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NO 5 | OCTOBER 2015

Home from the catastrophe Anja Karlsson Franck has been among the refugees on Lesbos THE WORKING ENVIRONMENT



Positive trend broken

Women still face obstacles

No common leadership culture





Vice Chancellor

Education is the key to a sustainable world


October 2015 E D I TO R - I N C H I E F A N D P U B L I S H E R

Allan Eriksson  031 - 786 10 21 E D U C ATI O N I S A human right. This is something that is easy to say, but the civil war in Syria and the subsequent refugee tragedy has put the finger on a very important thing: the right to education is far from self-evident. On the contrary the recent years’ wars have led to the hope about education has been shattered for hundreds of thousands of young people. But it is not only the wars and armed conflicts that prevent young children and adolescents from getting the education they are entitled to. Poverty is another major cause, but also lack of equitable treatment and gender equality. In certain countries, girls are still denied the opportunity to go to school. Who can better testify to this than Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for her dramatic fight for girls’ right to an education.

to education means a loss not only for the individual but also for the society as a whole. Education is generally regarded as a key factor for growth for both rich and poor countries, regardless of whether the goal is to become a leading “knowledge nation” in the world, or to escape poverty and improve general well-being of citizens and residents. But lack of educational opportunities can also lead to major social issues for the society at large when the differences between those with education and those who, for various reasons, have large gaps in knowledge increases to a too great extent. A generation of young people without education or training means barriers for social mobility, and thus the risk of increased turbulence and segregation. The crucial role of education in the development and prosperity of the world becomes clear T H E L AC K O F ACC E S S

via the proposed 17 new sustainable development goals which the United Nations has produced. They will replace the old Millennium Development Goals, which expires at the end of the year, and will be discussed at the UN General Assembly, 25 to 27 September. It is only one of the goals, the fourth, which deals directly with the importance of education and lifelong learning for all, but as I see it, education is a prerequisite for most of the goals to ever become a reality. How will, for example hunger, poverty, inequality, climate change problems and a deficiency of democracy be able to be eradicated or dealt with without education at all levels? W IT H R EG A R D S TO access to higher education, for the vast majority of people the picture is currently fragmented but quite often depressing, not the least as a result of increased tuition fees in many countries. It is therefore important that both we as representatives of the education sector and the politicians get together across national borders and jointly work to achieve a situation where higher education is moved up to a higher priority on the political agenda in all countries. Among the refugees who are now arriving in Sweden, some are missing many elements in their education, have had to suspend their academic studies or even have not been able to begin higher education studies. It is also a simple fact that the Swedish school system has deficiencies in its ability to care for the newly arrived pupils, who come from a completely different situation. Some have gone to school for many years, while others have a non-existent educational background. As a university, we can contribute both in terms of providing higher educational opportunities to those who want it and have the aptitude, and by contributing with knowledge about how the instruction being given to new arrivals should look like.


Eva Lundgren  031 - 786 10 81 P H OTO G R A P H Y A N D R E P R O D U C T I O N

Johan Wingborg  031 - 786 29 29 G R A P H I C F O R M A N D L AYO U T

Anders Eurén  031 - 786 43 81


Charles Phillips , Semantix ADDRESS

GU Journal University of Gothenburg Box 100, 405 30 Gothenburg E-MAIL INTERNET ISSUES

7 issues per year The next issue will come out in November 2015 DEADLINE FOR MANUSCRIPTS

October 22, 2015 M AT E R I A L

The Journal does not take responsibility for unsolicited material. The editorial office is responsible for unsigned material. Feel free to quote, but please give your source. C OV E R

Anja Franck, the School of Global Studies Photo: Johan Wingborg

T H E U N I V E R S IT Y ’ S PR I M A RY task is to create and disseminate new knowledge. Within this, the responsibility for lifelong learning and the broadening recruitment which is now taking place in higher education is also included. My hope is that the national government will now show decisiveness and take action and invest the required resources necessary so that we, with high quality, will be able to spread higher education to more people. TO CO N C LU D E FO R now, I would like to welcome each and everyone of you back to a new academic year - which I am certain will be characterised by continued strong commitment and many excellent endeavours.



GUJOURNAL 5 | 2015



2 Education must be on the political agenda in all countries. NEWS

4 The first results from the Working Environment Barometer are ready. 6 More women graduate but still face obstacles. PROFILE 8

Always involved

With boxes full of help for refugees.

11 The director of the Segerstedt Instiute calls for an open and constructive debate. CONVERSATIONS WITH A RESEARCHER 12 New technology presents tremendous pedagogical challenges.

Anja Karlsson Franck is home after a month among the refugees on Lesbos.


DEBATE 14 No common leadership culture, writes Ingela Dahllöf. 15


Criticism of GU Journal’s series about pets.

NAILED 16 The literature gives voice to America’s many undocumented.



Double PhD Fredrik Olsson has defended his dissertation in both Gothenburg and Sevilla.

Digital future Digitisation is a fundamental social change that we live in the midst of, says historian Kenneth Nyberg

The Segerstedt Institute Christer Mattsson believes in conversations that will take time.

The Editors: Time for our readership survey T H E FI R ST R E S U LT S of the Working Environment Barometer survey have just been released. This year’s survey is more than six months overdue and additionally slimmed down to half. The idea was that a briefer, streamlined questionnaire would increase the interest to respond. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way. The issue is whether the length had played any role. Those who chose to respond to the survey had nevertheless done so, whether the survey took 20 minutes or 30 minutes to complete. In the past, questions had been asked about the respondent’s perception of GU in various respects, including

whether the academic and other staff think that GU has excellent teachers, highly advanced research, and a strong international profile. That the questions have now been removed means a break in the chronological series that has existed since 2002. T H E WO R K I N G environment barometer is unique among Swedish universities and other institutions of higher education; no other institution conducts such an extensive survey in which questions are asked of all academic and other staff. To publish the results is important, but the real purpose of the survey is to assist in rectifying

the shortcomings. Therefore it is of utmost importance that the results are presented and that it leads to remedial measures at different levels, and particularly at the institutional level. I N T H I S I S S U E , we present the overall results of the Barometer. So far, the analysis of the material is not ready for publication, and we have reason to write more about the survey in future issues of the GU Journal. However we think it’s a shame that the questions concerning which information channels, including the GU Journal, are considered important, have been deleted. Therefore, we have decided

to make our own reader survey of GU Journal readers. It will be sent to 1,000 randomly selected staff at the end of September. We understand that there is a certain fatigue in terms of all the internal surveys, but nevertheless we sincerely hope that as many of you as possible will take advantage of the opportunity to have their say covering GU Journal. For us, your response is very important in order to enable us to develop the magazine further, both in printed format and digitally. ALLAN ERIKSSON & EVA LUNDGREN


