Thai women in rural Sweden: victims or participants?

Natasha Webster, Stockholm University
Karen Haandrikman, Stockholm University

Migration from Thailand to Sweden is a rapidly growing phenomenon with a threefold increase over the last 10 years. Thai-Swedish migration is a unique migration flow as it is highly gendered and geographically pulled to rural areas. Eighty percent of Thai people in Sweden are women, and of those in a couple, almost 80 percent are married to Swedish men. Among women living in rural areas these figures are even higher. Consequently, many rural areas in Sweden have female dominated Thai communities. In the media, stereotyping of Thai-Swedish couples is commonplace; focusing on unequal power relations, sex tourism and other social problems. Our paper aims to explore the characteristics of this unique group of migrants, and to challenge popular media stereotypes. Through adopting a multi-methods approach we combine both quantitative and qualitative data. Using register data, we are able to give a uniquely detailed picture of the geography, migration history, and socio-demographic features of Thais in Sweden. To complement the understanding of these patterns, life story and in-depth interviews with Thai women, community leaders and other key stakeholders are conducted giving a more nuanced view of Thai-Sweden migration. We situate our findings within a gendered transnational perspective challenging frameworks that position Thai woman as passive victims of global power relations; rather we present Thai women as active participants in the Swedish countryside. We reveal a diversified picture of Thai women in Sweden, and give an inside view into the lives of these women that go beyond and break common stereotypes.

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Presented in Poster Session 1