Theater of Cruelty

Norwegian history of ideas in English

Does English threaten the Norwegian language and the Norwegian academy?


[new journal] Yes, the traditional answer has been from loud Norwegian intellectuals. This fall, for example, the professors Erik Bjerck Hagen and Anders Johansen (ed.) What do we do with science? 13 post from the battle over the counting edges. It starts with last year's call from 223 professors, who object to the new reward systems at the universities: "The social and cultural disciplines need schemes that do not discriminate against the Norwegian language of knowledge ..."

Birgit Brock-Utne, professor of comparative educational science, criticizes the Norwegian Language Council for fighting too little for the Norwegian language: The language council lets them go forward. ”

But now there is a new, Nordic co-operation which in practice challenges the idea of ​​the English language as a threat. The newly started Nordic Association for the History of Ideas has started a completely new magazine: Ideas in History. And as the title suggests – here are all the texts in English.

In practice, English thus paradoxically works together for the language groups in the Nordic countries: Finnish, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic. Norwegian and Finnish may seem inclusive to Norwegians and Finns, but such minority languages ​​seem exclusive to most others. Or to turn it around: The national languages ​​can cause one to do a bear service by shutting oneself out of the international debate.

The journal's editorial staff and editor Ingrid Markussen – born in Denmark, educated in Sweden and professor at the University of Oslo – does not comment on language debates. However, the first leader emphasizes the possibilities: "The Nordic community of researchers involved in intellectual history now has a unique chance to reach not only a pan-Nordic audience, but also a global English-speaking audience" (my translation).

The first issue of 230 pages shows that the Nordic history of ideas environment has much to offer: Thomas Krogh and Sverre Blandhol analyze CB Macpherson and Nordic jurisprudence thinking, respectively. Aarhus-based Mikkel Thorup discusses "the new barbarism" – Europe's view of unilateral US policy, while Lund lecturer Mikael Hörnqvist re-raises Petrarch as a political thinker. Some of the most surprising, however, perhaps comes from the 28-year-old University of Bergen fellow Kristoffer Mumrak, who looks at the similarities between the forms of government in Mesopotamia and ancient Greece.

In short: Norwegian and Nordic history of ideas seems to be stronger than in a long time. Despite, or perhaps because of, the English language. ■

Dag Herbjørnsrud
Dag Herbjørnsrud
Former editor of MODERN TIMES. Now head of the Center for Global and Comparative History of Ideas.

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