Working environment

Staff worry about increased workload The previous trend, that the staff is more and more satisfied with their work, has now been broken. This is shown in the latest Working Environment Barometer. “We don’t see any dramatic changes, but something seems to have happened in terms of work morale and drive to work, and job satisfaction,” explains Joseph Schaller. J O S E PH S C H A LLE R , Professor Emeritus of Psychology, has devoted his summer to analysing the results of the 2015 Working Environment Barometer. “Generally, we can say that the results of the fifth survey are more positive than in the first one in 2002, however lower than the one conducted in 2011.” According to the survey, most people seem to feel that the academic work atmosphere is good. There is an openness to new ideas, new ways of thinking are scrutinised constructively, and the right person gets the credit for good ideas. “However one in five believe that the climate of cooperation is characterised by conflict and mistrust; so all is not well,” points out Joseph Schaller. The latest barometer also contained three new questions about workload. “A full 57 percent believe that they do not have sufficient time to do as good a job as they would like to, and one in three think that their work infringes on their leisure time as well as that the demands are becoming greater and greater. This is especially evident in the Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Social Sciences, as well as at the School of Business, Economics and Law.” CO N C E R N S A B O U T reorganisation have increased. And 28 percent believe that there are cooperation conflicts in the workplace; at the Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts and at the Central University Administration, as many as one one-third of the academic and other staff believes so. But overall, most – 78 percent – are satisfied with their work, although the percentage is slightly lower than in 2011. “At the same time, the percentage of dissatisfied has increased from 6 percent last time to 12 percent today.”

How does it feel to go to work? To this question, 76 percent responded in 2011 that they had positive feelings. Today, that figure has now gone down to 73 percent. “11.4 percent feel a strong dissatisfaction or mild dissatisfaction, the precise same figure as in 2002. This corresponds to 412 individuals and, assuming that those who did not respond to the questionnaire feel dissatisfaction to the same degree as those who did respond, this involves about 700 individuals. Work has a central place in the lives of most people; to feel malaise or dissatisfaction is something to be taken very seriously. Are the senior managers and heads of departments aware of this, and if so, why has nothing been done in response?” T H E H I G H E ST I N C I D E N C E of dissatisfaction is found among the staff at the Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts, and among the staff of the Central University Administration. The Working Environment Barometer also shows that the perception of gender equality varies significantly between men and women, observes Joseph Schaller. “71 percent of the men, but only 56 percent of the women, believe that their career opportunities are equal, and 74 percent of the men but only 46 percent of the women believe that the University has equal pay for equal work. That many, rightly or wrongly, believe that they are working in an organisation with inequalities of course affects the perception of the work in general.” W H AT I S T H E PI C T U R E then with the level of confidence in various management groups? Similar to in the previous barometers, the staff

feels the greatest confidence in their immediate manager; 58 percent think that their head of department is doing a good job. “The higher the position of the individual, the less confidence one sees in them. The confidence for that the vice chancellor and the University Board have fulfilled their responsibilities has also gone down, even if slightly, and is now at 43 and 34 percent respectively.”

However the Working Environment Barometer does not generally show any significant changes, stresses Joseph Schaller. “But the University of Gothenburg is, on the other hand, not just any workplace. We have many fine documents pertaining to the work environment, to gender equality, and to equal treatment, but why do we not see any major improvements?”

Lower response rate 61 percent of the staff responded to the latest Working Environment Barometer Survey. “That is a lower response rate than last time, but still is about 3,666 people,” explains Development Manager Marianne Leffler. T H E PR E V I O U S TI M E , in 2011, just over 67 percent responded to the Working Environment Barometer survey. “To be sure, it is a decline, but this seems to be the case with all surveys today,” explains Marianne Leffler, who has had a coordinating role in all Working Environment Barometer surveys since 2002. The 2015 survey was about half as extensive as the previous barometers. But this has not resulted in an increase of the proportion of those responding. “I don’t think that the extent or scope has so much significance. Those who decided to answer will probably do it even if it takes a bit of time.” The overall decline is partly due to the fact that this time the response rate among the oldest and the young-

est staff was lower than previously. In addition, the number of respondents from the Faculty of Social Sciences, Faculty of Education, the University Library and the Central University Administration, which has always had a very high response rate, has declined by 6-9 percentage points. “Although we of course would have liked to see more people responding, nevertheless the results are still representative enough for us to be able to rely on them,” points out Marianne Leffler. Faculties and university management are first received the results. Then later they will be broken down to departmental and entity levels. “In order for an entity to have its own results, it must have at a minimum of 30 employees, and half of which must have answered. As in previous years, the entities who so desire are able to also receive support in the analysis work from psychologist Olle Persson.” ALLAN ERIKSSON & EVA LUNDGREN

Joseph Schaller has analysed the material and Marianne Leffler has been the coordinator.

The working environment 

GUJOURNAL 5 | 2015

What has happened since 2011?


30% 33%


That my work tasks will disappear

64% 61% 57% 56% 53%

9% 8%

73% 70% 68% 68%

Termination of employment

Increased concern +1

Reorganization of the work place +2

Unclear leadership

What emotions do you usually feel on your way to work?

64% 61% 57% 57%


Have a pretty good feeling prior to work 52%


36% 34% 35% 35%


34% 31% 29%

Neither positive nor negative feelings on the way to work Faculty of Education




38% 23%

Feel a certain lack of desire on the way to work Faculty of Arts


31% 30%



Feel a strong aversion to work

To 2% what extent do you think your workplace is characterised by the following? 2%

IT Faculty 28% 31% 51%

New ideas spread quickly to others 64% 61% 57% 56% 53%

2015 2011 2008

I get an increasing number tasks to manage 2005 2002

Fully agree

Disagreements are resolved

2015 2011

28% 23%

64% 61% 57% 57%

Agree somewhat 46% 46%

Don’t totally agree 21%

We encourage each other to make contributions


73% 70% 68% 68%

Job insecurity

Disagree 6% 8%


How satisfied are you with your work?

(New question) Not being able to make sufficiently good work efforts: 57% Increased work demands: 33% That my work intrudes on my private life: 35%

Sahlgrenska Academy



Over the past year have you felt special concern for any of the following situations?

