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The Indian Ocean tsunami in Swedish newspapers: nationalism after catastrophe

Anna Olofsson (Risk and Crisis Research Center, Mid Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 8 November 2011




The purpose of this paper is to analyze how the Swedish mass media constructed Sweden and Swedes during the first days after the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004.


A qualitative content analysis of newspaper articles from four of the largest newspapers in Sweden was conducted.


The results show that the tsunami was framed as a Swedish disaster almost exclusively focusing on Sweden, Swedish victims and Thailand, and that there was a division between “us” and “them”. Two categories of “us” and “them” were identified in the coverage: on the international level Sweden, i.e. “us”, was glorified and contrasted with “inferior” countries such as Thailand, “them”; on the national level, the distinction between “us” and “them” was not as obvious, but by including particular experiences and practices and excluding others, lines are drawn between “us” – ethnic Swedes – and “them” – everyone else. The conclusion of the paper is that mediated frames of catastrophes are influenced by stereotypes and nationalistic values.

Research limitations/implications

The study is based on a qualitative analysis and it is not possible to generalize to other cases. Additional quantitative studies would therefore be of value.

Practical implications

This study can be used in the education of crisis and disaster managers to make them aware of how underlying norms guide news coverage and encourage them always to consider information based on mass media reports critically.


This paper gives new theoretical and empirical insights into the way in which disasters contribute to recreating and maintaining the historical division between regions and people, on both a national and an international level.



Olofsson, A. (2011), "The Indian Ocean tsunami in Swedish newspapers: nationalism after catastrophe", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 20 No. 5, pp. 557-569.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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