Transforming "Swedish Dads"
(Re)Imagining Swedish Fathers, Branding the Swedish Nation
Keywords:nation branding, fatherhood, Swedish Dads, exceptionalism, representations, visual culture
In a globalized context, modern nation states use nation branding techniques to promote their position in the global social order. This article takes a cultural approach to a specific nation branding project, viewing it as a means through which the Swedish nation is ‘imagined’ in relation to idealized representations of Swedish fathers.
From 2016 to 2019, the Swedish state (via the Swedish Institute) circulated a photo exhibition entitled Swedish Dads to over 40 countries. Swedish Dads was originally an artistic project by a Swedish photographer but was adapted for international circulation by the Swedish Institute. This article aims to examine what the Swedish Institute communicated through their version of Swedish Dads, studied against the backdrop of the original project. Specifically, the article explores what this adapted version communicates about Swedish fathers, but also about the Swedish state and Sweden more broadly.
A multimodal discourse analysis was used to analyze the photographs and texts from both versions of Swedish Dads, as well as two key informant interviews. Empirical findings suggest that the adapted version of Swedish Dads was transformed by removing visual and textual allusions to the chaos, complications, and difficulties of family life. Instead, this version positioned Sweden as diverse, inclusive, and integrated country where the average – rather than the exceptional – Swedish father takes extended periods of parental leave.
The article concludes that these transformations resulted in a (re)imagining of Swedish fathers to include more cultural diversity. However, the adapted version was still relatively homogenous in terms of social class, with mostly middle-class fathers being included. In this way, the adapted version of Swedish Dads potentially reinforces the hegemony of middle-class parenting norms and middle-class notions of gender equality by positioning them as a universal ‘gold standard’ to which all (fathers and nations) should aspire.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Sarah Mitchell
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