2005 2002

40% 39% 35%


Conflicts with my colleagues

Conflict with immediate superior

The Faculty of Science

73% 29% 70% 68% 68% Faculty of Social Sciences


Being treated unfairly


2015 2011 2008

I feel happy and at ease with my thought the work School of Business, Economics and Law We encourage each other to make contributions



42% 47% 39%


We encourage each other to make contributions

Environmentally hazardous substances/chemicals or similar risks


Disagreements are resolved 64% 61% 57% 57% 53%


64% 61% 57% 56% 2005 2002 53% 2015 2011 2008



Central administration

New ideas 24% spread quickly to others 26%

Disagreements are resolved

Suffering an injury/falling ill at work


To what extent do42% you think your workplace is characterised by43% the following?

Don’t totally agree

New ideas spread quickly to others Cutbacks in operations


The University Library

Agree somewhat

To what extent do you think your workplace is characterised by the following?

2015 2011 2008



Dependence upon external funding


Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts

2015 2011

Fully agree



Have you felt concern about unclear leadership?

Not having sufficient time to do as good a job as I would like to

Reduced concern


Difficulties in cooperation and conflicts negatively affect the work

Completely, very, or somewhat satisfied 78% 86% 86% 84% 83%

2015 2011 2008 2005 2002

Completely, very, or somewhat dissatisfied 12% 6% 6% 7% 9%

This year’s figures are not fully comparable with the previous years as the questions this year did not only deal with work but also about the work situation

To a very large or somewhat large extent 28% 28% 27% 30% 32%

To a somewhat small or very small extent 72% 72% 73% 70% 68%



The academic system disadvantages women Approximately 60 percent of all PhD graduates at the University of Gothenburg in the past five years are women. Does this means that in 10-15 years, over half of all new professors will be women? “The correlation is not so simple,” explains Pro-Vice-Chancellor Helena Lindholm. H AT IT I S largely within the fields of educational science and health and caring sciences that women obtain their PhDs, is perhaps not so surprising. However women also dominate in many other fields. For example, at the Sahlgrenska Academy, two-thirds of all new PhDs are women and they dominate in areas such as neuroscience, medicine and biomedicine. “To be sure, this can lead to an increased number of professors in the future, but I do not think we are going to automatically see many more women professors within these fields,” explains Pro-Vice-Chancellor Helena Lindholm. “The issue of gender equality is complex; it is about a power relationship, and is due to both visible and invisible structures that we all more or less contribute to.” A M O N G OT H E R T H I N G S , it takes considerably longer time for women than for men to obtain a position as a professor after receiving their PhD. The difference is 10-20 years, depending upon the particular subject field, according to the Swedish Higher Education Authority. Fredrik Bondestam at the Swedish National Secretariat for Gender Research, along with project assistant Louise Grip, has recently published a research overview of the state of gender equality and overall equality in terms of research funding.

“That women overall both seek and receive less financial support than men is often explained by the fact that there are more men who are professors than women, and that it is those with a professorship who receive research funding. It however becomes a circular explanation: gender, position and approval rates for grant funds are in fact mutually reinforcing factors. This method of reasoning shows that the research funder often lacks a gender perspective.” IT I S N OT O N LY not that women receive fewer, and lower amounts, of external funding than men. The reality is that as the basic grant is often used for cofinancing, women also receive a smaller share of this type of funding, explains Fredrik Bondestam. “The academic world is a tough environment with stringent demands, and the fact that employment conditions are abysmal, this does not improve matters. It all leads to a gap between the recruitment base and appointments to academic positions in which women drop out to a greater extent than men.” T H E M O ST CO M M O N way to distribute research grants is in accord with a peer assessment. “The general thinking is that this approach is objective. But the studies we looked at show that quality is more about what the assessors can agree on than anything measurable objectively.

»It takes a bold research policy and a knowledge-based innovation to overcome this deadlock in the system.« FREDRIK BONDESTAM

Helena Lindholm

Fredrik Bondestam


GUJOURNAL 5 | 2015


Among the top 200

chancellors, deans and heads of departments, today it is fairly equal gender-wise. Still however, certain positions, such as director of studies, are given primarily to women. Additionally, the fact that it is often women who bear the greatest responsibility for the family and home, means that quite often there simply is no extra time to devote to research. I nevertheless believe that change is possible, but only by working long-term and not giving up.” The gender equality debate is often about numbers, for example, that the proportion of women receiving research funding should reflect the percentage of women who apply. doesn’t work to equate ostensible signs of equality and equal numbers with gender equality,” Fredrik Bondestam points out. “Gender equality requires that everyone is able to do research on equal terms. But because the academic world has unequal conditions from the beginning, that means that there are quite different conditions for women and men to obtain qualifications for career advancement. It is quite simply extraordinarily challenging for many, I think, to face the facts, namely that the ambition to achieve a neutral assessment process at the same time strengthens the academic institution’s unequal conditions. It takes a bold research policy and a knowledge-based innovation to overcome this deadlock in the system.”



Despite its shortcomings, the peer assessment system is often described as the best we have, but this is a conception that needs to be challenged.” process is often confidential, and the thinning decisions means that relevant materials are not saved, it is impossible to know if this functions well in reality, comments Fredrik Bondestam. However several observational studies from the Swedish Research Council show that there is a distortion in how various assessor groups reason regarding female and male researchers. Men are often described, for example, as “excellent and independent,” while women tend to be regarded as more “dependent.” The composition of the AS THE ASSESSMENT

evaluation panels also influence what research is encouraged and rewarded. “Interdisciplinary, gender studies and other critical research, are examples of areas where there is often an underlying shortage of assessment expertise in the panels in order to make reasonable assessments. The research funders have homework to do here,” explains Fredrik Bondestam. T H R E E Y E A R S AG O , the University of Gothenburg launched a programme of measures to support women in their career. The programme has not yet been evaluated, reports Helena Lindholm. “Change tends to be implemented quite slowly in the academic world, but at least when it comes to managers, such as vice


FACTS/G ENDER EQUALIT Y The Swedish National Secretariat for Gender Research recently published overview “Fair or Unfair Distribution? Research funding, equal opportunities and gender – a research survey,” which examines 118 Swedish and international publications. The authors are Fredrik Bondestam and Louise Grip. The national government has also appointed an expert group to work with the issue of greater gender equality in higher education. From the University of Gothenburg, Anges Wold and Fredrik Bondestam are part of the group.

