, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 238-250
Date: 03 Nov 2012

Anti-racist Strategies in Finnish Children’s Literature: Physical Appearance and Language as Signifiers of National Belonging

Abstract

This article examines anti-racist strategies employed in Finnish children’s literature. The examples from four stories illustrate that certain physical characteristics and cultural markers can become strong signifiers of nationality, that is Finnishness. The characters in these stories have to cope with experiences of exclusion and loneliness before the people around them learn that difference and diversity do not change the fact that all humans are worth the same. However, the paper argues that the intended positive outcome of books with a strong anti-racist agenda threatens to be lost as heavily accentuated moral lessons often become counterproductive. The paper demonstrates some of the changes that have taken place in Finnish children’s literature during the past two decades and addresses significant cultural and societal issues that affect children’s everyday lives.

Jaana Pesonen graduated from the Intercultural Teacher Education programme (Master of Education, University of Oulu, Finland). Her Master focused on educational sciences. She has worked as a teacher at the university, at the lower middle school and upper middle school, as well in youth special education, and adult immigrant teaching. Since 2009, she has worked with her research topic Children’s Literature as a Pedagogical and Literature Forum: The Changing Representations of Diversity in Finnish Children’s Literature.