Nordicness, Its Imaginations and Tensions With Anti-Blackness



Scandinavian countries are often cited as examples of harmonious societies; it has even become a nationalist argument for many of their white citizens. In this text, Awa Konaté demonstrates how anti-Blackness in the Nordics go much beyond the individualized forms of racism: it is historical and structural.

Article published in The Funambulist 31 (September-October 2020) Politics of Food. Click here to access the rest of the issue.

Historically, there has been very little literature about Black and white relations across the Nordics — a term denoting the broader Scandiniavan region. The little that is available is often personal narratives of African American expats of the 1950s-1960s fleeing after they had fled from the overt state-sanctioned lethal violence that informs Black relationality in the United States. These personal narratives are largely employed to shape the racial imaginary of Nordic countries, always positioned as better and diverging from race relations present in the U.S.


Konate Funambulist (1)
Colonial dockhouse around Nyhavn in Copenhagen, where sugar and other commodities imported from the Danish West Indies were stored.

Thus the Nordic region is imagined colorblind exceptionalism that is inherently tolerant. I base this statement on the notions of value and normative citizenship to which continental African migrants are lesser positioned. The Black diaspora fare “easier” by way of ability to correspond to a particular liberal understanding of value constituted visually and in the lingual captivity that forms current discussions on anti-racism.


Undoing this fabric demands we go beyond discourses on racism as having gained grounds over the recent decade, towards a wider ongoing historical framework of Nordicness, where anti-Blackness is constitutive of the contemporary conditions of peoples of African descent.


It will pose us to inquire what is Nordicness? What are its particularities, historical depths that propagate attachment and sentiments of value so strong, that it establishes an illegality of Black presence so dependent on producing both its death and exclusion?