Nordiskt Sommeruniversitet

Study Circle 5 & 8:

Nordic Summer University


Joint Call for Papers – Study Circle 5 and Study Circle 8

Contact Information for Coordinators:

Jesper Garsdal   Kerstin Von Brömssen,
Oleg Bresky Mogens Chrom Jcobsen

Click here for a PDF version of the CFP for the 2020 Summer Session

Table of Contents

  1. Special circumstances related to this year’s summer session and the program:
  2. Call for Papers – two main themes and one “trace”:
    • Learning and Bildung in the 21st century –human vision and visions of what it means to be human
    • The Elite-People Gap
    • Trace “the cultural, legal and social position of women as a factor determining the growth of society in a democratic environment”
  3. Information
    • Practical Information
    • Presentation of European Humanities University and the Nordic Summer University.

1: Special circumstances related to this year’s summer session and the program:

This year’s summer session will for various reasons be somewhat different than a normal summer session, which also will have some bearing on the final programme for the study circles including SC5 and SC8; and will therefor also have some impact on this CfP.

  1. Due to the Corona situation the summer session will NOT be held in the “physical actual world” but “virtually” over the internet in week 31. This goes both for the General Assembly for NSU, where the two sessions, GA1 and GA2, will be held Tuesday, July 28, and Friday July 31 but also for the activities of the study circles. The board has further come up with a new innovation called a “trace”, which also will be a part of the summer session (more about this below)
  2. The present study circles SC5 “Patterns of Dysfunction in Contemporary Democracies; Impact on Human Rights and Governance” and SC8 “Learning and Bildung in Times of Globalisation” as both circles end this year. The two study circles agreed at the winter session in Wroclaw, Poland to send in a joint proposal for a new study circle. You will obviously hear more about this joint proposal later (in June), where you will be asked to sign it if you are interested in participating in the new study circle. However, this is why this CfP is a joint CfP for SC5 and SC8
  3. Perhaps you might have heard about the challenges for NSU’s future economy (if not see here)

Two task forces are working on overcoming these challenges in different ways; but the important thing in the context of the collaboration between SC5 and SC8 and more specifically this CfP is that these problems does not hinder that this year’s joint summer session will be held (virtually); nor does it influence SC5’s and SC8’s decision regarding sending in a new proposal. However, these challenges and the activities of the two task forces will obviously be presented and debated at the summer session

  • Two virtual meetings regarding our joint proposal and the status of NSU; one before GA1 and the other after GA2. At these meetings we will be discuss how the proposal should be presented (before GA1) and again after the decision about new proposals (after GA2), we will discuss what to do next. Both things depend not only on “normal procedure” but also on the general situation of NSU in light of the abovementioned challenges and the outcome of the work of the two taskforces, which as mentioned obviously also will be debated at the GA1 and GA2
  • Presentations in relation to one or more of the theme s/ trace mentioned in the CfP below

Due to point 1-3 above, the programme for the joint session between SC5 and SC8 expected to include the following points:

2: Call for Papers

For the summer session 2020 we propose two themes and one trace:

  • Theme A: Learning and Bildung in the 21st century –human vision and visions of what it means to be human?
  • Theme B: The Elite-People Gap
  • Trace: “The cultural, legal and social position of women as a factor determining the growth of society in a democratic environment”

Contributions to either one of themes and/or the trace is welcomed. Please send the contributions to all 4 coordinators. Deadline for sending in a title and an abstract at minimum 3-5 sentences is July 1, so we can send out the preliminary for the summer session in the beginning of July including information about the online platform, which will be used for summer session and (simple ?) technical instructions for using it.


  1. As this is the concluding session for this three year circle, every theme mentioned in the presentation of study circle 8 is relevant, to “wind up” so to speak the work done the last three years (see the themes here:
  2. However, besides this, then a more specific theme, is the question of what it means to be human? This question is relevant for many reasons, the answers varies according to context (sociological, culturally, religious, philosophical, existentia/el), and also according some of the more interesting attempts to rethink/heal the “bifurcation between culture and “nature” (Whitehead). Some also criticizes “anthropocentric worldviews”, this goes in various degrees both for Arne Næss Deep Ecology, various forms STS, event philosophies and more recently speculative realism to mention a few. Finally, it is also possible to find older worldviews in world philosophy and culture (to mention only a few Shamanism, Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism) which perhaps/perhaps not are critical to anthropocentrism, but at least alter our image of what it means to be human, and what human vision is.