On 17 August, the Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s annual ranking of the world’s top-rated universities was released, most commonly referred to as the “Shanghai Rankings.” As in recent years, the University of Gothenburg ended up in the range of 151-200. The exact ranking for 2015 has been calculated to 160th place, which is a slight improvement over last year. “From a marketing perspective, it’s great that we remain in a good position. We have nothing to be ashamed of,” comments Magnus MacHaleGunnarsson at the Grants and Innovation Office, concerning the Analysis and Evaluation. The improved position over the past two years is due almost entirely to a change of method, he explains. The HiCi Indicator, which calculates how many researchers each university has on the Thomson Reuters list of highly cited researchers, has been criticised for serious methodological flaws. Two years ago, Thomson Reuters revised the method, however this change has not yet been fully reflected in the Shanghai List. “We will continue to rise up slightly in the coming years, presuming nothing unexpected occurs. GU stands out in medicine above all, and this year finds itself in 45th place in the world, and 2nd in Sweden.” GU has three names on the list of highly cited researchers: Björn Dahlöf, Karl B Swedberg and Christopher Gillberg. “To get more people on the list of high-cited researchers is one way to rise on the Shanghai rankings; another is getting more publications in Nature and Science. But one must not forget that this list has been developed to distinguish the world’s absolute top-rated universities primarily within the fields of the natural sciences, technology and medicine. It says very little about the quality of the educational institutions around 100-200th place,” stresses Magnus MacHale-Gunnarsson.

Challenge to all employees! Europe is undergoing the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War, and politics and society mobilises to ease the affected individual’s burden. We at the Department of Political Science have therefore decided to make an appeal and created Challenge of generosity. We have urged employees to donate 5–10 percent of their monthly salary to an organization that works to help people in need. We have chosen to allow each one to decide which organization they wish to support in order not to fall into discussions about which is best. The response has exceeded our expectations. Employees have donated SEK 100 to 6,000 (anonymously for each other) making a total of SEK 107,975 divided between the following organisations: ActionAid, Erikshjälpen, Ingen Människa är Illegal/No One is Illegal Network, Médecins sans frontiers/Doctors without Borders, Matteuskyrkan i majorna, Radiohjälpen, Rädda barnen, Röda korset, Svenska kyrkan, UNHCR, UNICEF, Worldvision. org’s Syrian refugee crisis effort. Now we want to challenge other institutions and the university to do the same and maybe beat us in generosity!



Amid all the chaos, concern is born At four o’clock every morning, an artist stands on the beach and watches with his binoculars out over the Aegean Sea. He counts the number of boats that appear on the horizon and then sends an SMS to the volunteers in the village to be prepared with water and other supplies. “The catastrophe on Lesbos is complete. But the amazing thing is that in the midst of all the chaos, most people want to help,” explains Anja Franck.

Medmänsklighet föds I N C E T H I S S PR I N G , Anja Franck has been employed as a lecturer at the School of Global Studies. It is the first time she has a steady job, she reports, while she puts away books and papers on the table in her office. The phone rings and a little stressed out, she says thanks but no thanks to participation in a television programme about the refugee situation. I am peering into a cardboard box on the floor, which turns out to contain clo-

thing, shoes, diapers and powdered milk that will soon be sent to the refugees on Lesbos. While I look through the contents of another box, Anja Franck explains she has progressed unusually fast in the academic world. “Perhaps it is due to that I had done so many other things before I started here: working nights at a café, washing dishes on a conveyor belt in an industrial kitchen, become involved in politics, and working as a juggler and a fire-eater. I didn’t take the university entry exam until the age of 29. But once I decided to study Development

GUJOURNAL 5 | 2015

shoulder and said,” Maybe we should call Claes ... ‘“ The country Anja Franck has studied is Malaysia. Her doctoral dissertation was about the Malaysian women’s room for manoeuvring in the labour market in the context of an export-oriented economy. “People I work with out there on the field have always been very helpful. I invited one of my interpreters, Zul Affan bin Ramli, to attend the defence of my doctoral dissertation in January 2012, because there is no way I could have managed without him.” A N D A NJA FR A N C K has also studied the Burmese migration to Malaysia, in particular the situation of undocumented migrants. “‘Undocumented’ is however a strange term; there are few who have so many documents, so many stamps and so many permits as the migrants I met in Malaysia – it’s just that they don’t have the right documents. But having the wrong papers makes people extremely vulnerable; if they become ill, they cannot go to the doctor, and as those who are in Malaysia illegally are punished severely, they must constantly move in the shadows. The whole thing is quite absurd as the country could not manage without its immigrants, just like Sweden needs immigrants, who sustain its prosperity welfare.” Research in the field is dependent upon various encounters. That Anja Franck became aware of the situation of the Burmese migrants was partly due to a chance meeting with a Burmese waiter that she met at a café. It turned out that he was a trained economist and that he had a tremendous amount to tell, which in turn led to a new research interest. “Fear Geography is an interesting research topic. People move differently and unequally in the urban space, depending upon who they are. When the Burmese migrants and I were going to share a meal in the evenings, I wanted to sit someplace where it was well-lit and a lot of people around, while they, as they were concerned about the police, chose dark backstreets. The individuals’ legal status affects the decisions they make, in large matters and in minor ones.”

ur kaos Studies at university, and suddenly sat there with all my incredibly interesting newly bought textbooks on my lap, then I felt that this was something magical that I really wanted to devote myself to.” A S M A LL E XOTI C mask lies on the table; on the wall hangs a large map of Malaysia. And Anja Franck explains that she probably would have continued with Development Studies if she hadn’t come in contact with Claes Alvstam, who inspired her to study Economic Geography. “He got us students to understand the

importance of the location for economic development; why companies are concentrated in the areas where they are, what is exported from where, and what significance a port can have. This obstinate and wonderfully provocative teacher later became my academic supervisor for my doctoral dissertation. And what infinite importance he had for me, I understood when a few years ago I struggled with an application for a research grant. I almost screamed in frustration when I realised far too late that it had to be sent in by five o’clock on that very day. Then my seven-year daughter put her hand on my

TO LI V E TO G E T H E R with the undocumented at the bottom of society in a poor country is really tough in many aspects. “You suffer from stomach illness, have to wait for buses that never come, and continually live in fear. When you’re on your way somewhere and are sitting on the back of a motorcycle, you can suddenly be plunged into another route in order to escape the police. But at the same time, all the encounters with the people are so extremely stimulating that later, when you’re back home again, it feels hard to be without.” And then funny things can happen too, says Anja Franck. “In the high-rise ghetto in George Town, Penang, migrants sit inside when they do not work because they do not dare to go out and look again and again at the same pirate




copied romantic comedies. After I had already seen Mamma Mia maybe 20 times, I decided to go to the square and buy some CDs. When I came back, my Burmese interpreter asked if I could dance. “Everyone certainly can,” I replied. That all led to that me, in typical 46-degree Celsius heat, in a room without even a fan, held a dance course to the tune of Madonna’s Vogue for a number of undocumented Burmese women.” W H E N A NJA FR A N C K is in Malaysia, she always stays with a special family whom she met back in 1995. Her husband and her children have also been there with her so that they can understand the environment she researches in. “So when I’m out on a research trip, my family knows whom I hang out with and my children send small greetings. And Skype has meant a lot for us parents who work far from home when it comes to keeping in contact, both with family and with friends.” But that Anja Franck visited Lesbos last summer was due to another research project, funded by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation, which focuses on the relationship between migration and corruption in Malaysia and Greece. For although there are plenty of descriptions of how refugees must bribe police officers and guards in order to cross the border, this is a topic that is barely dealt with in research. “Corruption Research usually deals with the relationship between the State and the citizen; there is almost no research dealing with the relationship between the State and non-citizens. But what is so wonderful about being a researcher is that one is constantly learning things from fields other than one’s own. In terms of corruption research, I have, for example, received a great deal of help from researchers at the Quality of Government Institute, and that there are people who are critically involved in the work of others is fantastic.”

