National healthcare under pressure: Linguistic diversity and the welfare state

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In this contribution we compare political discourse on language and diversity in relation to migrant patients and migrant doctors, and we show how the migrant in the welfare state is discursively articulated and negotiated among politicians in different ways. The national healthcare crisis is the background against which the phenomenon of linguistic diversity is made relevant. Our material consists of two debates from The Danish Parliament. One concerns effects of legislation which restricts patients’ right to free medical interpreting to the first three years of residency. The other concerns the long wait times for foreign educated doctors to begin their authorization process. In both debates, we focus on the themes of the individual migrant; the role of the state; the role of language. We show how rights of full access to the welfare state is negotiated as a question of willingness to be a participating member. For migrant patients, this willingness is made synonymous with learning Danish in three years. For migrant doctors, willingness is seen as a given based on the state´s need for the medical skills they offer. Language skills are constructed as unproblematic to acquire if one attends courses. Such political discourse creates the conditions for medical practices on the floor, which in turn influence everyday life for medical practitioners and patients. The contribution offers new perspectives to medical humanities by drawing on Critical Sociolinguistics (Blommaert 2012; Heller 2011) as its main theoretical perspective and discussing linguistic perspectives on a welfare state.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordic Journal of Migration Research
Publication statusSubmitted - 2024

ID: 395148204