David Malm

David Malm


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

About me

BA in Political science and History of ideas from Stockholm university. MA in History of ideas from Uppsala university.


Dissertation project

My thesis has the working title The battle over print culture – negotiations over media, publics, technologies and man in Sweden ca. 1800, and has links to my master thesis in which I studied the Anti-Jacobins in England during the 1790s and the struggle between themselves regarding the question of engaging in the public – the literary sphere – and of spreading literature to the lower orders. Even if their behaviour in the public were different from radicals, and that the literature they disseminated were of an Anti-Jacobin brand, the very acts seemed instable and dubious too many commentators.

Now I want to take a more comprehensive look and study how political actors battle over the spreading of print culture. The idea is that a transition from oral culture to print demanded new skills such as reading and writing which made new associations and different public spaces possible. This created battles about who should decide how these skills were to be taught – or whether they should be taught at all – and over how the public should be configured.

A recurring theme – which also marks our time – is that the transition from one system to another creates an array of uncertainties. The ability to read and write was no longer exclusive to the upper orders, and the public started to widen or split itself into a multiple of publics. But instead of seeing these (possible) developments as inevitable and a stated fact I want to study how the public and the ability to read were dealt with. My understanding of these entities is therefore that they are malleable. To see how the infrastructure of print culture was planned in Sweden I will study the political actors who were the engineers in that construction.

This design makes possible an empirical study that can weigh in on the discussion over men and machine, because it illustrates a mutual giving and taking rather than a one-way relationship (regardless which side you choose). Besides, and mainly, this study contributes to a historicizing of a number of categories that (rightly) are so dear to us that they sometimes blind us. Literacy, literature, enlightenment, education and so forth have a special status as the way of human reason to emancipate individuals, as well as entire societies. But if there is anything that the present moment teaches us, it is how fragmented those concepts should be understood (because of how differently they are practiced). This is why a historical understanding of the concepts is necessary, one that shows how they received their status, how they became fragmented, and how this fragmentation disappeared and the cracks and scars from it was made invisible. I think one can get this understanding by studying the battle over print culture, and hence those categories.


Staffan Bergwik, Karin Dirke, Victoria Fareld.

Publications (Swedish only)

"Vad Selma Lagerlöf kan lära dig om smarta telefoner", OBS i P1, 23 maj, 2018.

”Mytologisk mediehistoria”, Molo idéhistorisk studenttidskrift, 1/2017.

”Fake news är old news”, Aftonbladet kultur, 7 juni, 2017. [Accessed 2017-09-19]

”En utmanad elit: Politiken och litteraturen antar form i 1790-talets England”, master thesis in History of ideas, Uppsala, 2016.

Link to the thesis in DiVA. [Accessed 2017-09-19]

Last updated: May 26, 2018

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