Department of Politics and Society

More about the Future of Feminisms in the Nordic Region Network (FFNN)

Photo: Nordiskt Forum 2014 in Malmö

Nordiskt Forum 2014 in Malmö 

Are we witnessing a new wave of Nordic feminist movements? If so, what does this mean and how does this differ from or resemble the previous wave? In June 2014, 20,000 women and some men gathered in Malmö to ‘identify challenges and opportunities for the Nordic feminist movement, formulate political demands and reach out in solidarity to women around the world’ (Nordiskt Forum - New Actions on Women’s Rights Programme p.7). How did this mobilization happen? Why this expression of Nordic belonging? What is to be learned from history and the present by Nordiskt Forum (organized in Oslo 1988, Åbo 1994 and Malmö 2014) as regards perceptions of the future of feminisms in the Nordic region?

In this project, feminist mobilizations should be understood in a broad sense, including both mobilizations in civil society, in political parties and political institutions. Definitions of feminism will be investigated as answers to empirical questions. Activists will be operationalized as self-identified feminists, regardless of gender, including those who consider themselves to belong to a feminist/gender/women’s movement without identifying as feminist. Feminist activism in other social movements (e.g. labor movements; anti-racist movements) will also be addressed.

Nordiskt Forum in Malmö on 12-15 June 2014 was visited by 20.000 women and men –one of them the Swedish party leader of the Social Democratic Party (Socialdemokraterna) Stefan Löfven. Photographer: Jens Ohlsson/Socialdemokraterna.

The Nordic gender political landscape has changed dramatically over the last fifty years. The transformation of the Nordic welfare states, the emergence of the European Union and the advancements of gender issues in the United Nations have created a new context for feminist ideas, visions and movements. The global financial crisis has deepened the contextual change and exacerbated both inequalities and diversities. This involves challenges for feminist strategies as well as for ideas about gender equality and social justice and solidarity at home and abroad. Due to the institutionalization of parts of the movements in the Nordic countries and abroad, include these challenges questions as to the relevance of strategies of cooperation with and/or resistance to states and international organizations. The move of categories of sexuality, ethnicity, race and religion from the periphery to the center of politics has also influenced this new political landscape. Anti-racist, queer and transgender activists have expressed the need to rethink gender and sexual politics. Equal opportunities regarding care, power and influence are thus challenged to consider more carefully the intersection of gender with different axes of inequalities (see Siim & Stoltz 2015; Stormhøj 2015; Nyhagen Predelli & Halsaa 2012; Fahlgren, Johansson & Mulinari 2011; Keskinen

Empirically, the project takes its starting point in Nordiskt Forum Malmö 2014 and (when possible) its predecessors in Oslo 1988 and Åbo 1994. These are used as cases of mobilization, and they facilitate a comparison over time. Strategies and ideas about gender, equality, solidarity and social justice which are found here will be placed in broader perspectives by means of comparisons to related mobilizations (e.g. 8 March). The project will also collect information about current prospects and future possibilities of Nordic feminisms through dialogue with stakeholders (see below).

Feministisk Festival in Malmö on 12-14 June 2014 was visited by 2.000-2.500 people

In terms of theory, the empirical findings will primarily be related to the ideas about the future of feminism introduced by Nancy Fraser (2013). When applicable, these will be complemented by other theories and approaches such as social movement theories, queer theories, postcolonial feminist approaches and feminist institutionalism. In her most recent work, Fraser discusses critically the history of second-wave feminism as a drama in three acts. In act 1, feminism is focused on marrying a feminist sensibility to a new Left critique of the welfare state by focusing on claims-making related to redistribution and the personal as political. In act 2 free-market ideologies and neoliberalism enter the stage, and redistribution is replaced by a politics of identity and recognizing difference. In act 3 Fraser contemplates the prospects of a revival of feminist radicalism at a time of neoliberal crisis by advocating a “post-Westphalian” turn in which methodological nationalism is overcome by a focus on transnational ‘communities of fate’. In her work, she urges feminists to break a “dangerous liaison” between feminism and marketization and instead forge a new liaison, in principle, between emancipation and social protection (Fraser 2013).

How then does her thought travel? Is Fraser’s description applicable in a Nordic context? One hypothesis is to emphasize the particularities of the Nordic from a global perspective, using gender equality indexes which point at comparatively less (gender) inequality. Another hypothesis is that this specificity is disappearing because inequalities in this region have been growing. A third is to claim that new inequalities have emerged due to increased migration and mobility from countries outside of Europe.

As regards the public sphere, this raises questions as to the who, the what, the where and the how of feminist communication, and finally the addressee of communication, which is no longer a Westphalian state power but a mix of public and private transnational powers (Fraser 2007, 19).

We may rephrase these questions slightly to address the possible emergence of a new wave of Nordic feminist movements and ask the following overall research questions:

  1. How do feminisms react and act upon discrimination and differences within and outside of their communities? (the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ of feminist communication)
  2. Which groups, communities and movements; organizations and institutions are considered relevant for a) forms of collaboration and alliances and/or b) for resistance? (the ‘who’ and the  ‘addressee’)
  3. Which understandings of notions of gender, equality and social justice can be recognized in feminist claims-makings? (the ‘what’)
  4. Which practices of solidarity evolve from feminist understandings of gender, equality and social justice? (the ‘how’ and the ‘where’)
  5. Which continuities and changes are we witnessing when comparing ‘new’ and previous feminist movements?
  6. How are the current prospects and future possibilities of feminisms envisioned by Nordic self-identified feminists?

The project will apply several methods, including document analysis (historical documents about Nordic Forum 1988, 1994 and 2014), the analysis of social media (the mobilization of participants; the media debates in the aftermaths of the Forums, the dynamic interplay between the new social media and political mobilization, cyberfeminism(s) and mobilization around race, gender, and embodiment), and interviews with core organizers/participants and related actors. 

Affect theory and the focus on the affective basis of political mobilization and solidarity (Ahmed 2004; Hemmings 2012) are tailor-made for conducting memory work. Stakeholders such as activists, journalists, civil servants and politicians from different generations will therefore be invited to participate in a Memory work session (Hyle 2008) during WS 1. This method involves them in discussions of the core research questions about a new wave and the different Nordic Fora. We will organize a Future workshop (Jungk & Müllert 1987) with stakeholders during WS 2 as a method to identify current prospects and future possibilities. All project participants will be engaged in dialogues about the results of the memory work and future workshops in workshop 3. 


Project coordiator Pauline Stoltz 

Research assistant Anna Stegger Gemzøe

Project secretary Marianne Ellersgaard

Further information
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