• Dianna Bomholt
  • Ann Maj Sulstad Glanowski
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
This study examines the encounter between ethnic minorities and the Danish society and, in continuation of this, the notion of "us" and "them." The thesis is written as a part of the Master of science in Social Work program and focuses primarily on the boundaries of community based on the perception of what it takes for an individual or a group to be perceived as members of the solidary community in the Danish society. This is viewed in relation to the ways in which social problems are understood and expressed. The study aims to examine how the perceptions of "us" and "them" are expressed, and how they relate to the focus, conception and attitude towards ethnic minorities as well as the ways in which ethnic minorities are connected to perceptions of social problems in a solidarity perspective.

The study is based on notions of community as well as notions of "us" and "them" found among Danish Members of Parliament and based on members positions as representatives of the people of Denmark as well as how essential the perceptions are for determining whether a situation is understood as a social problem requiring intervention. Empirically, the thesis is rooted in political debates during the parliamentary elections in the ten-year period between 2001 and 2011. The theoretical framework is based on Benedict Anderson's and Zygmunt Bauman’s theories of community, Richard Jenkin’s perceptions of the relationship between internal identification and external categorization and Émile Durkheim’s and Jodi Dean's understandings of solidarity.

Thus, this thesis illuminates the intersection between the use of categories and group identification as opinionators in the social sphere when it comes to expressing irreconcilable differences and their relationships to different understandings of the boundaries of Danish solidarity.

We come to acknowledge that the entitlement to solidarity is not awarded on the basis of an either / or criterion. Rather, there seems to exist an idea of a hierarchy of solidarity where some are more entitled to social benefits than others.

The results of our study show that Danish Members of Parliament tend to pay a special attention to the imagined differences of “them”. At the same time, members present these differences as incompatible opposites to "us". In this emphasis on out-groups a generalizing distance is attached based on imagined characteristics rooted in non-Danish origins. At the same time, the results of our study show that a non-Danish origin often obscure other characteristics, positive as well as negative. Therefore, we also discuss the problems related to the use of unequivocal unifying categories when it comes to the risk of unjust generalizations, exclusion and discrimination. Perceptions of similarities between members of the “us” community are not central a key, but based on a dualistic relationship to “them” communities, and they are expressed implicitly and rooted in both a national Danish community linked to citizenship and clear boundaries as well as a social community in which membership is associated with active participation in the labor market, which is seen as a fundamental goal of society. Based on the time span examined in the thesis, there seems to be a link between a booming economy and increased opportunities for access into the Danish “us” community.
Publication date25 Apr 2014
Number of pages169
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 197000228