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Love ain't got no color? - Attitude toward interracial marriage

Sayaka Osanami Törngren, a researcher at Malmö University, is the author of the dissertation Love ain't got no color? - Attitudes toward interracial marriage in Sweden. She has investigated opinions and attitudes toward relations across ethnic boundaries, such as dating, marriage, cohabitation, and having children with someone with a non-Swedish background.

"My study shows that most people have a favorable view of mixed marriage, but there's an extremely sharp hierarchy among the groups they prefer," says Sayaka.

Swedes primarily prefer relations with Scandinavians, Western Europeans, and Southern Europeans, next Central and Eastern Europeans and Latin Americans, and last South and East Asians, Africans, and Middle Eastern people. Regardless of their own attitude to who they could imagine having a relationship with, most people would not react negatively if someone in the family or their other surroundings chose to live in a mixed marriage.

In the dissertation Sayaka describes four "colorblind" ways of reasoning about mixed marriage. This first involves thoughts about cultural differences. The second is that the people interviewed prefer partners from Europe because they think Swedish culture, unlike others, has gender equality. The third is that it is an individual choice, that people have a right to be with whoever they like. And the fourth is the idea that where you're from is not important when it comes to love.

"I'm very interested in the matter of skin color. In the survey, adopted children are not as popular as ethnic Swedes. There's no big difference if you compare with the immigrant group from the same country. This is surprising, since cultural differences are such a strong argument," says Sayaka.

The study shows that there is a strong correlation between having friends of various ethnic backgrounds and being in favor of mixed marriage and mixed relationships. Attitudes are also influenced by age, gender, level of education, and where you grew up. Older individuals and women are generally more negative to mixed marriage compared with younger people and men. Well-educated people are more favorably inclined than people with little education, as are those who grew up outside of the municipality of Malmö than those who grew up in Malmö.

Sayaka Törngren is Japanese. When she was an exchange student in California, she met her husband to be, who is Swedish, which to some extent determined her choice of topic:

"I'm personally interested. I wondered what people thought about our relationship, but it was also a subject I had studied in the past. When I studied in Japan and California, I wrote about Asian Americans, including mixed marriage and how it affects the Asian-American community and identity. Now I wanted to specialize and write about attitudes to mixed marriage, because there is little research about this in Sweden."

Sayaka Törngren is a doctoral candidate in International Migration and Ethnic Relations (IMER) at the Department of Languages, Migration, and Society (link: http://www.mah.se/english/Schools-and-faculties/Faculty-of-Culture-and-Society/DepartmentsSchools/Department-of-International-Migration-and-Ethnic-Relations/ ) at Malmö University (http://www.mah.se/english/ ).

The dissertation is based on a questionnaire involving 620 subjects from the city of Malmö and 28 supplementary interviews.

Contact: E-mail: osanami.torngren@mah.se or +46-40 66 57378

Pressofficer: Charlotte Orban; Mobil: +460709-655 492; e-mail: lotta.orban@mah.se

idw :: 27.09.2011