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Barns and waged work: modernisation and differentiation in Norrland's forests in the mid twentieth century
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of History.
2010 (English)In: Scandia, ISSN 0036-5483, Vol. 76, no 1, 100-128 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article examines the processes of differentiation that are thought significant in understanding people's actions in relation to historical change. An intersectional approach is assayed that moves beyond the classic, tripartite basis for categorisation gender, class, ethnicity to incorporate distinctions made on other grounds, for example those determined by spatial or temporal notions of modernity and tradition. To this end, the article presents a study of life in the vast forests of Norrland, the northernmost of Sweden's three regions, in the 1940s. Two types of source material are under consideration: 'external' sources in the form of newspaper material, and 'internal' sources in the form of interviews. The question to be answered is how the changes of the 1940s chiefly the immediate effects of the modernisation then underway - were understood and influenced by those affected, and more specifically how the shift came about in views on how forestry-workers' households should manage their livelihoods. The point of departure is the suggestion that the intersectional analytical method can contribute to a more complete understanding of a historical phenomenon by narrowing down the problem of how historical change comes about. By taking changes that are in full swing, and that have a variety of spatial and temporal ramifications, it is possible to study the discursive process of differentiation that results. The designations spawned by these changes are highlighted in the present article to shed light on how the categorisations 'work'. While Sweden after 1945 went from being a markedly agrarian society to a highly industrialised nation in little more than a decade, the current of modernist ideas that left such a mark on the Stockholm Exhibition in 1930 and elsewhere remained influential. An intersectional perspective opens the way for an analysis of the legitimisation and naturalisation of the exercise of power; an analysis that uses a systematic construction of differences between people, but also between places, which are ordered hierarchically in a discourse influenced by these ideas. The categorisation processes can be traced in the 'external' material's descriptions of practices associated with certain places. Spatial differences, in as much as they are taken to describe a variety of temporal developments, are here shown to be integral to the process of differentiation. An analysis of descriptions of a visionary venture the jointly owned cattle barn in Bjarme, in the county of Jamtland - is used to show how 'bread-winning' is a disputed term, imbued with meaning by spatial distinctions as much as by a process of differentiation based on status and degree of development. The argumentation in the texts studied here brings together social class, level of education, gender, and family situation, and is held meaningful at the point where work and bread-winning intersect. The organisation of livelihoods that in Norrland centred on small 'subsidiary' farms is depicted in the 'external' material as old-fashioned and irrational. In the 'internal' material, on the other hand, a very. different picture appears, in which female-coded dairying work is related as a significant element in the households' livelihood. The article discusses how modernisation processes could also be performed and lived in other ways than those stipulated by the dominant, power-generating categorisations of the day. An uneven, contradictory development instead emerges from the evidence, in which older self-sufficient practices were not abruptly abandoned, and in which the term 'work' was understood and construed differently than it was in the 'external' descriptions, characterised as they were by rationalism as well as the housewife ideal, both of which are studied in the article. Thus the analysis clearly wins from an intersectional approach, rather than limiting its focus to one or two limited categorisations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 76, no 1, 100-128 p.
Keyword [en]
intersectionality, gender, Sweden, Norrland, forestry, small farms, milk production, historical methods, modernity, twentieth century
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-136252ISI: 000278775800006OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-136252DiVA: diva2:376756
Available from: 2010-12-13 Created: 2010-12-11 Last updated: 2011-11-28Bibliographically approved

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