Therefore, beside the general theme of winding up the word of study circle 8, then the more specific theme could be said to be dealing with the following subthemes from various disciplines, theories and traditions

  • The vision of human existence (a vision of what it means to be human) in the greater scheme of things, individual-socially, folded-unfolded, human-non-human
  • Theories of practises of (extended or altered) perception related to this vision (human vision)
  • Finally, one could also from the perspective of the rich history of the notion of Bildung ask if this notion is actually “flattened in boring directions” by even its defenders. The visions of what it means to be human and what human visions could be according to for example Eckhart, Romanticism and German Idealism are more often than not let out in many descriptions of Bildung and notion and role of Imagination in relation to Bildung unthematized

The practical relevance of these issues can obviously be related to education: how should we conceive and perceive the world and what it means to be human; and especially how do we more or less influence each other to perceive and conceive the specific “answers” to these questions. But they might also be relevant, when one tries address global common concerns from different perspectives politically, as for example in relation to sustainable development, global policy in UN, human rights etc.


We would like to consider the elite-people gap. Does it really exist? Who are the elite? Is this just a manipulating term? Do we rather have split societies, where some parts have profited while others were left behind? Is this phenomenon generational? Is it rather due to new yearnings of democracy, which the traditional model cannot fulfil? Should we consider new forms of democracy or political participation? Do illiberal democracies manage to fill the gap trading security (social, internal, external) against obedience? Is the elite-people gap somehow inherent in liberal democracies?

Economic globalization is made responsible for the loss of jobs; critics claim that benefits have been taken away by the elite. Who profited from globalization and where certain stretches of society abandoned along the road? What would the European societies have looked like without globalization? Politically, free trade and liberalization of capital movements have prompted some to ask whether democratic decision-making decides anything any more. Are politicians only adapting to circumstances they do not control. This reproach has been directed against globalization as such and the EU in particular. The EU treatises have established free trade and movements of goods, services and persons as a basic principle. The WTO imposes rules of free trade on all its members. Does this engage the member countries in fierce competition leading to lower levels of pay and working conditions? Are democratic institutions no longer able to decide about the kind of society which should be instituted? How should we cope with this in terms of justice?

The situation is certainly another in Russia, Belarus and other Eastern neighbours of the Baltic States. During the Soviet period the communists developed the specific version of nationalism based on cultural and ethnic elements, but without the civic elements. It allows mobilizing the masses and creates an entirely loyal population (Alexander Wöll and Harald Wydra, 2008). It is difficult to establish a culture of trust (Papakostas 2012). There is a deficit of civic practices and real participation and engagement. Persistent poverty and dramatic increases in crime and corruption coupled with the withdrawal of state social-welfare provisions have created a panorama of “violent democracies” (Arias and Goldstein 2010) or security states. Its constitution is democratic, but it is effectively governed by an elite which is oriented toward the demands of a majority of “simple people”. They control the media, elections, society, religious organizations, trade unions and even the NGOs, and they decide what kind of information the public get access to. A number of laws restrict the operation of NGOs, the right to demonstrate, the social media and the internet. (Egupova, 2012)

We think, however, that the eroding processes in the established democracies of the Nordic area and those accompanying the democracy building in the Baltic/Eastern European area can illuminate each other. Provocatively, one might wonder whether they are not converging toward some kind of illiberal democracy.

The phenomenon of Elite-People Gap is, in some assumptions, the same as humanity has always dealt with, but the advancement of technology and the fact of globalization have made it a slightly different phenomenon. As Zygmunt Bauman wrote, power has leaked from the political level elsewhere today, and that is why the political power uses all possibilities of fear management to achieve the status quo. Both elites and politicians somehow need gray human masses and of course try to swim on them, which is directly related to transformations, or maybe even quitting democracy in the sense we are used to. Citizens are obviously needed to generate income and participate in consumption, possibly in armed struggles, but the question remains: Who is whose client: Are the elites the clients of politicians or vice versa and to what extent. Another question is: How does the situation of society as a human mass with its needs and individual desires fit into this tension line?


