Southern Spain is the most attractive region in Europe for so called ‘lifestyle migrants’ from a number of European countries, preferably from the Nordic countries and Great Britain. This paper discusses the institutionalization of national identities, from in-depth interviews and ethnographic work with Swedish migrant women in Fuengirola, Marbella and Málaga conducted in the spring of 2010. Through an analysis of intra-European migrations and their race and class relations, the idea of a common, culturally homogeneous European identity is deconstructed. What appears is a south-north divide built upon a deep Swedish postcolonial identification with Anglo-Saxon countries and cultures and parallel dis-identification with (the former colonial powers in) Southern Europe. The Swedish women interviewed were mainly socializing with other north(west) European migrants from similar social segments who shared the embodiment of white ‘structured invisibility’, thus separating them from non-European migrants, but as well from Spaniards.
By looking at how nationally-specific formations of white identity are played out in southern Spain, I develop Sara Ahmed’s (2007) theories on ‘orientations’ towards whiteness, likeness and institutions as ‘meeting points’ where some bodies tend to feel comfortable in certain spaces as they already belong here. Whiteness is here discussed in terms of “likeness”, “proximity” and “shared attributes” that bring some people together in a foreign context. Following Ahmed, I argue that the “institutionalization of whiteness” in southern Spain recruits subjects who feel they are part of an ‘international community’, but resulting in a division between migrants from northern Europe, non-European migrants and locals from Spain. The paper further develops class-related national identities. Migrants of upper-middle-class background retained their class positions more effectively than the lower-middle-classes whose migration to Spain was often characterized by a sense of downward class mobility in terms of economic capital, and a higher orientation towards primarily national organizations and institutions.