Äcklig mat och (o)tacksamma repatriander: Mat, hygien, och normalitet i svenska flyktingläger 1945

Translated title of the contribution: Disgusting foods and (un)grateful repatriates: Food, hygien and normality in Swedish refugee camps 1945

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With a focus on food and disgust, this article examines the meeting between survivors who came to Sweden from Nazi concentration camps in 1945 so called “repatriates”, and the camp institutions that received them. The purpose is to examine the everyday negotiations and power relations of camp life through statements about food. The ways in which eating is linked to disgust illustrate the unequal and conditional relationship between "host" and "guest" and notions of the (un)grateful repatriate.

Eating is, like sexuality, an area surrounded by strong taboos, rules, and orderings. Regulations and rituals around food define and delimit religions, ethnic groups, national identities, classes, and genders. Food has moral, social and political dimensions. A certain kind of food, eaten by a particular group in a certain context, is considered enjoyable, desirable, normal and healthy, or abominable, abnormal, or disgusting (Douglas 2011 [1966]). Food is also strongly associated with hospitality and the rituals of charity. In hospitality there is an inherent conditional power relationship between the host and its guest. This is particularly evident in relation to refugee reception. The guest must play according to the host's rules and be grateful to earn the hospitality. Some categories of guests are considered more "worthy", and in merit of greater empathy (Ahmed 2000, 2004). Exploring food and eating practices in refugee camps make this act of balance visible, the unequal power relations that arised in Swedish repatriate camps. As in the concentration camps, food involved a regulation of time and space and a manifestation of dependency. Eating was controlled: how, what and when they ate, and with whom. Institutions exercise power over the subject, whether the purpose is benevolent or malicious. This created disgust and resentment. Still, in contrast to much else, the food situation was something that the individual could resist, albeit limited. The study concerns both conditions in open camps and in a closed internment camp for "deviant" foreign women.
Translated title of the contributionDisgusting foods and (un)grateful repatriates: Food, hygien and normality in Swedish refugee camps 1945
Original languageSwedish
Pages (from-to)11-37
Number of pages27
JournalBudkavlen: Tidskrift för etnologi och folkloristik
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec 15

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History
  • Ethnology

Free keywords

  • repatriates
  • food
  • disgust
  • hospitality


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