The project has a contemporary reference, but because the present is a child of the past, one cannot ignore the aspects of the impact of tradition and host factors on the current position of women in societies and a visible social gap. Also one that applies to Elite Gap. Globalization does not change the fact that individual societies have characteristic social gaps, but globalization reveals the contrast between individual societies. Because the globalized world has shrunk, there may be a collision of norms (social and legal) conditioning the position of women, which has a further impact on the economy and social development. In addition, access to information in a globalized world can be a factor transforming the existing social stratification. These are research fields that need research.

The assumption of the project is to describe, taking into account cultural, social and legal aspects, the current or future role of women in bridging the negative effects of the social divide. This project has many dimensions, but the common denominator is the cultural, legal and social position of women as a factor determining the growth of society in a democratic environment.

The problem of discrimination against women hindering the development of societies in permanently democratic countries is not a pressing social problem. However, under certain cultural and legal conditions, it may happen that the law or a tradition or religion sanctioned will cause actual discrimination of specific social groups – for example women, where their sexual orientation is not an important factor here because they are subject to discrimination they can regardless.

It is important to track down such factors of potential discrimination and to see how they are socially compensated or how they are responded by law or institutional action. In some cultures, discriminatory factors may be the result of the law or groups holding power in this society. It is important that blocking the use of the potential of a specific group of people in society is harmful to the whole society. In this Trace, we want to show this by illustrating the phenomenon of the situation of women whose socio-cultural position translates directly into the activities of the family, local community and the entire society or federation.

Scandinavian countries, thanks to the culturally established standard of functioning of public authorities and the standard of universal social assessments as to the role of women, could be treated as a reference model. Nevertheless, it is important to carry out individual analyses for all shades of local subtleties when it comes to cultural conditions and other important factors, e.g. economic.

Therefore, individual activities under this project could be carried out taking into account the following milestones of the following scheme:

1. Where is the disproportion?

2. Where is the cause / risk of disproportion?

3. To what extent and scope do it generate attitudes towards women and to what extent attitudes of women and what they are conditioned by?

4. What specific factors / actions / reactions / manifestations of discrimination related to the “cultural burden” of women or legal regulations towards them cause the emergence or widening of social gaps. The point is to show that the institutional or cultural inhibition of individual growth translates into the inhibition of social growth?

3: Information:

Practical Information

We invite and encourage you to suggest online or small local gatherings (if and how it is possible) that produce a trace which can be shared with the larger community. We also accept more traditional forms of paper presentations however, organising that in more workshop modes of interaction so that we can avoid sitting all day in front of computer screens.

Thus, participation in the Summer Session of 2020 can take a variety of different forms. You may contribute with a more traditional academic paper and/or send in a suggestion for what we have called traces – this can be a online workshop, local meeting, an online panel discussion of papers, a reading or performance, sharing of a meal or walk together (considering the appropriate manner of physical interaction that is possible in the time and place where you are situated), presenting a piece of art or shared activity. Suggesting a trace will enable you to also receive a grant which supports the creation of that trace. Each circle will be able to suggest 6 traces to be given a grant of 7000 DKK. Traces can be made individually or together with other participants.

The board of NSU has stipulated the following guidelines for how traces may be elected. A trace needs to be:

● produced by a single individual or group of participants.

● sharable and open to all during the Summer Session time frame.

● fitting to NSU’s overall goals, aims and vision.

● related to the circle’s theme.

● created with its main language English or a Scandinavian or Baltic language.

● those who make a trace must be a member of NSU (pay membership fee) & participate in the democratic forum of NSU (may become a delegate for the General Assembly meeting)

● the team or individual creating a trace needs to provide some promotion material considered as an INVITATION to the trace, before the Summer Session with: picture & 200-500 words.

● those who make a trace need to provide a brief report of the trace to their coordinator (form to be provided by Board, including amount of participants, goals, etc) after the trace has been produced.

Feel free to suggest and send in your creative ideas together with a short biographical description, no longer than 500 words. We strongly encourage you to craft a format that suits your presentation, such as a workshop, experiment, exercise, or interactive dialogue that allows sharing in an appropriate manner taking the current situation in the world into consideration. Interaction with other circles.

During the summer session of the Nordic Summer University nine different study circles have a full program during the days, and participants are welcome to join the programs depending on their interests. This year, the circles might meet physically according to region or town, rather than according to topic.

