CSS Conference 2017

Rethinking Scandinavia

Lund University, June 14-17, 2017

Welcome to Lund!

What reasons are there to interest oneself in the Nordic countries in our time? How should we direct Scandinavian studies in a world characterized both by increased globalization and waxing nationalism?

Traditionally speaking, studies in the Nordic languages and culture have been grounded in the idea that the Nordic region constitutes a geographical and cultural entity clearly separated from the rest of the world. In some respects, this view is well-founded— several of the Nordic countries certainly share commonalities in language, history and culture. During the era of Romantic nationalism, this perception of a relation between the Nordic countries gave rise to grand visions of a political union between these sister-nations.

However, in the economically and politically integrated Europe of our own time, such ‘Scandinavism’ seems hopelessly passé. The globalization of the economy, the technological innovations of mass-media, and the evolving nature of transport and communications have led to a pronounced diminution in cultural relations between Scandinavian countries. Simultaneously, globalization and international migration have generated strong patriotic reactions from some quarters. Extremist political parties have declared the need to preserve “genuine” Scandinavian culture from the threat of outside influence.

Research in the field internationally known as “Scandinavian Studies” is largely conducted outside the Nordic region. In Scandinavian countries, studies in the humanities usually approach the object of study from a one-sidedly national, or a broadly international, perspective. This is perhaps a product of the fact that the entire world seems to be within the grasp of the contemporary student and researcher: it no longer seems necessary to situate a nation’s language and native culture within its most immediate geographical context.

And yet, in restricting the scholarly field of vision in this way, we risk losing sight of Scandinavia’s common cultural heritage, making it more difficult to relate national languages and cultural expressions to a broader international, or European, context.  The “Nordic” region, or “Scandinavia” is not so much a geographical location as a conceptual space— a more-or-less imaginary construction through which the Nordic countries have historically entered into communication with the rest of the world. From a foreign perspective, Scandinavia remains a distinct cultural entity, with a number of particular, value-laden characteristics.

The Centre for Scandinavian Studies Copenhagen-Lund brings together multidisciplinary expertise from the universities of Copenhagen and Lund to investigate the Nordic space. While acknowledging the legacy of earlier studies and research in Nordic culture, our aim is to approach the discipline in a new way. Instead of conceiving of Scandinavia in the traditional sense—as a geographical area with a homogenous linguistic and cultural identity— we aim to understand Scandinavia as a border-region, in which various forms of language and culture clash and overlap, and in which many of today’s urgent political issues are brought to a head.

Opinion is divided as to how, more concretely, such a renewed investigation of the Nordic region may be carried out. In the hopes of generating as many illuminating responses to this concern as possible, we hereby invite international researchers focused on Scandinavia or the Nordic countries to the interdisciplinary conference, “Rethinking Scandinavia”, to be held in Lund, from the 14-17 June, 2017.

This conference will also introduce the first in a series of public lectures dedicated to the Einar Hansens Allhems Scholarship; a recurrent feature of our conferences to come. This lecture will be held by an outstanding scholar in the field of Scandinavian studies, speaking on a topic thematically connected to the conference, and will be disseminated in a special edition of our CSS publication series. The inaugural Einer Hansens speaker will be professor Anne-Marie Mai, professor in literary studies at the University of Southern Denmark. 

  • Klaus Müller-Wille, Professor, Department of Nordic languages, Zürich University, Switzerland.
  • Julie K. Allen, Professor, Department of Comparative Arts and Letters, Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah), USA.
  • Sun Jian / 孙建, Professor, College of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Fudan University (Shanghai), China.
  • Frans Gregersen, Professor, Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • Mads Bunch, Assistant professor, Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • Katarina Lundin, Reader, Centre for Languages and Literature, Lund University, Sweden

Scandinavian Identity Throughout History

How have the processes of Scandinavian identity-formation—its enactments and cultural heritages—been processed on a national, regional and international level throughout history? What disparities exist between national self-imaginings, Scandinavian identity-reflection, and the way in which the outside world conceives of Scandinavia? Conceptions of Scandinavian identity are reflected and mirrored in artistic forms of expression such as literature, sculpture and film; in the development of language and in political life; in the writing of history and theories of national character. Such conceptions form the basis for nationalistic and cosmopolitan self-images.

Minority Culture

How do minority cultures within the Nordic region—or, conversely, Nordic minority cultures outside Scandinavia—relate to the majority cultures with which they are surrounded? And how do these majority cultures relate to the aforementioned minorities through various stages of history? When did the “multicultural society” emerge?

Scandinavia in the Eyes of the World

What do members of other cultures perceive to be distinctly Scandinavian? In which historical contexts have these images of Scandinavian particularity been preserved and developed? Are such images regarded as exemplary; or do they serve as cautionary tales? Do they function in other ways? Within this theme, we welcome case studies grounded in non-Scandinavian perspectives.

The New-Media Landscape from a Historical Perspective

Today’s multimedia and virtual worlds broach geographical borders in such a way as to significantly alter our understanding of one another within and without Scandinavia— including how we communicate shifting conceptions of the region. A media historian would remind us, however, that such developments are part of a long historical process. How do media conditions contribute to the reformulation of “Scandinavia”— in the present, past, and future?

Material Culture of the Nordic Space

If we regard Scandinavia more as an imaginative space than a geographical location, we must also acknowledge that this space has essentially been constructed through the cultural landscape, urban planning, architecture, monuments and significant artefacts of the existing territories. How does material culture contribute to the encoding of the Nordic space?

Border-Crossing: Migration, Travel, and Tourism

What kind of changes has “Scandinavia” undergone as the result of travel to, from and within the Nordic countries? How have these changes been reflected through stories and documentation by migrants and travelers? Such stories—whether we consider contemporary refugee testimonies, 18th C travelogues of Scandinavian exploration, or literary depictions of more-or-less voluntary migration through the ages— represent an infinitely diverse history of Scandinavia's changing identity in a global world. Bringing an exchange of experiences and practices, tourism in the Nordic countries also contributes to this dynamic.

The Dynamics of Nordic Linguistics

What is the situation of Nordic languages and language-use from a historical, contemporary analytical, and multicultural perspective? What sorts of changes are underway? Will English become the lingua franca of Scandinavia, or will common linguistic roots continue to tie northerners together? Which languages do we speak, and what are our attitudes to our mother-tongues, second-languages, neighboring languages, and foreign languages.

List of lectures and presentations

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