Currently, the following research themes are of particular significance to SINAS:
Sweden and the U.S.: Trans-Atlantic and Trans-National Relationships.
There is a long-standing interest in American influences in Swedish society and in Swedish-American relations in general. Since the 1960's, a variety of aspects of the history and consequences of the Swedish mass migration to the U.S. during the late 19th and early 20th centuries have been explored by Uppsala historians from both Swedish and American perspectives. SINAS continues this Uppsala research tradition by focusing on different aspects of Swedish ethnic life in the U.S. and on relations between Swedish Americans and other ethnic groups.
In recent years we have been involved in a network of scholars dealing with the intersections of American immigration and Native American history. As is well known, the lands in North America to which millions of European immigrants migrated in the 19th and 20th centuries had been home to many different Indian nations. Despite this fact, it is rarely the case that the contact between indigenous North Americans and white settlers enters into historical analyses of European, Scandinavian, and Swedish settlements. But it is not just immigrants who seemed oblivious to the existence of some of their neighbors. Immigrants are rarely part of accounts of Indian experiences, whether they are tribal histories or interpretations of relations with colonists. This separation of histories has resulted in an important gap in our understanding of points of intersections, contact, and conflict between immigrants and Indians, which this project seeks to redress.
In the 1990's a group of scholars from various disciplines with scholarly connections to SINAS began examining the migration of ideas between the two countries and U.S. influences on Sweden, from both historical and contemporary perspectives. The work has been inspired by ongoing scholarly debates about national and transnational processes of culture. This scholarship has also critically examined the concept of "Americanization", and instead of viewing the concept as a mechanical transfer of different cultural elements from a center to a periphery, it has emphasized how various "American elements" have been incorporated, domesticated and contextualized into Swedish cultural patterns.
Over the past several years a network of scholars interested in "Swedish-American borderlands" has been created. We have arranged one major conference and one workshop on this topic. To speak of “Swedish-American borderlands” may seem surprising, but we to want call attention to the non-geographical proximity that exists between the two countries. We are interested in both examining real and imaginary relationships that cross, challenge, and redefine different notions of Swedish-American borders, and on the effects that these notions have had on both countries. Our hope is that the concept of borderlands can be used to re-conceptualize relations between Sweden and the United States. It is intended to be a malleable tool of analysis.
Some key words that can be used to illustrate the nature of the relationships include cross-cultural influences and contact zones, mutualities and differences, cooperation and conflicts, power relations and asymmetries. Swedish-American borderlands exist in different social spheres and empirical areas, including, but not limited to, politics, migration, popular culture, literature, art, business, military cooperation, and technological development.
Border Studies and the Western Hemisphere
Border Studies, in the U.S. context, came about as an academic field in the 1980s. Initially Border Studies referred to the study of culture and society along the US-Mexico border. However, the imaginary and theoretical implications of the border, e.g. as a site of exchange, exclusion, inclusion and protection, obviously reach far beyond the study of the US-Mexico borderlands. Recent scholarship in Border Studies includes further topics that are central to American Cultural Studies including, for example, sexual, gender, ethnic, racial distinctions and their social and symbolic constructions. Theoretical issues such as transgression, transnationalism, border regimes, and cultural citizenship are also viewed as being crucial to the study of borders. Certainly the history and mythology of the Frontier – important issues of American Studies – must be reassessed within the critical study of border regimes. SINAS has been engaged in scholarship exploring the history and the cultural imaginary of border constructions in the Western hemisphere and in transatlantic perspective.
One of the ways in which SINAS encourages methodological transnationalism is by setting the study of U.S. and Canadian history in relation to “the Americas” (that is South-, Central-, and North America, and the Caribbean). The Western Hemisphere thus functions as a region of critical reference. We understand hemispheric American literary and cultural studies as one of several more recent approaches to American Studies that challenge American exceptionalism and that explore several connections between the US and the world. However, in order to avoid simply replacing national borders with new, or shifted regional borders, this critical regionalism entails the necessity of contextualizing the Americas in further global histories. Thus hemispheric American studies as we wish to articulate it, is attentive, firstly, to not reproducing concepts of American exceptionalism that have characterized American culture and American studies for a long time and, secondly, to not installing a new regionalist exceptionalism of ‘the Americas.’