Exploring the Nordic Summer University Archive: tracing the conversation over 70 years of NSU existence

Researching the conversations at the Nordic Summer University from 1950 until 2020, I’ve been spending a week at the Danish National Archive, going through thousands of letters, reports, program leaflets. It’s been a great experience so far.

My aim with this specific research project (funded by NSU and The Nordics) is to trace the spirit of NSU, to trace the study programs throughout the years and see how they changed. Some things have been written about this, most notably Kritik og Krise written by several NSU-ers and published in 2000 (which can be downloaded here: http://nordic.university/organisation/history/). But the chapter in that book that talks about the study program is mostly anecdotal, and clearly not systematic.

Although there are some things that are more known, like how feminist studies in Scandinavia started at NSU, I want to explore this question more systematically. In this project I want to know everything there is to know about the study program. (Ambitious, right?!) How did it develop over the years? What choices were made, based on what requirements? I want to find out how the conversation changed over the years.

The Nordic Summer University is a voluntary organisation where researchers, artists and basically anybody can start a ‘study circle’: a topic that is discussed during individual circle meetings in the winter and at the summer session, where all circles meet for some days, a week or even longer. The topics of the study circle were apparently interesting and important enough for people to spend their time and energy on, and attracted other people who were interested to discuss these topics together at the Nordic Summer University. Tracing these conversations at NSU therefore means tracing the conversations of the nordic countries, of what was considered important and fundamental to study together in an interdisciplinary and intellectually stimulating environment.

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