How is cultural policy formed?
What is your research all about?
My thesis looks at the use of artistic quality considerations in the formation of literature policy. Culture brings people back to the human quest for aesthetics, creativity and unshackled thought. Because public policymaking is more a matter of bureaucracy and the allocation of scarce financial resources, a conflict arises. I am studying the challenge of policymaking in an area that naturally strives for autonomy and does not like to be restrained. One focus is on literature grants and how the debate about them has evolved over time.
The purpose of the grants is ensure diverse and high-quality book publication. A team of authors, researchers, librarians and other experts currently read and decide whether a book is good enough to receive a literature grant. The idea of quality is stated more explicitly these days than in the 1970s, when no clarification was deemed necessary. Also, a lot more women journalists, critics and pundits are involved in the discussion than back then.
What made you decide to be a researcher?
At the beginning, I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as research and cultural policy. After I had been admitted to the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Borås, the pieces began to fall into place. But I have always been interested in power and the way that it affects a country’s civil and community life.
What is the most thrilling experience that your research has brought you?
I have met and spoken with so many different people – cultural personalities, as well as public and elected officials. One of my most invigorating experiences was the chance to spend time at the Course and Periodical Library in Gothenburg and study microfilms of cultural debates from 40 years ago.
- Senior Lecturer in Library and Information Science at the University of Borås.
- Her doctoral thesis in 2013 was entitled, “The Importance of Quality – A Study of the Discourse about Government Grants for New Swedish Literature, 1975-2009.”
- She teaches courses about cultural policy, literature, theory of science and research methodology.
- She likes pets and swimming in the ocean.
- Her least favourite topics are when the bus to and from Gothenburg is late and the fact that research financing is an increasingly rare commodity.
- Once a month she joins the Cultural Panel of P4 Radio Sjuhärad to talk about current events.
What is your fondest dream for a research project?
Two colleagues and I want to study reading as a subject of public policymaking for the past hundred years. The issue has always been around, though in varying ways. Elected officials are firmly convinced these days that children and adolescents need to read a lot. But you need to know the history of the discussion before you can understand what is going on today. My goal is to find out what elected officials have said about that which should and should not be read, as well as why and how we should be doing it.
Are there any particular researchers whom you look up to?
Number one is Jenny Johannisson, a docent and deputy vice-chancellor for research at the university. As my assistant thesis supervisor, she was superb at reading written material, offering comments and contributing her analytical acuity.
Have you run into any negative preconceptions?
Many cultural personalities have the attitude that researchers write awkwardly and pompously without understanding or having much to say. All the more reason to be clear, transparent and passionate about communicating so that people understand what is on your mind. If you can’t express something in a straightforward manner, you probably haven’t thought it through to start with.
What is the hardest thing about being a researcher?
The constant quest for external financing. Then there are the requirements that the quality of your work be gauged according to quantitative parameters. That smothers enthusiasm and originality rather than encouraging them. Trying to juggle the demands of teaching and researching is no easy task either. It goes without saying that teaching is important, but it consumes so much of your time that there isn’t always so much left over for other activities.
What might you have done in another life?
Offhand I don’t really know. I started my library studies in 2006. My postgraduate work began in 2008 and I earned my PhD in 2013. I’ll be turning 30 later this year. I can’t quite see myself anywhere but the School of Library and Information Science. But maybe I would have sat behind a desk at the local library, who knows?
What do you do in your free time?
Yoga and fiction are my great passions. I just finished Kruka: En biografi om Suzanne Brøgger. Tell everyone you know to read it.
Text: Anna Kjellsson
Photography: Linnéa Lindsköld