Managing the Symbolic Power of Halal Meat in Swedish Preschools: Food for Thought in Discussions on Diversity

Jonas Stier (1) , Margareta Sandström (2)
(1) Intercultural studies, Dalarna University , Sweden
(2) Department of special education, Mälardalen University , Sweden


Recently there has been much debate as to which foods Swedish preschools should serve. This text explores preschool teachers’ approaches to parents’ dietary requests. The empirical material consists of 14 focus group interviews with 41 preschool teachers from two areas of Stockholm. Results suggest that cultural and religious differences pertaining to food and diet requests lead to dilemmas and conflicts which are handled with instrumental multicultural or conscious multicultural approaches, whereas intercultural or transcultural approaches are rare. Among the preschool teachers in this study, this leads to avoidance strategies or efforts to change the parents’ views. Results show that the preschool curriculum provides little guidance and preschool teachers must develop their own strategies to deal with children’s and parents’ expectations and demands, often using the children as intermediaries.

Full text article

Generated from XML file


Banks, J.A. (1994). An Introduction to Multicultural Education. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Barthes. R. (1997). Toward a psychosociology of contemporary food consumption. In Counihan, C. & Van Esterik, P. (eds.), Food and Culture: A Reader (20-27). London: Routledge.

Douglas, M. (1966). Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Routledge and Keegan Paul.

Douglas, M. (1984). Food in the Social Order: Studies of Food and Festivities in Three American Communities. New York: Russel Sage Foundation.

Freeman, N.K. (1998). Look to the East to gain a new perspective, understand cultural differences, and appreciate cultural diversity. Early Childhood Education Journal, 26(2):79-82. DOI:

García, O. (2018). The multiplicities of multilingual interaction, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 21(7): 881-891. doi: 10.1080/13670050.2018.1474851 DOI:

Geens, N. & Vandenbroeck, M. (2013). Early childhood education and care as space for social support in urban contexts of diversity. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 21(3): 407-419. DOI:

Han, H.S. & Thomas, M.S. (2010). No child misunderstood: Enhancing early childhood teachers’ multicultural responsiveness to the social competence of diverse children. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37(86): 469–476. DOI:

Harding, C., Wade, C. & Harrison, K. (2013). Communication between children and carers during mealtimes. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 13(4): 242-250. DOI:

Husband, T. (2012). ”I don’t see color”: Challenging assumptions about discussing race with young children. Early Childhood Education Journal, 39(6): 365-371. DOI:

Izutsu, T. (2002). Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur'an. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Joshi, A., Eberly, J. & Konzal, J. (2005). Dialogue across cultures: Teachers’ perceptions about communication with diverse families. Multicultural Education, 13(2): 11-15.

Keengwe, J. (2010). Fostering cross cultural competence in preservice teachers through multicultural education experiences. Early Childhood Education Journal, 38(3): 197-204. DOI:

Kemple, K.M. (2017). Social studies, social competence and citizenship in early childhood education: Developmental principles guide appropriate practice. Early Childhood Education Journal, 45(5): 621–627. DOI:

Krueger, R.A. & King, J.A. (1998). Involving Community Members in Focus Groups. Thousand Oaks, CA, USA: Sage. DOI:

Kvale, S. & Brinkmann, S. (2009). Den kvalitativa forskningsintervjun. (2nd Edition). Lund, Sweden: Studentlitteratur.

Lévi-Strauss, C. (1969). The Raw and the Cooked. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lunneblad, J. (2006) Förskolan och mångfalden: en etnografisk studie på en förskola i ett multietniskt område. PhD thesis, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Oliveira-Formosinho, J. & Barros Araújo, S. (2011). Early education for diversity: starting from birth. European Early Childhood Research Journal, 19(2): 223-235. DOI:

Rippin, A. (2012). Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. (4th Edition). London: Routledge.

San Poon, H.S., Abdullah, M.N.L.Y. & Abdullah, A.C. (2013). Multicultural early childhood education: Practices and challenges in Malaysia. The Australian Educational Researcher, 40(5): 615–632 DOI:

SNAE Swedish National Agency for Education (2018). Läroplan för förskolan Lpfö18. Stockholm: Skolverket.

SNAE Swedish National Agency for Education (2011). Läroplan för förskolan Lpfö 98 (Revised 2010). Stockholm: Skolverket.

Souto-Manning, M. (2007). Immigrant families and children (re-)develop identities in a new context. Early Childhood Education Journal, 34(6): 399-405. DOI:

Stano, S. (2017). Eating, diversity, creating identity: Translations of the culinary code between creativity and misunderstandings. In Andreica, O. & Olteanu, A. (eds.), Readings in Numanities (Numanities - Arts and Humanities in Progress, Vol. 3) (85-92), Springer, Cham. DOI:

Stier, J., Tryggvason, M-T., Sandström, M. & Sandberg, A. (2012). Diversity management in preschools using a critical incident approach. Intercultural Education, 23(4): 285-296. DOI:

Stier, J. & Sandström, M. (2018). Managing the unmanageable: Curriculum challenges and teacher strategies in multicultural preschools in Sweden. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 48. Available from

The Swedish Education Act (2010:800). Stockholm: Riksdag.

Twiner, A., Cook, G. & Gillen, J. (2009). Overlooked issues of religious identity in the school dinners debate. Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(4): 473-488. DOI:

Vandenbroeck, M. (2007). Beyond anti-bias education: Changing conceptions of diversity and equity in European early childhood education. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 15(1): 21-35. DOI:

Wardle, F. (1998). Meeting the needs of multiracial and multiethnic children in early childhood settings. Early Childhood Education Journal, 26(1): 7-11. DOI:

Wibeck, V. (2010). Fokusgrupper. Om fokuserade gruppintervjuer som undersökningsmetod. Lund, Sweden: Studentlitteratur.


Jonas Stier (Primary Contact)
Margareta Sandström
Author Biographies

Jonas Stier, Intercultural studies, Dalarna University

Jonas Stier is a professor of intercultural studies at Dalarna University. He has a great deal of experience in the research field of intercultural studies within a variety of contexts such as preschools, schools and higher education, and has written several books in this subject area. Further, he is strongly committed to public outreach and is a popular lecturer outside academia.

Margareta Sandström, Department of special education, Mälardalen University

Margareta Sandström is a senior professor of special education at Mälardalen University. She has a great deal of experience researching in the fields of education, special education and intercultural studies within a variety of contexts such as preschools, schools and higher education, and has written several books on this subject area. Further, she is strongly committed to teacher education.

Stier, J., & Sandström, M. (2020). Managing the Symbolic Power of Halal Meat in Swedish Preschools: Food for Thought in Discussions on Diversity. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 20(1), 92–106.

Article Details

Smart Citations via scite_