Scandinavian countries have a reputation of being some of the most progressive in the world; being regarded as standing at the forefront of social policy and paving the way for more inclusive societies. But how do the countries live up to their reputation? How is the Scandinavian model constructed? In what ways are they the same (and different) than other places? Different than each other? In the Gender, Equality, and Sexuality in Scandinavia Core Course at DIS Stockholm, students interrogate these questions, and many more.
Students learn, under the instruction of faculty Iwo Nord, tools to approach conversations regarding matters of diversity and identity, and how they manifest in various sectors of life.
“We start taking this idea of equality apart by looking at intersectionality. For example, looking at gender equality from an intersectional perspective; looking at people with a migration background, or people who are trans, or have a sexuality that’s not heterosexual, and considering how their life situations might challenge the idea of gender equality — this image that Scandinavia is built on. We go through the gender equality model, but we also then start to grapple with a lot of other issues like migration, and Sweden as a multicultural society. Often my students had the idea that this is a very homogenous society, but actually, Sweden is one of the most multicultural societies in the world.”
This interdisciplinary approach to the course — paired with the wide applicability of the course material — help it draw in students from across the academic spectrum.
“I have a really good mix of students. I’ve had students who study neuroscience, biology, and economics. Gender studies, of course, as well. All kinds of humanities and social sciences. My students are really a great mix of people, which I really, really enjoy. I enjoy teaching these mixed classes because I think it’s a possibility to bring a lot of perspectives and questions to the table.”
No matter what academic or lived background students bring to the table, they all play a role in establishing and maintaining an inclusive and productive environment. Facilitated by Iwo, each cohort is tasked with coming up with their own set of methods and guidelines for approaching and discussing their coursework. This shared ownership of their space urges all members of the course to be active in their learning and feel a sense of belonging in the classroom.
“Part of cultivating an inclusive environment is, of course, an attitude to teaching in a way of pedagogy that is deeper than just very concrete things. But I think I do have some very concrete tools as well. We create classroom guidelines, for example. Usually, I do it when we are at the very beginning of the course, but still at the point where we know each other a little bit, so that it’s kind of safe, or it feels possible to discuss. Also when students, you know, have an experience of the class and might know their needs in relation to the class.”
Beyond the classroom
That coursework isn’t confined to the classroom walls. Throughout the semester, the class learns by being situated in new locations where they’re able to interact with new people, places, and ideas. This can mean traveling to greater Stockholm during a Field Study, going to Oslo for Core Course Week, and heading to Berlin via a stopover in Copenhagen for their Long Study Tour. All in an effort to get a broader and more nuanced understanding of just how discourse and lived experiences are intertwined with policy, geography, and just about every aspect of life.
This also means that over the span of a semester, the class is able to learn on the ground in three Scandinavian capitals — allowing the opportunity to compare and understand them with much greater context.
Heading outside of Scandinavia is also a significant, and highly valuable, part of course travel. The class spends almost a week in Berlin during the semester, getting an overview of the city while also visiting local businesses, organizations, and individuals who inform discussions of gender and sexuality.
Iwo speaks to the significance of spending this time in Berlin, noting its historical and contemporary importance in queer spheres.
“I think Berlin is immediately obvious. It’s been historically a queer hub in Europe. It’s also a very multicultural city and a city that attracts people who are in different ways, not living up to different norms.”
Through all of these ventures, the class traveled by train; choosing a more environmentally friendly option than flying between destinations, and allowing for greater flexibility in scheduling, such as allowing the course to take a stop in Copenhagen for an extra day of instruction.
At the same time, train travel is a bit of a slower option, with hours being spent on the rail. Iwo, as well as his students, find there to be great benefit in the time that they’re spending on the trains. It allows the group to see more of the countries they’re in, as well as provides them time to grow closer as a group.
Iwo reflects: “I do think that the class is gaining quite a lot from it. When we are on the train, it’s not so stressful as at the airport, where you have to go through a lot of security and wait at the gate and stuff like that. It’s like you board the train, and then you sit there for all these hours. And it’s, it’s quite a lot of hours — you can read your book, you can write your assignment, you can talk to your classmates. And I think for different students that spin these things like some students have given feedback that it was great to sit there and just be in my own bubble and read my book, while others have been like I was talking to classmates the whole way and it was wonderful.”
The train from Stockholm to Copenhagen even served as a sort of makeshift more traditional classroom, as students paired up to dive into their course readings and check in with Iwo regarding their upcoming visits.
In these destinations, the class had the ability to deepen their knowledge; on both a general and highly specialized level. From going on queer walking tours of both cities to visiting Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen, a queer and feminist sex shop, the world’s first gay museum in Berlin.
Scroll down to see more about the group’s Long Study Tour to Copenhagen and Berlin in Spring 2023. Or learn more about the program on our website.
Highlights from Long Study Tour to Copenhagen and Berlin
• Travel to Copenhagen
• Visit Christiania
• Group dinner
• Queer Copenhagen walking tour
• Group lunch at queer-owned restaurant
• Travel to Berlin
• Time to explore Berlin
• Shibari workshop
• Painting ceramics
• Queer Berlin walking tour
• Group dinner in gay neighborhood
• Visit a queer, feminist sex shop
• Guided tour of the Schwules Museum
• Group dinner at Berlin TV Tower
• Drag and Community Building Workshop
• Group dinner
• Trans People and Asylum in Sweden, Germany & Europe lecture
• Group lunch and debrief
• Travel to Stockholm