependency on SFR and SST. Following the policy’s evaluation during the 1980s, an initiative to increase state support for faith communities and improve their organizational independence was taken by the Swedish state but had not been implemented by 1986.

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