Vertelyte, Mante. ‘Not So Ordinary Friendship: An Ethnography of Student Friendships in A Racially Diverse Danish Classroom’. (2019) [PDF]

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.