Cover for JACKSON: Scandinavians in Chicago: The Origins of White Privilege in Modern America. Click for larger image

Scandinavians in Chicago

The Origins of White Privilege in Modern America

The story of an immigrant group considered white on arrival

Scandinavian immigrants encountered a strange paradox in 1890s Chicago. Though undoubtedly foreign, these newcomers were seen as Nordics—the "race" proclaimed by the scientific racism of the era as the very embodiment of white superiority. As such, Scandinavians from the beginning enjoyed racial privilege and the success it brought without the prejudice, nativism, and stereotyping endured by other immigrant groups.

Erika K. Jackson examines how native-born Chicagoans used ideological and gendered concepts of Nordic whiteness and Scandinavian ethnicity to construct social hegemony. Placing the Scandinavian American experience within the context of historical whiteness, Jackson delves into the processes that created the Nordic ideal. She also details how the city's Scandinavian immigrants repeated and mirrored the racial and ethnic perceptions disseminated by American media.

An insightful look at the immigrant experience in reverse, Scandinavians in Chicago bridges a gap in our understanding of how whites constructed racial identity in America.

"Makes a significant and long overdue contribution to Swedish- and Scandinavian American history by explicitly framing the Chicago experiences in a larger ethno-racial American context. By doing so, Jackson places herself in the forefront of Scandinavian American historiography."--Dag A. Blanck, coeditor of Norwegians and Swedes in the United States: Friends and Neighbors

"Erika Jackson's fascinating book is a key and timely contribution to the fields of whiteness studies and Scandinavian studies in America. This lucid study examines Scandinavians in Chicago through a range of interlinked critical approaches. Cultural history at its best."--Arne Lunde, author of Nordic Exposures: Scandinavian Identities in Classical Hollywood Cinema


Erika K. Jackson is an associate professor of history at Colorado Mesa University.

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