Call for Papers
NORDIC MODERNITY AND NOSTALGIA -conference
11-12 October 2018 / Faculty of Social Sciences (History), University of Tampere
Deadline for paper proposals: 20 June 2018
Modernity, and welfare state modernity in particular, are an integral part of what has been perceived as Nordic. The profound association of the Nordic societies with the future- and change-oriented ideals of modernity in the 20th century has left little space for discussion about nostalgia and its relation to modernisation. Nostalgia, a sense of loss in the face of change, has usually been touched upon only fleetingly (especially by historians) or associated closely with conservative and reactionary politics. Despite the disregard in which nostalgia has often been held, it has been present and prevalent throughout the process of modernisation – and, as recent scholarship in heritage and memory studies has convincingly demonstrated, the social, cultural and affective meanings of nostalgia are far more multi-faceted than simply longing for lost and idealised earlier times. Instead of being only a past-oriented affect, the scope of nostalgia extends in various ways into the future – and although often connected with conservative political positions, nostalgia has informed all political currents, from the right through the centre to the left.
The conference Nordic Modernity and Nostalgia, organised by the research project Experts, Communities and the Negotiation of the Experience of Modernity and funded by the Kone Foundation, invites proposals which analyse the role of nostalgia in the modernisation process of Nordic societies: a process often characterised as a decisive break with the past. What kind of tools did nostalgia offer – not only for resisting the tide of modernity or adapting to it but also for guiding the changes that were under way; and how were these tools used by experts, decision-makers as well as the general public: citizens, clients and consumers? What have they felt nostalgic about and how have they negotiated with each other through a variety of discourses, practices, settings and situations?
People living in large post-war suburbs may have been nostalgic about the sense of community experienced in rural villages or inner-city neighbourhoods. Due to this nostalgia, they may have used the modern buildings and spaces in ways different from the intended purpose, and in so doing, created new kinds of suburban communities and influenced the planning of future suburbs. Nostalgia for (lost) nature may have led people to create personal pastoral idylls in their own gardens, but it may equally well have encouraged policy-makers and experts to create public green spaces in cities and to pursue green policies. Nostalgia for a sense of belonging has contributed in various ways to the formation of new urban identities. All these examples can been seen as depoliticising but at the same time they can be regarded as reactions and measures which have, for example, promoted social change and facilitated environmental justice.
We welcome proposals that will address some of the following key questions:
- What features have characterised the relationship between Nordic modernity and nostalgia? How do the Nordic examples relate to the wider European context?
- How has the past been used in different Nordic countries during the 20th century to manage and negotiate the contemporary and future challenges? How has nostalgia worked in tandem with modernisation and welfare state ideologies?
- How have elements of the “success” of the 20th century Nordic countries –such as social welfare, consumerism or modern architecture – been construed by means of nostalgia?
- In what ways has nostalgia served as a catalyst of social change?
- What has been the role of nostalgia in the construction of Nordic heritage and memory?
We also welcome proposals that challenge the accustomed boundaries of “Nordic”, e.g. by applying a comparative approach. Please send your abstract (max. 500 words) by 20 June 2018 to Tanja Vahtikari <>
Confirmed keynote speakers:
Prof. Kirsi Saarikangas, University of Helsinki
Prof. Deborah Sugg Ryan, University of Portsmouth
Conference is organised by the project Experts, Communities and the Negotiation of the Experience of Modernity (funded by the Kone Foundation)