International Web Community for Scandinavian Studies

CSS Conference 2017 – Rethinking Scandinavia

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Posts in Scandinavian identity
A Curious Case of Identicide

Mateusz Topa, University of Gdańsk


Abstract: Dag Solstad’s 1996 novel “Professor Andersen’s Night” narrates the story of Pål Andersen, a middle-aged university professor who accidentally witnesses (or so he believes) a murder. Even though Pål feels he has a legal, moral, and social obligation to report the crime, he cannot bring himself to notify the police. This sets the scene for professor Andersen’s critical examination of his own life, a life – as we quickly gather – suspended in an identity vacuum.

Solstad’s novel gives us a unique glimpse into the development and formation of Norwegian – and by extension Scandinavian – cultural, social and national identity in the second half of the 20th century. At the same time, it situates this development against the backdrop of a more universal context of Western European (post)modernism. It is at this intersection between the national/regional (Norway/Scandinavia) and the international/global (Europe/World) that professor Andersen struggles to collect shreds of his identity, trying to understand what caused its breakdown.

The paper will follow professor Andersen in this attempt and, as a result, will branch out in two sub-themes. The first one is a critique of the cultural elite in Norway (and Scandinavia) who, according to professor Andersen, have gradually deconstructed (murdered) both individual and collective patterns of identity with their irony and hypocrisy. The second one centers around professor Andersen’s irrational and perhaps paranoid fear that an “other” cultural mindset might replace (murder) the identity vacuum he is trapped in – this again both at the individual and collective level. Throughout the presentation, other European literary works illustrating parallel developments will be referred to as a point of comparison.

Both of the abovementioned sub-themes (“self-deconstruction” and “fear of an external threat”) will reveal a strong need to re-think how landscapes of identity are formed, maintained, and what they could mean in a fast-changing, globalized world.

Theme: Scandinavian Identity Throughout History

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Scandinavia in a Fractured Globalized World

Daniel Ogden, Mälardalen University


Abstract: The paper argues the increased likelihood, and indeed necessity, of a new “imagined community” of Scandinavia developing in the post Brexit and post Trump election and inauguration near future. What was once thought of as an unstoppable march towards a homogenous, globalized world has been called into question by these two, in many ways traumatic, events forcing countries to re-examine how they are to find security in an increasingly unstable and unpredictable world. In many ways the Nordic/Scandinavian countries are in an advantageous position to do this. Institutional frameworks, and the cultural and linguistic ties they are based on, already exist to facilitate this, even if these have received less attention in recent years due to globalization and the EU project. It is unlikely, and I would hold undesirable, that this new imagined Scandinavia would be a return to the nineteenth century Romantic idea of a unified Scandinavia under one cultural and ethnic identity. Instead I think it will take full advantage of what the conference organizers call the contemporary “clash and overlap” of languages and cultures; and I would add, ethnicities. The multicultural Scandinavian/Nordic countries, though far from being conflict free (which is not a desired end) have an opportunity not only to mitigate the harmful economic and political effects of Brexit and a Trump presidency, but also to offer an alternative to the closed societies they hope to create.

Theme: Scandinavian Identity Throughout History

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