Adam Hjorthén

Adam Hjorthén


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Works at Department of Culture and Aesthetics
Postal address Institutionen för kultur och estetik 106 91 Stockholm

About me

(Leave of absence September 2020–February 2021)

I have a PhD in history, and currently hold a dual position as Postdoctoral Researcher in the history of ideas at the Department of Culture and Aesthetics at Stockholm University, and at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at the Free University of Berlin. I am the recipient of the Loubat Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History, and Antiquities, and since 2016 I serve as the President of the Swedish Association for American Studies (SAAS). My research focuses on public history—including commemorations, monuments, museum exhibitions, public festivals, and the popular movement of genealogy—and Swedish-American relations in the 20th and 21st centuries.

I recently published my first book, titled Cross-Border Commemorations: Celebrating Swedish Settlement in America (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2018).The book provides the first in-depth study of cross-border commemorations, and thus contributes to the emerging field of transnational public history. It explores this little-known phenomenon through the case of Swedish settling in America, focusing on the 1938 New Sweden Tercentenary and the 1948 Swedish Pioneer Centennial. These commemorations recognized the 1638 founding of the New Sweden colony in the Delaware Valley, and the mid-19thcentury arrival of Swedish pioneers to the Midwest. By delving into a wide variety of sources, the book analyzes the contents, functions, and effects of the celebrations. It demonstrates the ways that these events were used to promote international relations at times of great geopolitical change. Organized jointly by cultural leaders, politicians, and businessmen on both sides of the Atlantic, the commemorations forwarded individual agendas on the foundations of chauvinistic settler histories and racialized claims of transatlantic bloodlines.

My ongoing project concerns transatlantic genealogy, and is financed by the Swedish Research Council. It has the working title “The Transatlantic Family: Swedish-American Genealogy and Historical Belonging across Borders, ca 1945–2015.” The study proceeds from the observation that genealogy is a practice occupied with questions of historical belonging and, at the same time, that much of genealogy is concerned with tracing ancestors outside of national borders. Empirically, I study the development of Swedish-American genealogy—that is, the culture and practice of genealogy based on histories of the Swedish nineteenth-century mass emigration to America. Since WWII, the steady growth of genealogy has been coupled with the establishment of an enduring genealogical infrastructure in both countries, consisting of archives, societies, and journals. With the help of these infrastructures, genealogists have produced a substantial amount of historical writings that assign meaning to family trees that cross the Atlantic. The aim of this project is to trace the different ways that varying social, political, commercial, religious, and academic interests have shaped a transatlantic genealogical infrastructure, and how that infrastructure in turn have been used by individual genealogists to produce knowledge about family history.

Together with Professor Dag Blanck at Uppsala University, I am the co-founder and co-organizer of the research network “Swedish-American Borderlands,” funded by the Swedish Council for Humanities and Social Sciences (RJ). This international and interdisciplinary network—which gathers twenty-plus scholars from Europe and North America—is an attempt at reconceptualizing the broader field of Swedish-American relations. We have so far arranged one conference in Uppsala, one workshop in Sigtuna, and are currently working on an edited volume titled Swedish-American Borderlands: New Histories of Transatlantic Relations (under contract with the University of Minnesota Press).


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2018. Adam Hjorthén.

    The histories of colonial settlement in America are generally presented as uniquely national stories. Yet because these histories involved settlers who crossed oceans, they are inherently transnational and have been important for different groups throughout the world. To understand how settlement histories are used to promote social, political, and commercial relations across national borders, Adam Hjorthén explores the little-known phenomenon of cross-border commemorations.

    Focusing on two celebrations of Swedish settlement in America―the 1938 New Sweden Tercentenary and the 1948 Swedish Pioneer Centennial―Hjorthén examines a wide variety of sources to demonstrate how cultural leaders, politicians, and businessmen used these events to promote international relations between the United States and Sweden during times of great geopolitical transformation. Cross-Border Commemorations argues that scholarship on public commemoration should expand beyond national borders and engage the shared and contested meanings of history across local, national, and transnational contexts.

  • 2017. Adam Hjorthén. Commemoration, 59-68
  • 2017. Adam Hjorthén. The Dynamics and Contexts of Cultural Transfers, 127-145

    While genealogy is a practice occupied with questions of roots and belonging, it is also concerned with tracing ancestors outside of national borders. Notions of belonging to history and culture are highlighted through international migration. What does belonging mean for individuals who has historical and contemporary family spread over different countries? How are notions of belonging negotiated in the meeting of different national identities? And how are these processes mediated through genealogy, a project occupied with tracing common bloodlines? This article explores these questions through the case of Swedish-American genealogy. More specifically, it analyzes how this genealogy is represented on contemporary television through the popular TV-show Allt för Sverige

  • 2016. Dag Blanck, Adam Hjorthén. Journal of Transnational American Studies 7 (1), 1-16
  • 2016. Adam Hjorthén. Journal of Transnational American Studies 7 (1), 1-19
  • 2013. Adam Hjorthén. Making cultural history, 49-58
  • 2012. Adam Hjorthén. Minnesota History 63 (1), 5-14

    A second-season makeover at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. Hoping that "an interesting controversy" would revive the state of Minnesota's failing pavilion, Minnesota adds a large fiberglass Viking, longboat-styled snack bars, and the contested Kensington Runestone itself to its 'Brainpower Builds Profits' exhibit. [abstract adapted from Minnesota History 63/1]

  • 2011. Adam Hjorthén. The Swedish-American Historical Quarterly 62 (2), 78-105
Show all publications by Adam Hjorthén at Stockholm University

Last updated: August 27, 2020

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