Elfenbenstornet under belägring

Legitimering och mobilisering av humaniora i Sverige 1937–1947

  • Hampus Östh Gustafsson Uppsala universitet
Nyckelord: humanities, legitimation, mobilization, science, society, Sweden, World War II


Recently, there have been intense discussions on the humanities and their role in society. However, these discussions demonstrate a lack of historical perspectives based on thorough empirical research. This study aims to contribute to a deeper understanding of the historic legitimacy of the humanities and their relation to society. Through an analysis of Swedish journals and anthologies, published between 1937 and 1947, a discourse is identified in a borderland between science and politics that should be regarded as part of a renegotiation of the humanities’ role in society. In the context of World War II and societal changes, there occurred a greater pressure to mobilize science for socio-political purposes. For the humanities, such demands seemed to conflict with their scientific ethos. This ethos was often based on a norm that demanded the drawing of a strict boundary between science and politics. But if they did not mobilize socially, scholars risked getting blamed for being isolated in the so-called ‘ivory tower’. How the humanities could be mobilized while still maintaining their legitimacy in a scientific context emerged as a fundamental problem with no clear solutions. Central to this problem was the exclusion of the humanities from narratives of the future of society.