former detention centre, built for 800 people, in which thronged with 2,500 people at the time Anja Franck left to go home. “Despite the fact that the population does not really have the ability to deal with everyone in a proper way, almost every person I met helped out, including police officers, coast guard officers, and ordinary people. The news media has for a long time focused on those who think that Sweden and Europe should close their borders. However, now another story begins to come forward, about all the volunteers who cook, collect clothes, drive transport and open their homes to the refugees. I, who for months nagged about the refugee catastrophe, think that it’s quite nice to not have to do that anymore as now there are plenty of other committed people to take that over. And furthermore, that Angela Merkel declared that Germany will take in refugees, in contravention of the Dublin Regulation, has an enormous symbolic significance.” LE S B O S H A S A

The debate on how to stem the inward migration is tearing apart our society, in the view of Anja Franck. “Migration can not really be halted; people will always cross national boundaries, be it due to political, financial, or other reasons. What we should instead discuss is how we should organise the migration in the best manner. To think that the Western world can plunder entire continents and then just be a passive observer when societies disintegrate is cynical.” One reason that so many refugees must stay on Lesbos is that they must submit their fingerprints in the so-called EURODAC system. Additionally, Lesbos, similar to other Greek islands, has received very limited assistance from the outside world to manage the enormous number of refugees arriving right now.

ANJA K ARLSSON FR ANCK WORKS AS: Senior Lecturer at GU’s School of Global Studies Project currently working on: The research project Migration and Corruption: “Securitisation,” internal border controls and everyday corruption in Malaysia and Greece, which is financed by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation. FAMILY: Husband Lasse; daughters 15 and 9 years old. OTHER IMPORTANT INDIVIDUALS: My parents who taught me to believe in justice, to follow my gut instincts, and to trust my intellect. My sister and my friends. AGE: 41 years. LIVES IN: Kålltorp. L AST BOOK READ:The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe, by Romain Puértolas. FAVOURITE FOOD: Indian. FAVOURITE DRINK: Julmust [a type of root beer]. FAVOURITE FOOTBALL TEAM: IFK Gothenburg. INTERESTS: Family, both at home and the extended family in Malaysia. enjoys music, primarily Swedish rock and punk, but generally otherwise consumes everything. Competing in boules, and juggling, but has given up fire-eating.

W H I LE T H E FO C U S of the debate is on the number of individuals fleeing, the researchers have an important role of describing the individuals behind the numbers, thinks Anja Franck. “Refugees are often described either as terrorists or as victims. But even if one cannot forget the structural subordination that many refugees live in, they all have different backgrounds and approaches. I have met few people who are as creative and open to different solutions as migrants; they are not helpless victims.” For Anja Franck, it is important to write articles which, even if they are academically correct, nevertheless have a living language. So when she sits at home with all the material she has to go through, what is important is to recreate the atmosphere from the field work. “On one side of my closet, I have regular t-shirts and jeans that I use for everyday usage. But on the other side, are completely other garments: Malaysian and Burmese folk costumes, a number of shirts that work well in 40-degree Celsius heat, and clothes I received as a gift. And sometimes when I’m working, I put on something from the other side, perhaps a thin shirt, in order to get in the mood and relive the feeling of how it is in the countries I am writing about.” T H E T E LE PH O N E R I N G S , and now Anja K. Franck is busy with yet another phone call about the refugee disaster. “Although I am now employed, I do not feel quite at home in the fine rooms of the University. I have many truly amazing colleagues, but in my free time, I spend it mostly with other kinds of people. My husband is a musician and even though I myself do not play an instrument, I love to listen. And my empirical studies show that of all the tribes of the world, hard rockers are probably the nicest, so keeping up with them in different countries belongs to what I like best.”




Goal to combat violence PHOTO: JOHAN WINGBORG

On 14 August, the Segerstedt Institute at the University of Gothenburg was inaugurated in the presence of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. But before that, a number of researchers at the University had caused turbulence with their strong public criticism in media. “I hope this is the beginning of an open and constructive conversation,” remarked Acting Director Christer Mattsson. W E LI V E I N a polarised society, in terms of socio-economic status, health, and values, notes Christer Mattsson, acting director of the Institute, who together with a working group at the University of Gothenburg will develop format of the activities of the Institute. “I have been a community worker, among other things, and when you’re out there, in the middle of the night among rebellious teenagers in town, it’s hardly an ideal place to get into class analysis. Teachers, social workers and psychologists need tools that work in everyday situations. At the same time, it is necessary that these tools are grounded in research. For, if we are unaware of why we encounter certain social problems in a particular area, or if they are more common among certain groups, without having an understanding of the underlying structures, we will only continue to maintain the unequal society. This is particularly imperative when one is working to pre-empt the recruitment to groups which are prepared to use violence that may harm the society and is guaranteed to hurt themselves.”

premises for the Institute’s work is the so-called Tolerance Project, which is the method Christer Mattsson and his colleagues started 20 years ago, after the brutal killing of 14-year-old John Hron in Kungälv. The Tolerance Project method involves conversations and talks and teaching between teachers and students over an extended period of time. “The activities are based on social education pedagogics and practice, grounded in theories of social psychology, which among other things is based on the idea that every human being needs to understand themselves and the context he/she finds themselves in. In order to develop this understanding in their students, the teacher should neither engage in polemics, nor rush, nor interrupt. When the students instead have the opportunity to speak their mind about a point, no matter how crazy the ideas they may have, eventually an inner dialogue arises in which they understand for themselves the meaning of what they are saying. But this can take an extended period of time. Sometimes I get comments the day after a lecture, sometimes it takes a few months. Shortly after the inauguration of the Segerstedt ONE OF THE

According to Christer Mattsson we need to understand the underlying structures that shape an extremist.

