Scandinavian Cultural and Aesthetic Modernity (SCAM)

This research group focuses on the cultural and aesthetic dimensions of modern Scandinavia, in the context of the modernizing processes of individualization, urbanization, industrialization, secularization etc. We seek a historical understanding of the negotiations between modern forces, often coming from outside, and already existing, locally founded traditions. This can take place as an investigation into parallel phenomena but also as inquiries into when and how which foreign cultures have influenced and transformed Scandinavian cultures. While Scandinavia has generally been on the receiving end, it has also, in certain historical periods or in single figures, provided prime movers in developing modern positions, e.g. writers from 1870 through 1910, the development of the welfare state in the mid-twentieth century, and figures like Kierkegaard, Munch, Aalto, Dreyer, Bergman, or von Trier.

The modern transformations of the cultural field should be mapped with careful attention to the distribution of local, national and transnational elements. Cultural modernization can be conceived according to spatial or temporal models, for instance in terms of centre/periphery or avantgarde/tradition. Modernization often originates in an imperial centre whose paradigm is disseminated through various strategies. This is true of the classic aesthetic High Modernism 1850-1950, which originated in a northern transatlantic metropolitan culture, or of the present "postmodern" hegemony of Hollywood entertainment. The Scandinavian cultures are particularly interesting in this perspective because they are atypical - northern and modern, and at the same time peripheral and based on agricultural economy till late in the twentieth century. These conditions mean that the manifestations of modernity in Scandinavia can provide instructive lessons in the phenomenon of unsimultaneity which is central to current debates on globalization and its implications.

The general historical and theoretical perspectives presented here give rise to a number of specific questions. How is modernization justified? How is it connected to national "imagined communities"? How do historically and geographically diverse communities imagine the modern and the local (national, urban, rural) into which it is introduced and where it is performed? Where and in which media do negotiations between local traditions and potentially universal modernity take place? How does it occur, as translation, transmission, colonization, appropriation, assimilation, transformation or, to put it in aesthetic terms, as copy, imitation, montage, palimpsest, parody?

The research group holds regular meetings in which members present current research projects and discuss selected texts of general interest. We welcome researchers from all disciplines of humanities as well as from sociology and theology working with Scandinavia in European and global perspectives, for example ethnology, social and political history, church history, literary and cultural studies and film and media studies.

For more information, including membership and dates and venues of the next meetings, please contact Jan Rosiek,Department of Scandinavian Studies and Linguistics,Njalsvej 120,2300 Copenhagen S, +45 35 32 83 49, e-mail: