Nordic societies and Cultures

Introduction course arranged by Johan Strang at the Centre for Nordic Studies (CENS). Period II, Tue & Thu at 10-12, in Aud XIII.

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the Nordic societies and cultures. Reflecting on both the history and the contemporary challenges of the region, the aim of the course is that the student will be able to critically assess the stereotypical features of the region, including the welfare state, democracy, Lutheranism, gender equality, modernist literature and alcohol consumption.

The leading questions throughout the course are:
(1) To what extent is it feasible to speak of a Nordic region distinct from the rest of Europe and the rest of the world?
(2) What are the internal dynamics between the five Nordic countries?
(3) How have the Nordic societies changed over time and what does their future look like?

Both local and international students are welcome. No faculty restrictions.

5.10.2017 klo 09:00 - 30.10.2017 klo 23:59


Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10-12 in Aud. XIII (Main building)

31.10. Introduction: Norden or Scandinavia? How to study a region.
2.11. Nordic cooperation as an ideology and as a praxis
7.11. Nordic political culture: democracy and consensus?
9.11. The Nordic welfare state
14.11. Strong, Nordic and Gender Equal (Heta Mulari)
16.11. Nordic minorities (Tuire Liimatainen)
21.11. Lutheranism and atheism
23.11. Nordic intellectuals at the margins of Europe
28.11. Alcohol, the perennial question (Peter Stadius)
30.11. Culture in the welfare state and the welfare state in culture (Essi Viitanen)
5.12. *** NO LECTURE / RESERVE ***
7.12. *** NO LECTURE / RESERVE ***
12.12. Foreign policy and the Nordic brand
14.12. Final discussion and feedback

Ti 31.10.2017
10:15 - 11:45
To 2.11.2017
10:15 - 11:45
Ti 7.11.2017
10:15 - 11:45
To 9.11.2017
10:15 - 11:45
Ti 14.11.2017
10:15 - 11:45
To 16.11.2017
10:15 - 11:45
Ti 21.11.2017
10:15 - 11:45
To 23.11.2017
10:15 - 11:45
Ti 28.11.2017
10:15 - 11:45
To 30.11.2017
10:15 - 11:45
Ti 5.12.2017
10:15 - 11:45
To 7.12.2017
10:15 - 11:45
Ti 12.12.2017
10:15 - 11:45
To 14.12.2017
10:15 - 11:45

Kurssin suorittaminen


In order to pass the course you are expected to

1. Write and submit a pre-course assignment, where you discuss your expectations on the course and your personal interest in the Nordic countries. The text should between 200 and 400 words long and be handed in on moodle as a pdf- or word-file. The due date is November 1.

2. Write and submit a 3000-4000 long learning diary consisting of seven chapters, between 200 and 1000 words each.
- Six chapters should cover any six of the ten theme based lectures as well as the assigned reading for that lecture.
- The final chapter, covering the final lecture, should reflect on the course as a whole, how it corresponded to your expectations, what you learned and how you envision to use the things you learned in your future studies or professional life.. Submit the diary through Moodle, gathered in a single word- or pdf-file no later than December 19.

Students taking the course as part of a Helsinki Masters Programme (ENS, ALKU or K & K) are expected to write an additional chapter covering a seventh theme based lecture. In this chapter you analyze a journalistic/popular piece (from a newspaper, TV, radio, podcast, youtube…) against the background of the lecture and the literature provided for that lecture. The length of this additional chapter should be between 800 and 1200 words. Please submit this chapter in moodle as a separate word- or pdf-file no later than December 19.


The course is mainly targeted for the ENS students. If there are places left, the course is also open for other students, including exchange students.

Having completed the course unit, the student has an advanced understanding of the political and cultural state of the Nordic region, its history, recent transformations and current challenges. The student recognises Nordic stereotypes and is able to interpret the purposes for which the idea of a Nordic region or a specific Nordic culture has been produced, sometimes against Europe and sometimes within Europe. The student understands the basic political and cultural differences between the Nordic countries against their shared and dissimilar historical backgrounds.

Offered every year, period 2

The course unit gives the student an opportunity to acquaint themselves with key themes in the historical, political and cultural studies of the Nordic countries, such as the Nordic identity, Nordic cooperation, welfare state, democracy, Lutheranism, gender equality, modernist literature, and popular culture. The leading questions are: (1) to what extent is it feasible to speak of a Nordic region as distinct from the rest of Europe, (2) for what purposes has Norden been presented as a distinct region, (3) what are the internal dynamics between the Nordic countries, and (4) how has the Nordic societies changed over time, and what does the future look like?

The detailed reading list will be provided to the students at the beginning of the course.
Required literature:
Mary Hilson, "Chapter 3: The Nordic Model of Welfare", in Mary Hilson, The Nordic Model – Scandinavia since 1945, London: Reaktion, 2008 (28 pages)
Jussi Kurunmäki & Johan Strang: "Introduction: Nordic democracy in a world of tensions", in Kurunmäki & Strang, Rhetorics of Nordic democracy, Helsinki: SKS, 2010 (27 pages)
Pirjo Markkola, The Lutheran Nordic Welfare States, in Kettunen & Petersen, Beyond welfare state models, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2011 (16 pages)
Kari Melby, Anna-Berte Ravn and Christina Carlsson Wetterberg, "A Nordic model of gender equality? Introduction", in Melby, Ravn & Wetterberg (eds), Gender equality and welfare politics in Scandinavia? The limits of political ambition, Bristol: Policy Press, 2008, 1-24
Henrik Stenius, "The good life is a life of conformity: The impact of the Lutheran tradition on Nordic political culture", in Sørensen & Stråth (eds) The cultural construction of Norden, Oslo: Scandinavian university press, 2007 (11 pages)
Johan Strang, "Introduction: The Nordic Model of Transnational Cooperation?", in Strang (ed.) Nordic Cooperation – A European Region in Transition, London: Routledge, 2016 (26 pages)
Bo Stråth, "The idea of a Scandinavian nation", in Landgren & Hautamäki (eds) People, citizen, nation, Helsinki 2005 (15 pages)
Lars Trägårdh: "Statist individualism: on the culturality of the Nordic welfare state", in Sörensen & Stråth (eds), The Cultural Construction of Norden, Oslo: Scandinavian university press, 1997 (32 pages)


Language of instruction: English

Contact teaching. In exceptional cases, alternative methods of completion may be agreed upon with the academic coordinator of the programme.