During my two and a half decades in Sweden, I experienced the most intense and wide-ranging discussions about Swedish society in the cafés and corridors of Stockholm University while studying Swedish in the mid-1980s. These discussions were distinguished by the distance and wonder with which recent arrivals experienced the new and unknown. Swedishness and Swedish life were scrutinized, compared, measured, ridiculed, caricatured, and evaluated. However, the discussions did not necessarily reflect outsideness, since most participants were in relationships with native (Swedish) partners. Rather, they personified the particular quality of the stranger, described by Georg Simmel, as being near but at the same time estranged, experiencing society from within while at the same time beholding it with the distant gaze of the stranger (Simmel 1981: 149–51).
KeywordsSocial Capital Public Sphere European State Taxi Driver Organizational Life
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