»Many people think that I’m sitting on a method that everyone now has to use, but this is obviously not the case. Institute, I received an SMS from a student who was thinking about a conversation we had a full eight years ago.” The teacher-student relationship is symbiotic, in the view of Christer Mattsson. “Suddenly it is the student who is a teacher; for who can make me understand the world he lives in if not the student himself? One thing I’ve learned in all my discussions is that many desperate acts basically involve the search for a connection, an attempt to make oneself understood and find an outlet for both social and ideological or existential needs.” T H E TO LE R A N C E PROJ EC T is an example of a successful activity that has been conducted for over twenty years, both in Kungälv and in twenty other cities. However as of yet, there is a lack of any research about why it works, a situation several critics have pointed out. “Many people think that I’m sitting on a

method that everyone now has to use, but this is obviously not the case. The Tolerance Project is based on a methodology that needs to be studied critically, and the longer one has been working with something, the easier it is to understand and determine what it is that works.” The Tolerance Project is one starting point and one example. There are more examples, from a number of countries, which will become part of a searching and exploring to develop knowledge and methods which can, to a greater extent than today, rest on both a scientific foundation and proven experience. The Segerstedt Institute is however not a research institute, stresses Christer Mattsson. T H E RO LE O F the Institute is instead to focus on the promotion and compilation of research, the holding of seminars – both internal and external, and the establishment of a venue for researchers who want to write applications for the funds that the national government has promised to grant next year. “The course ‘Identity, Extremism and Tolerance,’ which is already available as contract teaching at the University of Gothenburg, will also be evaluated and hopefully will be publicly available next year.” In addition, the Segerstedt Institute has the intention to be actively engaged in the public debate. “Punishing young people who have opinions that do not fit into the community’s social harmony and cohesion only creates even more hatred and rejection. Instead, we must find ways to balance the discussion. Therefore we need more knowledge about how we can get a dialogue going; that’s what I hope the Segerstedt Institute will contribute with. In order to achieve this, both practical methods as well as research must be open to criticism. Today’s problems are found both at the individual and the societal level, and therefore it is necessary to pay attention to the structural and material factors in order to understand how people think in regards to the society and the future.”

EVA LUNDGREN & ALLAN ERIKSSON FACTS IN BRIEF The Segerstedt Institute was inaugurated on 14 August, with ceremonies in both Kungälv and Gothenburg. Among the participants were Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, Minister of Higher Education Helene Hellmark Knutsson, and national coordinator against violent extremism, Mona Sahlin.

The Institute’s working group consists of Christer Mattsson, Robin Andersson, Professor Marie Demker, Professor Roger Säljö, Professor Göran Larsson and Associate Professor Sara Stendahl. Read more at: (published on 17/8)


Conversation with a researcher

A road into the unknown Digitisation is a fundamental social change that we live in the midst of. It will eventually reshape the entire educational system – for ­better or worse, according to historian Kenneth Nyberg. The question is, how prepared are we? “No one who is. Any more than we know what comes next.” n recent years there has been much talk about how the university faces a big digital challenge, not the least from an educational perspective. E-learning, the Flipped Classroom and blended learning; these are just a few of the new technical concepts.

There is no doubt that the digital tools will fundamentally transform the educational sector, no matter whether one thinks that it is good or bad. I think that history will show that these kinds of fundamental transformations will in the long term have far-reaching consequences. But it takes time and, as always in times of changes, a polarisation of opinions takes place which makes the debate on education and learning so confusing. I think we should be cautious, not the least because it looks so very different in different parts of the higher education sector. My view is that we, especially in the humanities and social sciences, have not yet begun to use digital tools to any great extent. This is in some ways healthy. It is important to recognise the possibilities, but also recognise that technology can not solve all problems.

imitation and memorisation in all learning situations. At the other extreme, learning is perceived as a purely social activity, a socialisation of certain values and attitudes, such as about democracy and gender equality – which is true to a large extent, but repetitive rehearsals, is, as I mentioned , also an important feature for many types of learning and therefore such an extreme stance becomes problematic. The debates between different groups concerning learning and education are frequently focused in the wrong direction. Due to the different positions those involved often don’t even realise that they have fundamental different perceptions of what the purpose of learning is, which means

»The only thing we know for certain is that there will be something new. When the MOOC courses were introduced in 2011, some commentators thought that the massive open online courses would revolutionise higher education, but we haven’t seen that yet.

Why is this debate so confusing?

There is a tendency towards polarisation between on the one hand, academics who are markedly critical of technology and who take a conservative approach, and on the other hand, uncritical technology enthusiasts. Both groups have a tendency to read the developments from the basis of their inherent “bias” and agendas, and so it is important to see that there may be more nuanced positions. For me, an example of this is the concept “blended learning,” which is simply a mix of old and new methods. We thus have different perceptions of what learning is, don’t we?

Yes, to think that learning is about transferring a certain factual content is, on one hand, a gross oversimplification, but on the other hand there is clearly an element of

group of people physically share a common experience of having listened to the lecture and then have something to base their discussions on, which in turn contributes to learning.

Kenneth Nyberg

that they talk past one another. But this realisation also means for instance that one can not simply dismiss the traditional large lectures, even if research shows that they are relatively ineffective for what many see as their purpose, i.e. to convey a body of knowledge to the students. Perhaps the most important thing with them is not exactly what is said there, but rather simply that a

Interest has waned sharply and changed direction after the euphoric mood that prevailed in the years 2011 to 2012. I do not believe at all that the MOOC will replace what we today call core university education. It has become apparent that MOOC type courses have very low throughput. However, although I am critical of MOOC as an alternative to traditional university courses, I have, especially recently, realised that the companies who were behind the MOOC wave have found a niche that after all will be more and more important. These courses are primarily targeted to the highly educated, who are capable of studying on their own and who are not dependent upon teacher-led

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ditional” teaching today is like that. We do not do that much anymore, at least not in the humanities, which is the area I’m most familiar with. That it is nevertheless so common, is often due to a lack of resources rather than pedagogical conservatism. What if it was the case that there actually was a universal model that works for everyone?

Yes, it’s a trap we all fall easily into, the belief that there actually exists one method or one approach that is an overall solution to the challenge all education represents. On the contrary, research shows that different people learn different things in different ways in different situations and therefore there is no method, whether new or old, that can be applied overall. Instead, teaching methods must be varied in nature and preferably individualised; but with limited resources this is simply impossible. Therefore, teaching is always a matter of compromises where one must find suitable forms which are as good as possible for as many as possible. Do you think that the changed media habits affect young people’s ability to make good use of an academic education?

instruction. But they work less well for individuals unfamiliar with studying. In what way have the discussions concerning MOOC changed the climate for distance education in Sweden?

