The reading citizen has long been a central object in educational as well as cultural policy. Since reading is regarded as a solution to several societal interests, how, when, and what is being read is of political interest. Promoting reading as well as preventing certain types of reading have been and still are an important political tool for making citizens more productive and democratic, and for creating a sense of national community.
“You hope that the citizens become more aware through reading, which is why the debates often have concerned that people don’t read enough, that they read the wrong books, that they spend too much time on other media, and a fear of new technology”, explains Linnéa Lindsköld, senior lecturer in the Swedish School of Library and Information Science at the University of Borås.
Linnéa and Anna Lundh Hampson, also senior lecturer in the Swedish School of Library and Information Science at the University of Borås, together with Åsa Hedemark, senior lecturer at Uppsala University, have been funded by the Swedish Research Council to carry out the project ‘The making of the reading citizen. Public debate and policy 1945-2017’ for the next three years.
There have been similar studies before but from a subject or institutionally based perspective, for example schools, libraries, or the labour movement.
Digging through the archives
Today’s debates are mostly focused on the present and the future, but the researchers believe that it is possible to see historically and scientifically shaped expectations and values about reading.
“This is why a comprehensive analysis of the political history of reading in Sweden is important, to make us see the connections. An overall picture has been missing”, Linnéa Lindsköld says.
The researchers will start in the present to see what the view of reading looks like at the moment, then dig their ways back through the archives to 1945 and then come back to study today’s situation once more. The studies will mainly be at the National Library of Sweden, where they will study materials such as reports, posters, newspaper articles, advertisements, and press releases in terms of three areas: Literature mediation, reading promotion, and education and reading instruction.
“We want our results to be mediated in the education for those who are going to work with reading. We would also like to communicate our results to people who work with governing reading, for example politicians and officers. We want them to reflect on why questions and issues about reading look the way they do and which values lie behind today’s priorities”, says Linnéa Lindsköld.
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Anna Hampson Lundh
Åse Hedemark (extern sida)