“People” and Power(s) in Representation in the Nordic and Germanic Space
The Kiel Treaty, signed on 14 January 1814, marks a milestone in European and Scandinavian history as it ended armed conflicts between the realms of Sweden and Denmark. In order to celebrate its 200th anniversary, this conference will focus on national propaganda and representations of power through the representation of the people. The period under study spans from the 13th century to 1814. It includes the Scandinavian realms’ stabilization as well as the emergence of a national sentiment centered on the homeland, the ruler or the reigning power and ends with the emergence of nationalism in Europe.
This colloquium aims to further explore the studies of representation as defined as a concept in the cultural history of politics. Robert Chartier underlined the role of representation in the contruction of social hierarchies, citing “objective social division” as a “translation of the credit attributed to the self-representation of each group” (Chartier, Roger: Au bord de la falaise: l'histoire entre certitudes et inquiétude, Paris: Albin Michel 2009 (1997), p. 11). At the crossroads between practice and theory, representations emerge in a time of competition between various powers. The way in which states communicate is capital for the production of those representations. They are the objects of an active reception which modifies their meaning and impact while generating new representations. Power derives from information, which is broadcasted by the authorities to spread propaganda, to justify war and to mobilize the people en masse.
People, power and State formation
Inspired by historians of nationalism, who made an effort to differentiate the numerous forms nationalism could take (patriotism, regionalism, national sentiment, imperial sentiment…), we intend to examine representations both of the common folk and of political power in the Scandinavian space, particularly in the context of Baltic-Scandinavian or even European-Scandinavian relationships. Those representations are chronologically linked with the emergence of multiple political entities in the Middle-Ages and their subsequent diminution during the modern period.
The concept of the people, like the concept of nation, gained new meanings during this period: peasantry, aristocracy in the Middle-Ages, the Scandinavian odalbonde, the royal subject or the soldier. The ruling powers of the era played with those different acceptations to create representations from which they derived their legitimacy. Some of Scandinavia’s historical events can be examined under this perspective, such as Gustav Vasa’s claim to the Swedish throne in 1520-1523 or the fall of Friedrich Struensee in Denmark in 1772.
Conflicts also appear to be key moments for the study of political representation and its links with the representations of “the people”. Royal powers seek support or compete with alternate societal powers (intermediary elites, Religious power, Peasant communities…) which create competing representations inside the same space:
From a national to a transnational perspective.
Scandinavian history offers numerous opportunities to explore the transnational history of identities. The relationship between the royal powers and the commercial power of the Hanseatic League, the national communities inside the State in Pomerania and Livonia or the cultural influence of Copenhagen through the University of Kiel are a few examples of such opportunities. Transnational history of identities explores the emergence of nationalisms and of the concept of nation, first in a Scandinavian perspective before broadening our focus by studying frontiers’ porosity. This colloquium aims to underline the numerous contacts and conflicts between the different European spaces such as France, the Netherlands and the Holy Roman Empire and the role they played in the circulation of cultural models.
Those examples offer the possibility to go beyond a purely national historiography that is often centered on a few great Scandinavian kings. A transnational approach allows us to underline the complexity of their geographical, cultural and popular power base.
Possible topics could include:
● The “national peasant” creation or construction by the power in place, national identities development (the “people” against foreign elites etc…)
● The “people” and power in national historiography and royal imagination. National historiography as a factor in dynastic continuity, the rewriting of national history and the creation of funding myths.
● The ruler and his power’s mise-en-scene through arts, pictorial representations, iconography, self-representation.
● The vehicles of national propaganda and the exaltation of patriotism during conflicts.
● Scandinavia and the way its rulers are perceived in “Northern” Europe (France, Germany, Netherlands, the Baltic space) through diplomatic relations, territorial disputes and border conflicts
● The different modes of sovereignty (Nation State, Personal Union, Absolutism, Empire, Colony, Hegemony, Domination, etc) over the people, special regional statute and popular uprising.
● Scandinavian colonies and their inhabitants’ relations with their governing bodies and their use in the European-Scandinavian rivalry.
This colloquium aims to be interdisciplinary. Case studies are welcome, as are the exploitation of various sources: charters, peace treaties, historiography, portraits, fiction works, iconographies, visual arts, oral tradition, etc… Submissions must be sent by 15 January 2014 at the latest to firstname.lastname@example.org. They are limited to 500 words and must come with a short biography of the researcher. We accept papers in French, Swedish, German and English. You will be informed of your paper’s acceptance in February 2014.
With support from the REIGENN research group (Paris Sorbonne University, Departement of Germanic and Nordic studies), the UFR of Nordic and Germanic studies (Paris-Sorbonne) and the Departement of History at Stockholm’s University.