It is disappointing that participation in distance educational programs has been declining in Sweden. This is partly because sufficient resources have not been provided and digital tools have been neglected. But much of this is changing now. It is positive that many institutions of higher education appear to be increasing their efforts in pedagogic development, especially blended learning. I think the MOOCs have served as a catalyst for renewed pedagogies and new technologies. We can learn things from them. But despite the shortcomings of traditional distance education, they are better than the MOOC courses due to that there is a teacher whom students are able to have direct contact with via channels such e-mail or chat. A common misconception is that distance learning should be less expensive. But in fact a good distance learning course requires more work for one as a teacher, in the role of coordinator. And to write comments is more demanding than doing it verbally, even if that particular part of the puzzle is changing as feedback via video or over-Internet voice

calls is becoming more and more common. But the technology itself also requires a lot of time by teachers in the distance learning courses, especially if one actually wants to fully utilise the new educational possibilities that the hardware and software offers. Nowadays there is much talk about active learning and student-centred learning. In the United States, a campus was built up entirely based on the concept of Active Learning Space: Interactive classrooms and lecture halls, round tables and screens or monitors all around.

It is an interesting development, but I do not think that it is a panacea, the same as neither traditional classroom teaching or MOOC is. Admittedly, the model certainly works well for some students in certain contexts, but it’s far from working for everyone. Student-centred learning has a pretty clear ideological dimension, which is based on that the learning situation should be democratic and equitable, and that both teachers and students are to be actively engaged. Few dare to question such a beautiful idea. But that model works less well for students or courses who, for some particular reason, need more structure or a more active role for teachers. The other extreme position is to stick with classroom lectures and exclusively convey the information from a lectern, but it is somewhat a caricature that all the “tra-

“The context and the room does matter. But the power of digital is that you can take a course, independent of time and space,” observes Kenneth Nyberg, senior lecturer in history, who is working in the autumn with modifying several online courses within the undergraduate program in history.

People of all ages are consuming more and more media at an accelerating pace today, and without doubt there may be a risk that things become more difficult, for instance that it becomes harder to read long texts. The new media habits are partly changing how we think. In many ways the academic world and university environment is antithetical to the rapid flow: it is about drilling deeply, to be thoughtful and to be reflective into the slow sense of the word. How are we, as university teachers, to relate to this and how can we portray traditional academic values in a radically different reality? I myself do not have the answer, but we need to start thinking along these lines. If we teachers appear to be completely unaware of the digital world our students live in, we lose our credibility. Are university educators prepared for or do they have sufficient knowledge and skills to manage with the digital transition?

The question is, how prepared any of us are. Do we know what comes next? The only thing we know for certain is that there will be something new. And if we are to adapt and learn new tools, it requires immense resources, particularly in a situation where there is already stinginess with resources for teaching. But one must not forget that it should be in addition to what we now have. Not something that will replace anything overnight, but we need to examine whether and in what context the new tools are working or not. TEXT: ALLAN ERIKSSON PHOTO: JOHAN WINGBORG



Democratic choices at GU – we are at a crossroads these criteria, we will not progress further. The third problem is that there is no parity between what heads of departments are expected to achieve and the conditions that exist and will be given. Even worse is that there is a lack of awareness and understanding of that a problem, be it financial, organisational or otherwise, can have a number of several different possible solutions. Heads of departments become unnecessary if they only work with solutions that benefit one-year objectives and not solutions that have a more long term benefit to the operations they know best. The fact that I may have been considered to be acting inappropriately as head of department can have its accuracy; here I am undeniably a party to the proceedings. But I, and the Department, feel that the reasons given were unsubstantiated and ill-founded, and that is not acceptable. Last spring, I requested that an independent review of my time as department head be conducted, and I just got the news that this will happen. Such an investigation may also benefit GU as a whole as it can provide a better understanding of working methods, frameworks and the reasonableness of the responsibility as head of department. The ground rules need to be clear if it is to be attractive to serve as a head of department!

S PR I N G 2 0 1 5 WA S extremely frustrating for me as the then head of the Department of Biology and Environmental Sciences. That feeling was shared by the Department, which was reflected in the GU Journal in the spring. The reason was that the Department’s choice of department head, i.e. me, was not considered particularly suitable by the Dean Elisabet Ahlberg, in particular because we had different views on how to handle the Department’s short and long-term finances to come into balance. After a summer of pondering and brooding in my backyard, I can identify three problems that contributed to this mess: 1) GU’s internal democracy in relation to the vision and work plan, 2) absence of leadership culture at GU and 3) the basic conditions and responsibilities imposed on the heads of departments in general. T H E PRO B LE M W IT H internal democracy versus internal rules of procedure and vision is the most serious one, and what above all the department has primarily reacted strongly to. In the spring, the department’s academic staff outlined their main views to many bodies and levels at GU. I can only agree, in principle, with what they have expressed. The University Board, according to Chair Cecilia Schelin Seidegård, delegated to the Vice Chancellor’s office, the task of clarifying the internal rules of procedure and making recommendations for changes (GU Journal 3-2015). The proposals that hopefully will come, can lead to a crossroads for GU: will the Vision’s and Procedure’s words on participation and internal democracy be taken into account in a more powerful way – or not? The second problem concerns what I perceive as a lack of a well-thought-out and consistent leadership culture at GU. Things we are obliged to do are regulated, as well as how decisions are delegated to managers and boards. What is lacking is a common culture of how we lead. I believe that we must develop a leadership culture where managers understand how to lead with the help of the staff’s engagement and knowledge of their own organisation, a leadership that promotes transparency in decision making and that understands that critical thinking and questioning is an expression of commitment and a source for improvement. Of course we have management and leadership training, but an organisation cannot learn culture at a course, but rather in continuous,

»What is lacking is a common culture of how we lead.«

T H I S S PR I N G’ S E V E N T S have made me a little tired in the soul; it feels as if we are far too far from the strategies stated in our Vision: “A well-functioning work environment is dependent upon active leadership as well as qualified and engaged employees who are given opportunities for further development.” However, if these events can contribute to a clearer and more transparent University of Gothenburg, and a management and leadership that is a real support to the core activities, then this spring’s frustration was worth it!

open discussions and in reviewing practices – by quality work to put it simply. This should be done both within the line, and between the line, boards, councils and staff. O N E S M A LL ST E P in this direction is the new salary criteria for managers who arrived during the spring, but without a common understanding and continuous discussion of how to exercise leadership in order to meet



