Transforming Identities

Exploring changes, tensions and visions in the Nordic region through the prism of identity politics.

Transforming Identities brings together scholars, activists, artists and authors to discuss current challenges to democratic participation and shifting understandings of diversity and minorities in Nordic societies. With identity politics becoming increasingly contested and the locus of intense debates in politics and society, this two-year project takes the conceptual terrain of identity politics a starting point for investigating current challenges - what’s at stake, why, and for whom? 

In three workshops the project is exploring the impulses for new understandings of equality and rights, of solidarity and democracy, in the context of the rise of the right, growing nationalism, local and global insecurities.

The initial workshop in November 2018, at the University of Stavanger in Norway, was titled DEMOS- Democratic participation in society: How to live together?

It included a public conversation titled The new politics of identity in the Nordic region. It was a conversation with Mohamed Abdi (Norwegian media and political analyst, Faith Mwkesha (Finland-based critical race scholar and activist), Anna-Maria Sörberg (Swedish based journalist and activist, who authored the book Homonationalism, amongst others) and Gavan Titley (scholar on media and racism, University of Maynooth/Helsinki).


The second workshop in May 2019, at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, was titled EXCEPT – Challenging Nordic exceptionalisms. It included a public lecture by Paola Bacchetta (Berkeley): Decolonial Indigenous and Feminist and Queer of Color Theory and Practices in Turtle Island (The U.S.). It also included a public conversation with Palestinian artist Rana Bishara, titled Dialogues on coloniality and decoloniality: Global south – global north encounters, exchanges and transgressions.


The third and final workshop, planned for 29-30 October 2020 in Helsinki (or digital, if corona regulations don’t permit travelling), has the working title HUMAN - What kind of lives count? Who are human-worthy? Based on the conversations and insights gained in the two first workshops we will explore the broad notion of humanity in relation to the contemporary political landscape.The keynote lecture will be helf by Dr Julian Honkasalo (Finnish academy Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Helsinki): The rise of billionaire populism - challenges for grassroots democratic organizing in the age of finance capitalism.

Based on the three workshops, we plan to publish an anthology, edited by Elisabeth Lund Engebretsen and Mia Liinason, with the provisional title Be(com)ing human? Transforming identities, challenging Nordic exceptionalisms.

Steering group

  • Mons Bissenbakker, Associate Professor, Department of Nordic studies and Linguistics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Elisabeth Lund Engebretsen, Associate Professor, Centre for Gender Studies, University of Stavanger (project leader)
  • Mia Liinason, Professor of Gender Studies, Department of Cultural Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Lene Myong, Professor, Centre for Gender Studies, University of Stavanger, Norway
  • Michael Nebeling Petersen, Associate Professor, Department for the Study of Culture, University of Southern Denmark
  • Olga Sasunkevich, Associate Senior Lecturer, Department of Cultural Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Antu Sorainen, Docent in Gender Studies and Academy of Finland Fellow, University of Helsinki, Finland

Project period: 2018-01-01 – 2020-12-31


Workshop Grant from The Joint Committee for Nordic Research Councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOS-HS) and the Nordic Council of Ministers.