Context Matters: What Does the Nordic Context Mean to You?

We asked a few Nordic researchers with different backgrounds what the Nordic context has meant to them and their research. Their answers range from the Nordic being an essential part of one’s identity to hesitation.

It is difficult to say exactly what “Nordicness” has meant for me, because it is part of me, in private life as well as in work.

“The Nordic context gives many privileges, concerning education and research possibilities as well as the core of worldview. One becomes aware of these privileges more easily when one functions outside the Nordic sphere. I have been very Nordic in Africa!

I started as a researcher of Finland and Finnishness, and to a certain extent, I am now re-entering that sphere again. For quite a while, my focus was on communication in developing countries, especially Africa. However, the Nordic dimension has always been there as a background variable, as a starting point for my world view. The basic dimensions of my research and thinking emerge from Nordicness.

In media research, Nordic conferences and various Nordic activities, above all Nordicom, have been important; it is easier to discuss and debate with people who share similar concepts and values. For a Finn, the language-bound cultural bonds are perhaps not as strong an element as for others in the Nordic countries, but for a bilingual Finn such as I, the language and culture frame is significant. Although I have mainly operated in other languages than the Scandinavian ones, the cultural background still carries a marker. 

An illusion embedded in Nordicness is that it easily leads to a preference to remain as an outsider, an observer rather than an actor regarding the great problems and crises one meets in the world. We should be far more active.”

Ullamaija Kivikuru

Professor Emerita at the University of Helsinki

In my education, the Nordics have been an essential part.

Photo: Ann Hartvig

“Coming from Germany, I spent parts of my Bachelors in Helsinki, Finland, and took a Masters in Lund, Sweden. I then pursued a PhD at Södertörn University in Stockholm.

While I empirically focus on Germany in my PhD project, the Nordic research environment has evolved as an extended family to the Swedish networks, for me mainly to Finland and Denmark. We share general conditions as well as work and research culture. However, given my background and research focus, contacts across Europe and Germany, and partly also globally, offer equally strong and important support, especially research-wise. So, in a way, the Nordics are family, Europe and the world are friends 😊

From the perspective of a PhD student, I would appreciate more formalized opportunities for Nordic connections and exchange with other PhD students. Some of them I first met through ECREA. Maybe more platforms for PhD connections could be thought about, for example, information about courses, or even meetings.”

Philipp Seuferling

PhD student at Södertörn University, Sweden

The Nordic context has not meant much for me and my research.

Photo: Lars Kruse

“My main research interest is web archives and web history and, unfortunately, web archives in several other Nordic countries are not very open, which is probably one of the main reasons why not many researchers appear to have discovered this treasure trove of digital content yet. Even within the international web history communities, there are no researchers from other Nordic countries.”

Niels Brügger

Professor at Aarhus University, Denmark

The NordMedia conference has been a good place to present my papers and meet media researchers from Norway and the other Nordic countries.

Photo: Bård Halvorsen

“I attended the Nordmedia conference in Tampere, Finland in 2017. Following the conference in Finland, I posted a presentation of my paper on the blog of my research group (AreaS) at Østfold University College.

In 2019 I had a baby girl around the time of the NordMedia conference in Malmö, Sweden so, unfortunately, I couldn´t attend, but I hope to join the NordMedia conference again next year.”

Elin Strand Larsen

Associate Professor at Østfold University College, Norway

Learn more.  A presentation of Elin Strand Larsens paper “A Justification and Celebration of Investigative Journalism” can be found here. Link:

One of the most enriching experiences in my academic and professional career development is the opportunity to share my work within an international scope.

Photo: Gunnar Jönsson

“In this sense, I attend NordMedia Congresses and join NordMedia Network, thanks to our international perspective and thanks to the collaborations we, my colleagues  (OsloMet, University of Oslo, etc.) and I deployed and are deploying in this context and on Media Studies.” 

Ana Serrano Tellería

Associate Professor by the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation of Spain (ANECA), Spain. Ana Serrano Tellería is based mainly in Spain and belong and have belonged to different international laboratories, research groups, etc.

Context always matters, but I don’t think we can reduce context to a nation-state, or a cluster of nation-states.

“There are many different intersecting contexts (including urban, sub-cultural, minority-cultural, etc), even in fairly homogeneous societies as can be found in northern Europe.

Moreover, I consider my research nomadic – I move to particular localities, with their own particular contexts, whether this is Sweden, Cyprus, Belgium, the Czech Republic, or other localities. What you call the Nordic context is part of this assemblage.

As all contexts have some elements that are stronger and/or more dominant than in other contexts, I can still give you a few answers about your Nordic context. One component is the transnational organisation of academic life (with, for instance, NordMedia) and another one is the strong presence of ethics in academia.

But there is also the reluctance to truly open up to ‘outsiders’, articulated with a rather unique combination of exceptionalism, nativism and nationalism.”

Nico Carpentier

Extraordinary Professor at Charles University, Czech Republic; Associate Professor at the Free University of Brussels (VUB), Belgium; Senior Researcher at Uppsala University, Sweden

Send us your thoughts! Do you want to present a different view and tell what the Nordic context has meant to you and your research, send your reflections to

Related reading

What is Nordic in Nordic Media Studies?

The 2020 issue of Nordic Journal of Media Studies addresses the very title of the journal. Is there such a thing as a particular “Nordicness” is the challenging question which this issue poses.

Traditionally, a range of cultural and societal features are attributed to the Nordic countries: the welfare state, and its welfare media state – public service, state support of film production, subsidies for print journalism – the high penetration of digital media, the Nordic countries traditionally high level of news readership, etc. In addition to specificities of the Nordic media system, the volume also considers to what extent media studies in the Nordic region represents particular perspectives or theoretical approaches that may be labelled Nordic? Moreover, what would be the scholarly advantages of pursuing a question like this – and what would be the challenges in a global, interconnected and postcolonial world of rapidly changing media systems and user patterns?

The authors contributing to the 2020 issue approach the question from a diversity of theoretical and analytical angles and include different empirical cases. In their entirety, the articles suggest that there is a “Nordic” to Nordic media studies but also that “the Nordic” can indeed look different depending on not only what you are looking at but also from where you are looking.

Read the new issue of Nordic Journal of Media Studies here. arrow_forward