Martin Johansson defends his PhD thesis on Nordic play and games

Martin Johansson (Södertörn University) defends his thesis "De nordiska lekarna: grannländer i pressen under olympiska vinterspel" on 12 May 2023 in Stockholm. Johansson is a ReNEW PhD Student in The Institute of Contemporary History at Södertörn University.

Public defense of the doctoral dissertation of Martin Johansson (Södertörn University) in Stockholm. Title of the dissertation: "De nordiska lekarna: grannländer i pressen under olympiska vinterspel". Opponent is Doc. Dr. Ainur Elmgren, University of Oulu, Finland. 

Time:12 May 2023, 13:00-15:00

Place: Södertörn University, MA648

Language: Swedish

Abstract: Nordic play and games

Throughout the 20th century, Nordic audiences consumed mediations of athletes from their own country who were competing against Nordic neighbours at Olympic winter games. In daily newspapers, coverage of the games continuously related to notions of both Nordic and national identities, as well as of the imagined relationship between them.

This thesis provides new perspectives on the history of Nordic identity formation by analysing representations of Nordic Neighbours within this coverage, and by focusing on three main themes. Firstly, newspaper texts are shown to reveal norms and customs with regards to how Nordics were supposed to feel about their neighbours’ fates at the games. Secondly, the analyses provide new understandings on how Norden was imagined within a popular cultural framework, thereby acting as a counterweight to previous elite-centred research. Thirdly, and most importantly, the thesis sheds light on how the winter games highlighted the relationship between Nordic and national identities, and how tensions between the two were supposed to be handled according to norms suggested by the newspapers. This was especially true in Finland, Norway and Sweden, whose capitals’ media systems constitute the main study object for this study. In the case of Finland, however, language barriers have forced this thesis to only focus on Swedish-speaking media.

Through both quantitative and qualitative readings of the source material, the thesis concludes that Norden emerges as a place on mental maps that is distinguished by its relationship to a certain kind of play. As pointed out by Johan Huizinga, the word “play” translates differently in different languages, and in Norwegian the word “lek” is used to describe both “play” and the “games” of the Olympiad. This thesis highlights the double meaning, concluding that media coverage reflected and constructed the winter Olympics as a Nordic playground, where ambivalences, humorous exchanges, and intra-Nordic competition emerged as nordicity-constituting games.

An electronic version of the doctoral dissertation is available on DiVA: De nordiska lekarna: Grannländer i pressen under olympiska vinterspel.

Event in Södertörn University calender: Disputation med Martin Johansson.