School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences

Workshop panels

Izabela A. Dahl, Örebro University

Humanitarian aid to children of war. The organization of aid-related activities in the Örebro region 1919-1922

The Swedish term krigsbarn, meaning children of war is a term used for the first time to describe children from countries affected by war 1914-1918; children, who were provided aid in the neutral countries. Sweden was one of the countries who aided a group of about 26 000 children during the years 1922-1924 and the coordination of this work was provided by the Swedish Red Cross.

This contribution will give an insight into the process of implementation of the aid-related activities at the local level and map the mobilization of local authorities in the Örebro region. Moreover, it will reflect on the character of this aid by embodying the voices of these children, their families, and the individuals who helped them.

The presentation is based on the collection called Red Cross Children of War stored at the Archival Center in Örebro.

Annika Berg, Stockholm University

A consequential absence: On the roles of women in early Swedish development aid, circa 1945–1975

This paper will not deal with NGO-driven humanitarian aid; instead it will focus on the establishment and institutionalization of development aid as an area of Swedish public policy and the place of women therein.
A number of women were key actors at the initial stages of several of the early Swedish development aid initiatives. Also, the first minister responsible for questions concerning development aid in the Swedish government was a woman, Ulla Lindström. However, the central development aid committee, board and, lastly, agency (CK, 1952–1962, NIB, 1962–1965, and SIDA, from 1965) were conspicuously dominated by men. Thus, the story of women in the first decades of Swedish development aid must largely be written as a story of absences – women were marginalized as experts as well as in the executive and administrative parts of the development aid sector. Arguably, this also had effects on the ways in which women were – or simply were not – targeted as aid recipients, and the ways in which they were employed as local personnel on the “field” (additionally, these effects intersected with notions about race and ethnicity, despite long-term goals of development aid to erase both individual and structural racism).
My paper will also discuss the ways in which questions about women and gender relations in development eventually did enter into the Swedish development aid discourse in a more substantial manner, from about 1970 onwards.

Norbert Götz, Södertörn University

Women in Aid Appeals and Relief Work: The Case of the Great Irish Famine, 1846/47

The paper will provide a general discussion of the many reasons why gender matters in humanitarian crises, such as tensions of the concept of humanity with gendered practices and gendered patterns of vulnerability and resilience as well as of power and resources. This will then be exemplified by experiences during the Great Irish Famine with reference (1) to humanitarian appeals by women, addressing women, and describing female destinies, and (2) to relief work by women, for women, and against women.

Paweł Jaworski, Wrocław University

The ambulance of the Swedish Red Cross in Poland in 1920

The Swedish Red Cross sent the ambulance in order to fight against the epidemics that developed as the result of the First World War and mass migration of people from Russia to the West. The idea to send the mission was combined with the Swedish strivings to participate actively in different actions in the international arena. A small group of Swedish doctors and female and male nurses ran one of the more than one hundred infectious diseases hospitals in the Eastern Poland. The authorities of the Swedish Red Cross were aware that the mission could not make a great difference in the medical front, but assumed that it was only the part of the international humanitarian aid to East European territories in order to stop the epidemic danger far away from the rest of the continent. The paper discusses the circumstances of the action, its conditions and the possible impact on the disease-fighting methods.

James Lancaster, Örebro University

For women, by women. The Work of the Women’s Consultant at the Swedish Free Church Council 1977-1983

Many formal and informal barriers to leadership exist for women within the context of both civil society organizations and church organizations. Yet much of the practical, day-to-day work is carried out by women. While there may be barriers to entry higher positions, women influence on the level of praxis, where they can choose with some degree of freedom how to carry out their work and what tasks to prioritize. At the same time their work exists at an intersection of competing priorities and wills.

In 1973 the Swedish Free Church Council, an umbrella organization for free churches in Sweden, was appointed the task of distributing state aid to Swedish religious organizations, and in 1976 that task was expanded to distributing aid to minority and immigrant churches and religious organizations. This became the beginning of extensive, organized work with and for refugees in Sweden. As part of this work the Swedish Free Church Council hired Birgitta Blennberger as a women’s consultant within their refugee project in 1979 to organize activities and projects for refugee women and support women’s groups within immigrant communities in Sweden. The women’s consultant had to approach and balance the wills and needs of the women she assisted, to handle the (male) church hierarchy within the immigrant churches and the interests of the Free Church Council as well as the government agencies that financed her work.

In this presentation I will discuss how these differing priorities manifested in the practical work carried out by the women’s consultant with a focus especially on what activities were carried out and how difficulties or struggles were framed. The main questions will be how this type of refugee relief and integration work targeted at women was conceptualized as part of an overall integration effort. What role were refugee women expected to fill in order to help integrate the rest of their community and how were Swedish women expected to assist this process?

