Romaer i dansk og svensk myndighedsperspektiv. 1930-2012.

Martin Hagen Broch

Studenteropgave: Speciale


This thesis intends to show how the authorities of Denmark, the main study object of the thesis, and Sweden distinguished between useful and not useful citizens of the society in the time period 1930-2012. This has influenced political strategies against the Roma minority in both countries. The overall objective of the thesis is to classify Roma strategies and to explain why Danish and Swedish authorities have taken somewhat different paths on the road to inclusion of the Roma. During the 19th century national states were consolidated and a struggle over national identity began. Leaders of the nation state had homogeneity among the citizens as its highest goal and the citizens were gaining equal rights. Later on in the 1930’s social reforms in Denmark were aimed at fulfilling the vision of social equality among its citizens. The useful citizen of the society was created as an ideal during the time of social reforms and he/she continued to be viewed in this way as the welfare state was established in the 1960’s in Denmark. The same development roughly took place in Sweden. The Gardening State, a term borrowed from the Polish-British sociologist Zygmunt Bauman and his critical reflections upon modernity, manifested itself in the 1930’s and 1940’s as politicians and scientists divided the citizens into categories of either utility plants or weeds. The Roma were conceived of as asocial weeds of the society because they as a rule posed a huge economic burden and they were often identified by their low intelligence. The Swedish sterilisation act of 1941 was targeted to people with an asocial mode of life including the Roma. Between 450 and 500 Roma were sterilised in Sweden, many against a background of indirect compulsion. The Danish sterilisation laws did not have Roma as target group. The Roma strategy of the authorities of Sweden was marked by containment policy whereas Denmark chose assimilation of the Roma. Two Danish scientists rejected sterilisation of this group as they were not able to identify a special kind of feeblemindedness among the Roma living in Denmark. After 1950 the authorities of Denmark and Sweden wanted to include the Roma into mainstream society through the use of assimilatory measures. They first and foremost wanted to make the Roma settle on a permanent basis and offer Roma children access to school. This process was on the one hand a social oriented assimilation process. The authorities had the aim of making the Roma getting attached to the job marked and the educational institutions to the same degree as the majority. This aim has been difficult to achieve because Roma children have shown huge absence from school. A few municipalities in the respective countries have tried to bring the absence down through the establishing of special Roma classes but without much effect. The inclusion strategies against the Roma after 1950 were also anchored in a cultural assimilation process, which sought to make the Roma offer a nomadic life style and an oral cultural tradition in favour of a settled existence and written handed down traditions. The Gardening State entered a new scene where co-existence between the utility plants and the weeds of society was made possible. But the nomadic life style of the Roma had to be “weeded away” for the sake of the progression of the society and the welfare state. The national authorities of both countries, exemplified by two “Gypsy reports” written after 1950, show a somewhat different approach against the Roma. The Danish Gypsy Committee focused more on a cultural clash between the Roma and the Danish society than the Swedish Social Departement’s report from 1956. The different approaches might be explained with different war experiences during the Second World War. Swedish industry boomed shortly after war end and the country was in need of working craft from abroad. This development took place some years later in Denmark. The Danish society was therefore less used to foreigners and foreign culture than the society of Sweden. Denmark and Sweden ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the European Council in the late 1990’s and in the beginning of the new millennia. Denmark considered the German minority in Southern Jutland a national minority whereas Sweden acknowledged the minority rights of the Roma. Hence a cultural integration process has been taking place in Sweden. The Roma are for example getting mother tongue education in romani and they seem to getting more interested in school after the Roma gained minority status. The fact that the Roma in Denmark did not become victims of the sterilisation programme of the country might in part explain why Danish authorities treat the Roma in a different way and consider them to be foreign citizens. Swedish authorities have apologized for the treatment of the Roma in the past and the preferential treatment of them today might be viewed as a strategy aimed at seeking redress for the wrongs of the past.

UddannelserHistorie, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato16 feb. 2012
VejledereHenrik Jensen


  • Romaer, inddæmning, assimilation, integration, Bauman, modernitet, gartnerstaten