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Scandinavian Narratives of Guilt and Privilege in an Age of Globalization (Scanguilt)

The project is interdisciplinary and combines film, literature, sociology, education, and gender studies.

A stroll in a park with one baby wagon, grand dad, a man, a woman and two dogs. Photo.

We live at a moment in time when most Scandinavians are extremely privileged. Time and again we are acclaimed as the richest, happiest and most egalitarian nations in the world.

At the same time, globalization brings us into close contact with non-privileged Others. Through media and migration we are confronted on a daily basis with an awareness of suffering Others – child laborers, victims of trafficking, war refugees, etc. The Other lives side-by-side with us; often they even contribute (more or less directly) to our affluence.

Numerous contemporary narratives indicate that this sense of global inequality does not simply lead to Scandinavians’ counting themselves lucky for their unusual privileges; they also feel uncomfortable and suffer from what we call “Scandinavian guilt feelings”.

We explore narratives about these feelings from various fields: literature, education, film, sociology, theology, moral philosophy, media and gender studies.

We do this in order

  • to understand our cultural identity, which is in a state of ambivalence
  • to understand the role that art and aesthetics play in representing these feelings, and
  • to contribute to a debate that can lead to social action and change

The last point requires an understanding of the possible relations between guilt feelings and power structures.

In addition, we problematize a simplistic “we-them”-dichotomy by analyzing narratives written by and about Scandinavians with immigrant backgrounds.

The Faculty of the Humanities at the University of Oslo funds a cross-disciplinary research group at the University of Oslo (2014-2018). The Research Council of Norway funds an international research group (2014-2019).


Published Jan. 31, 2014 11:54 AM - Last modified Aug. 22, 2022 10:31 AM