Vertelyte, Mante. Not So Ordinary Friendship: An Ethnography of Student Friendships in A Racially Diverse Danish Classroom. Dissertation. Aalborg Universitetsforlag, 2019.
“Not So Ordinary Friendship: An Ethnography of Student Friendships in a Racially Diverse Danish Classroom” explores the roles that young people’s friendships play in the production and reproduction of processes of racialization. This dissertation asks how and when does race come to matter (or not) in young people’s friendship relations? What identities and subject positions do friendship relations produce?And how are young people’s friendships across intersecting markers of difference situated politically, discursively and socially? This dissertation is based on the premise that the analysis of everyday youth friendship formations practices can produce important knowledge for understanding the underlying mechanisms of processes of racialization. This dissertation derives from a one-year long ethnographic study at a racially diverse secondary school in Copenhagen. The study includes 32interviews with students attending the 7thgrade classroom at the school and 12interviews with professional staff working at the school and municipal youth clubs. Data is analyzed through the approaches of critical race studies, affect-sensory theory, intersectionality and social practice theory; particularly through the concept of ‘figured worlds’ as delineated by Dorothy Holland et al. (2001).
The analysis of this dissertation explores how the figured world of classroom friendships emerges through different senses and intensities, such as fitting in, clicking or clinging, bonding andhumoras well as daily rituals such as eating at the lunch table. Following the empirically emergent questions: Who is friends with whom?; How (not) to be friends; and Why are they (not) friends?, this dissertation illustrates the ways in which young people negotiate everyday politics of race and racism and the ways that adolescent friendships are discursively figured into matters of political concern over the issues of ‘immigrant integration’ and ‘social cohesion’. Putting friendship at the center of analysis, this dissertation approaches friendship as a performative boundary object through which racialized boundaries of ‘us’ and ‘them’ are negotiated, disturbed and re-established. Friendship is performative because through the knowledge of who is friends with whom, young people position each other across hierarchical minority-majority positions. This dissertation argues that friendship is a core social institution through which processes of racialization are (re)produced, yet simultaneously a vehicle through which young people figure ways to challenge the racialized notions of ‘us’ and ‘them’. This dissertation engages with interdisciplinary debates in studies of racialization as unfolding in the Nordic European countries and anthropological studies on friendship. To that end, it challenges notions of Danish-Nordic exceptionalism that figure racism as a matter of the past, as well as nuances notions of friendshipcommonly portrayed as a residual socialinstitution free from the power structures of racism. A core contribution of this thesis is to offer a sense and affect-oriented analysis of friendship and racialization. The research also articulates the challenges that educational institutions face due to a lack of anti-racist education.