From the beginning of the article:
In the early sixties, the Social Democratic party launched the so called million-programme. It aimed at addressing the housing shortage. Instead of maintaining worn out inner-city apartments, new suburbs were designed to house a million people. This specific political ambition was achieved. But during the construction of the suburbs, and in the aftermath of the project, the public reacted and questions were asked. The suburb thus became an arena for political controversies. Up to this day, the suburb is host to narratives about society. The million-programme was supposed to mean housing for all, and represent “Folkhemmet” – the welfare-state – as defined by the Social Democratic party. At the beginning these areas were national symbols for ideas about “Swedishness” and the future. It wasn’t only a housing programme, but a reform programme that aimed towards and prepared to take Sweden into the future. Nature and natural elements were used to build the self-image of Swedishness into the very architecture of the new housing. The suburb was portrayed as a national event – even though similar high-rise buildings and large scale neighbourhoods were also springing up in many parts of Europe.
Critics thought that the high-rise buildings were anonymous and created a hostile environment. Certain suburbs were soon singled out by the Swedish press, and connected to certain stereotyped images. Major city suburbs were represented in the mass media as places were unemployment, criminality, anonymity and other alarming social tendencies could be witnessed daily. The suburb thus became a problem. In addition, migrants living in these areas became increasingly represented by the mass media as images of the Other. As a result, the suburb no longer represented Sweden’s future but an attempt at integration into Swedishness. The geographical positioning of the suburbs – on the outskirts of a city – had become metaphorically associated with outside societies in terms of Immigrants and Ethnic groups. Such images had previously been reserved for the working class, but from the late seventies and early eighties, the ethnic element became increasingly emphasised in mass mediated narrations. It had become a place for the Other.
The concept of Otherness is built into the definition of a city, in that people who pass each other in the street are strangers. The mass media has therefore been important in that it enabled people to get to know city areas they had no connection with. Narratives about other parts of the city can, on the one hand, lead to a feeling of intimacy with the stranger, although on the other hand, such representations can also have the opposite effect. I have therefore analysed the imagery of the Swedish suburb with this in mind.
In this article I will use Slavoj Žižek’s notion of the fantasy-frame, together with Avery F. Gordon’s discussion about blind spots and haunting experiences, to explain the representations of the Swedish suburbs in the mass media. It all boils down to what it is like to live in the shadow images of the stigmatised suburb and how such images are dealt with. These experiences are dealt with in different ways, depending on the relationship to the suburb and the relationship to the mass media. In this article, the examples of Maya, who lives in Gottsunda, a suburb in Uppsala, and the football player, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, from Rosengård in Malmö, illustrate different ways of dealing with the suburban fantasy-frame – something that they face daily. I will describe how both the viewer and the portrayed articulate relations of power in mass mediated images. The article also focuses on the observer’s production of the suburban space. By using this approach I hope to show that the mass media confronts both the observer and the portrayed with images that become real in the sense that they have to be dealt with. Media becomes practice.