This can be organised by a specific circle or a combination of circles. Trace/Proposal deadline Please send in proposals for a trace, which can include a paper, presentation, workshop or other type of experiment by June 10, 2020, to the coordinators. Please indicate what format of presentation you are interested in, and how you envision the resulting trace that can be shared with other participants in virtual or other manner. Please also send in a short bio (5-10 lines) we can share with all participants beforehand. You are also welcome to participate without giving a presentation. Please apply by the same deadline if you’d like to join as a participant. Offering grants to create traces Several grants will be made available for individuals or groups organising the production of a trace in collaboration with the other participants. A trace can be small – a picture of a local meeting – or big – a panel discussion, podcast with interviews, experimental writing workshop, etc.

If you would like to apply for a grant to create a trace that can celebrate the NSU spirit throughout the world, please let us know when you send in your application. As always, NSU is particularly interested in supporting people who are at the outskirts of the Nordic region – the Baltic and West-Nordic communities as well as those with special needs. So please do inform us if your application of a Trace grant falls under the regional support or if the pandemic has had particular financial consequences to you.

Presentations of the European Humanities University (EHU) and The Nordic Summer University (NSU)

Euopean Humanities University is a private non-profit liberal arts Lithuanian University with unique origin and history. Founded in 1992, the university has been headquartered in Vilnius, Lithuania since authorities expelled it from Belarus in 2004. EHU is the only Belarusian University that has succeeded in maintaining its independence and commitment to academic freedom. EHU offers both high residence and low residence (distance learning) degree programs in the humanities and social sciences that fully accord with European standards and norms.

Approximately 1800 students are enrolled in European Humanities University (1/3 high residence students and 2/3 low residence), 249 (99 full-time and 150 part-time) faculty members conduct teaching and research activities in EHU within Historical, Socio-political, Law and Media academic departments and 10 research centers.

The EHU provides students from Belarus and the region with an education in the European liberal arts tradition in a free and democratic environment – an opportunity, unfortunately, not available in Belarus today. At EHU, students can learn media and communications skills in a state-of-the-art media lab, become election observers through a hands on program conducted together with Belarusian Human Rights House and Belarus Watch called Election Observation: Theory and Practice (EOTP), study European politics and policy as part of the political science and European studies program, and many other opportunities. Law students learn about human rights law from Western experts and practice their courtroom skills and meet students from around the world at the Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition. New center for Constitutionalism and Human rights was established in 2012 ( along with announcement of new academic journal with the same title (

These and other opportunities make EHU a unique place for young people from Belarus and the region. The commitment of EHU’s faculty, students, staff, and donors is an important signal to Belarusian authorities and society that there is an alternative to state ideological control. For Belarusians who seek the freedom to think creatively and critically—to study, learn, teach, and conduct research without ideological restrictions—EHU provides a home away from home.

The Nordic Summer University (NSU) is an independent and open academic institution, which organises seminars crossing academic and national borders. NSU is a democratic institution organized and run by its participants through different study circles.

Through two yearly seminars the cross-disciplinary study circles fertilise collaboration between academics, build up networks and contribute to create research agendas throughout the Nordic/Baltic countries as well as establishing contacts “abroad”. The research in the study circles is documented in publications link: NSU-Press

The two yearly seminars take place in the Nordic/Baltic countries. In the winter each study circle organize their own seminar; in the summer all circles are brought together for also enhancing further cross-disciplinary collaboration. Furthermore, the summer meeting is also the political organ of NSU inviting all participants to exercise their influence on the activities of NSU.

It is the policy of NSU to maintain an environment that encourages and fosters appropriate conduct among all persons and respect for individual values. NSU opposes any policy or practice, which discriminates against any individual or group on grounds of race, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, class, age, disability, creed, and ethnic/national origins. NSU aims at being an open and inclusive organization.

NSU receives financial support from the Nordic Council of Ministers and operates in cooperation with Foreningerne Nordens Forbund (FNF).

NSU is a nomadic, academic institution, which organizes workshop-seminars across disciplinary and national borders. Since it was established in 1950, Nordic Summer University has organized forums for cultural and intellectual debate in the Nordic and Baltic region, involving students, academics, politicians, and intellectuals from this region and beyond.

Decisions about the content and the organizational form of the NSU lay with its participants. The backbone of the activities in the NSU consists of its thematic study circles. In the study circles researchers, students and professionals from different backgrounds collaborate in scholarly investigations distributed regularly in summer and winter symposia during a three-year period.

For more information: