Race, Ethnicity and Welfare States
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Race, Ethnicity and Welfare States

An American Dilemma?

Edited by Pauli Kettunen, Sonya Michel and Klaus Petersen

In this interdisciplinary volume, leading and emerging scholars examine the relationship between homogeneity and welfare state development. They trace Gunnar Myrdal’s influence on thinking about race in the US and explore current European states’ approaches to the strangers in their midst, and what social citizenship looks like from a global perspective.
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Chapter 6: Collective threats and individual rights: political debates on marriage migration to Finland

Saara Pellander


This chapter offers insight into the ways in which prevailing norms of family life are implicated in immigration debates. It examines the changing meaning of threats produced in Finnish parliamentary debates on marriage migration. Arguments underpinning or contesting these threats can be divided into moral, economic and legal arguments. Moral arguments, which prevailed in the debates between 1999 and 2004, claimed that marriage migration poses a threat to Finnish family values. Economic arguments, which came to displace the moral ones between 2000 and 2010, asserted that immigration poses a threat to public welfare expenses. Legal arguments stressing the human rights of individual migrants became part of efforts to contest the moral and economic arguments. Three issues allowed these arguments to come to the fore. In the course of debates over the first, the immigration of same-sex partners, foreign nationality and sexuality became intertwined in constructions of ‘Finnish’ and ‘foreign’ family norms and built on moral arguments. In the second, the morally underpinned topic of violence against women from migrant backgrounds, policymakers depicted violent migrant family culture as a threat to Finnish family norms and values. A third debate presented the rising number of marriage migrants as an economic threat to the welfare state.

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