“PastForward”: New Nordic Research Project Investigates Political Uses of the Past 

“Every vision of the future is a response to where we come from and how we got to where we are today”, asserts Manuel Menke, Assistant Professor at the University of Copenhagen. He is leading a new research project examining how Nordic politicians employ collective memory and historical narratives to justify their visions of the future.

In democratic elections, voters exercise their choice among parties that present diverse visions and offer solutions to current issues and crises, thereby shaping the nation’s future.

Led by Assistant Professor Manuel Menke from the University of Copenhagen, a new research project, “PastForward”, aims to dissect how Nordic politicians have employed the past to support their visions of the future.

– In “PastForward”, our objective is to find out how parties communicated their visions of the future through online communication in the last elections in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. We do this with a specific twist by asking how they used the past to justify their visions of the future and how these discussions are picked up by citizens following them on social media, Menke explains.

According to Menke, visions of the future are intrinsically tied to historical contexts. A shared understanding of the past creates a common national identity. The past, however, can also create a sense of entitlement about what supposedly belongs to certain groups of society, potentially fostering polarisation and conflict.

– In our project, we will study Nordic trends to see whether parties promise to restore past privileges to their voters by excluding others, or whether they offer inclusive agendas for the future. We will also examine how citizens react to these narratives by supporting or contesting them online, says Menke.

Manuel Menke, University of Copenhagen

The NOS-HS project is supported by NordForsk with a grant of DKK 5 million. Manuel Menke, as the Principal Investigator, collaborates with Karoline Andrea Ihlebæk from OsloMet University (Norway), Samuel Merrill from Umeå University (Sweden), and Katarina Pettersson from University of Helsinki (Finland). 

You can read more about “PastForward” here.