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Put an end to buying exotic animals W E WO U LD LI K E TO comment on the article “Våra Älskade Husdjur” (nr. 4 - Summer 2015), since domesticated and undomesticated animals were put as house animals without any mention of the differences between them. To have a dog or a cat is not the same as having a snake, a chameleon or a parrot. Undomesticated animals are not adapted to live in our homes; they have needs that only their wild environments can give them. Outside of their environment, undomesticated animals are deprived of their natural behavior, and often suffer from nutritional deficiencies (which leads to diseases), anxiety, depression, fear, pain and stress. They often have very short and sad lives compared to those animals living in their natural habitat. In addition, husbandry of nondomesticated animals is often difficult and expensive. Also, the small cages and the frequent exposure to humans and other house animals can result in aggressive/stressed behaviors. The procedures involved in all stages of

the trade very often disregard animal welfare regulations. The international trade of exotic pets (exotic defined as species that do not have a history of domestication) is an important and increasing driver of biodiversity loss. Europe, North America and the Middle East are the main markets of the exotic animal trade. The numbers of wild animals imported annually into the European Union to supply the exotic pet trade are tens of millions individuals. T H E E XOTI C PE T T R A D E is a serious problem worldwide, related to several ecological, animal welfare and public health issues, such as: • Biodiversity loss and extinction: it is a major cause of species decline. Statistics show that while the sales of certain exotic species increases, their numbers in the wild decline. • Habitat destruction: for trade trails, and to supply the demand for wild animals. • High mortality rates: conservative

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estimates include ratios of 3 dead animals for every one traded alive to the consumer. • Invasive alien species: from accidental or deliberate release into the environment. • Public health risks: more than 60% of all human infectious diseases and up to 75% of emerging diseases are believed to originate from wild animals. • Animal health risks: transfer of pathogens between wild animals, livestock, domestic pets and indigenous wildlife. • Unsustainable trade: trade is legal unless a motion is successfully brought to demonstrate the negative impact of it. Therefore, the legal trade of many species is damaging wild populations that remain unregulated because of outdated conservation assessments or lack of motivation to bring the case before the authorities. It is often difficult to distinguish legal and illegal exotic animal trade, since certificates

can be easily forged, and both inspection and law enforcement on this matter are very poor. Also, the legality of the trade does not guarantee its sustainability. A LL T H E S E PRO B LE M S can come to an end if people simply stop buying exotic animals. Sources: Bush ER, Baker SE, Macdonald DW. Global trade in exotic pets 2006–2012. Conserv. Biol., 28 (2014), pp. 663–676; and references therein.


International Café, 5 October, 5pm-7pm We welcome visiting researchers and international staff together with their families to Ågrenska villan, for a “fika” and in­formation about Sweden and Swedish traditions.

At there is information and advice relevant for preparing the stay in Gothenburg and everyday life here, e.g. permits, insurance, civic registration, banks, spouses support, child care, tourist information etc. Send the link to your international guests and they can prepare their stay in advance. For more information, see our Calendar at


The immigrant in literature In the summer, Fredrik Olsson defended his doctoral dissertation about how undocumented immigrants are portrayed in contemporary Latin American literature. The doctoral defence means that he became a PhD at two universities simultaneously: in Gothenburg and also in Seville. IT WA S D U R I N G his masters degree studies in Cádiz that Fredrik Olsson met the researcher, José Manuel Camacho, who later would become his external academic advisor according to a cotutelle agreement between the Universities of Gothenburg and Seville. “José Manuel Camacho had already supervised other graduate students in that manner, and thought that it worked out well. The agreement meant that I did my research work primarily in Gothenburg. But I spent one term in Seville, where I was able to take more specialised courses than what is possible here in Gothenburg. The Spanish milieu is really exciting; the Faculty of Philosophy, for example, is in the middle of downtown Seville, in an old tobacco factory dating from the 1700s. I have been at conferences and guest lectures, made new friends, and gained an insight into the Spanish university system. For me, the arrangement has been nothing but exceptionally positive.” B U T FR E D R I K O L S S O N thinks that José Manuel Camacho was also pleased with the set-up. “Among other things, he has spent a week here as a guest professor and established new contacts. So even though the agreement meant some extra paperwork, which, among others, the vice chancellor of the University of Seville had to sign, I think that everyone involved has benefited from the arrangement.” Fredrik Olsson’s doctoral dissertation deals with how undocumented immigrants in the United States are portrayed in Latin American literature from the 1990s and 2000s. “Presently there are about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, the vast majority coming from Latin America. There is also a long tradition of literature, mostly Mexican, about the crossing of the border into the United States, and additionally in films and music. Yet almost no comprehensive research has been done on how the undocumented are depicted in contemporary Latin American literature.”

Fredrik Olsson has chosen to study eight quite different novels written in Spanish by authors from Mexico, Peru, Colombia, El Salvador and Honduras, both bestsellers and more unfamiliar works. “ T H E W R IT E R S I study are not themselves undocumented immigrants, but rather most of them are university based and well-established in the community, some in the United States, others in their respective countries. Their stories therefore are not what they personally experienced, but instead, their intention is to give a voice to people who otherwise rarely have the opportunity to be heard. The portrayals and accounts, however, contain some stereotypes, both in terms of gender roles, ethnicity and materialism in America.” Fredrik Olsson divides the migration process into four phases: the departure from the homeland, the crossing of both physical as well as symbolic boundaries, the contact with the United States, and the contrast between new experiences and memories from home.

»Presently there are about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States« “ I N T H E PA ST, Latin American immigrant novels have been quite nationalistic, and focus on the dream of returning to their homeland; but today there is a much greater variety. The future in the United States is portrayed more often, but also new cultural mixtures such as “Spanglish.” Although the novels contain much misery, they can also be humorous - for example, El Corrido de Dante by the Peruvian writer Eduardo González Viaña, a parody of The Divine Comedy. For those who might want to read a novel on Latin American immigrants in the United States, Fredrik Olsson recommends Esperanza’s Daughter by the Mexican author, María Amparo Escandón.” “But of the eight authors I studied, the most famous in Latin America is the Colombian, Jorge Franco.”


FREDRIK OLSSON RECENTLY: Defended his doctoral dissertation on 5 June at the University of Gothenburg and the University of Seville: “Me voy pal Norte.” The Configuration of the Migrant Subject in Eight Contemporary Latin American Novels (1992-2009) LIVES IN: Björkekärr. FAMILY: Partner. INTERESTS: Literature, reading, music, travelling, hiking, skiing, gardening, vegetarian cooking.



The abridged version of the University of Gothenburg staff magazine, GU Journal. Issue no 5 October 2015.