The emotional life of the foreign worker

Project: Research

See relations at Aarhus University


Inspired by the history of emotions and critical race theory, my PhD-dissertation focuses on the emotional life attributed to the figure of the foreign worker in 1960s-1980s Denmark. I ask how media, including mass media but also the urban environment as a medium in itself, influenced the changing contours of this figure. The research design pays attention to the interaction between the emotional repertoires associated with or identified by visible minority workers and the urban places (material and fictional geographies) in which the foreign worker was installed.
The dissertation deploys a cultural history approach in as far as it explores the semantic images in the public domain through which the figure of the foreign worker was emotionally constructed. Theoretically, the project premises that the foreign worker is understood as a contested racialized figure, formulated by the self-perceived White majority population as well as visible minority groups of the time.

Initially, the expanding welfare state welcomed the foreign worker as a valuable resource in workplaces across the country. Later the idea of the foreign worker and his settling family was framed as a locally burdensome or challenging factor in different urban settings.
Based on a combination of television material, radio programs and newspaper articles, my initial empirical research indicates that the different media, regardless of format, often place the foreign workers within the same geographical contexts. It was places like ‘the train station’, ‘the industrial workplace’, ‘the temporary home’ and later ‘social housing complexes’ in the urban periphery. These conceptual ‘immigrant geographies’ and their inherent affective charges changed during the course of the three decades from the 1960s to the 1980s.

I have collected all pertinent and accessible programs and film clips from the archives of Danmarks Radio for the years 1960-1989. I also use a wide range of other sources, including newspaper articles, radio programs, political reports, social surveys, interviews, poems, and ego-documents.
The chapters of the dissertation reflect the different geographies through which the foreign worker was framed. The chapters also outline a chronologically unfolding narrative and argument about foreign workers and ‘immigrant geographies.’ As the ‘immigrant geographies’ changed, so did the imagined ‘immigrant emotions’ and their expected affiliation with the Danish society. He (and they) went from being temporary moving workers to settling residents in a Danish state that had recently experienced economic stagnation.
Effective start/end date01/02/2016 → …

ID: 129041842