Emma Lundin, Malmö universitet

Sweden’s feminist foreign policy: from ad-hoc activism to ‘the three Rs’

In October 2014, the Swedish government launched its Feminist Foreign Policy project under Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. Today, it is a core component of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ public relations agenda. “By achieving a more gender-equal world,” a statement on the MFA website reads, “we also contribute to peace, security and sustainable development. The aim is to contribute to gender equality and the full enjoyment of human rights by all women and girls.”

In 2014, Wallström was quick to assert that the work was based on three concepts: representation, resources, and respect. This paper will argue that the strategy and the concepts have deep historical roots in the often ad-hoc, but still long-term, humanitarian work undertaken by various Social Democratic organisations in the 1970s and 1980s. It was during these decades that leading members of Social Democratic Women’s Organisation SSKF (now S-Kvinnor) like Annie Marie Sundbom decided to actively seek out women on their journeys to meet organisations that were allied to or supported by the Social Democratic Party. These included many southern African liberation movements, based at the time in Zambia, were Sundbom and others met them in the early 1970s.

Building on the work of, among others, political scientists Karin Aggestam and Annika Bergman Rosamond and others working within the recently established field of Women, Peace and Security (WPS), this paper is an attempt to historicise Feminist Foreign Policy by drawing lines from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ present-day humanitarian ethos to historical activism by previous generations of political activists. It is based on archival research, text analysis and oral history interviews, and aims to problematise the MFA’s teleological approach to the concept by emphasising its blind spots and disappointments.

Pia Lundqvist, Gothenburg University

Experiences of an ambivalent position – female missionaries in the Congo Free State

The topic of my presentation is female Swedish missionaries who worked in Congo Free State from the late 1880s and the following decades. Already from the early years of the mission, the protestant Swedish Missionary Society (SMS) [Svenska Missionsförbundet, SMF] considered it urgent to engage women as well as men. In the early 1900s, the Western missionary professionals consisted of more female missionaries than male ones and the proportion of women increased continuously.

Women’s increasingly prominent position in the religious sphere was legitimized by the idea of separate and complementary roles of men and women. The ideology of the household was transferred from the domestic sphere to the public sphere.

My presentation will focus on the group of women. Who were they? What were their social and professional backgrounds? Why did they choose to become missionaries and what role did the notion of a divine calling play for their choice and agency?

It has been argued that missionary work provided an opportunity for women to stepoutside the prescribed gender patterns. They could even negotiate a greater freedom of action than formal rules allowed. At the same time, women were primarily engaged in activities that didn’t challenge the prevailing gender order: Teaching, orphanages and health care.

A closer study with a few female missionaries in focus, will demonstrate their practical work and their ambivalent position in the dual power hierarchies of the mission: As Europeans, they were considered superior to the indigenous population; but as women they were subordinate to the male missionaries. The source material and the life stories of the female missionaries will be discussed in relation to concepts like patriarchal structures, intertwined power hierarchies, vocation, mothering, negotiations and agency.

Victoria Martinez, Linköping University

Women Survivors of Nazi Concentration Camps as Agents and Providers of Second World War Humanitarian Work in Sweden

In narratives of Sweden’s humanitarian actions during and immediately following the Second World War, the recipients of these efforts have existed primarily as part of an anonymous, passive and grateful collective. In particular, women who came to Sweden after being evacuated from Nazi concentration camps have typically been portrayed as little more than objects of Swedish care. Aside from disregarding the agency these women had and exercised before, during and after they became recipients of Swedish humanitarian aid, it has also glossed over the fact that some of them were also actively providing humanitarian aid to other survivors, both in official and unofficial capacities, in Sweden. Though early post-war historical commissions and documentation centers have been studied in an international context, little scholarship exists which examines these women and their agentic role in Swedish humanitarianism following the Second World War or conceptualizes the work they conducted as humanitarian aid in a national or international context. This contribution will address these women and their work which challenges traditional narratives and conceptions of both women survivors of Nazi Holocaust and concentration camps and Second World War humanitarian aid in Sweden.

Maria Småberg, Lund University

Remembering Relief. The memory of Alma Johansson’s humanitarian work for Armenian women and children

The Swedish missionary Alma Johansson (1881-1974) witnessed the Armenian genocide in 1915. She then worked as a nurse and at an Armenian orphanage. When the children fell victim to the killings, she tried to save lives. It was also important for her to report on the abuses and form opinion through different channels. She then continued to work among Armenian refugees in Turkey and Greece until her retirement.

Alma Johansson's humanitarian efforts will be highlighted in a new exhibition in the Swedish Parliament, "The Room of Good Deeds". In Sweden, she is relatively unknown, but in Armenia, on the other hand, she is honored as a national mother. In this study I want to analyze the memory of Johansson in various national and transnational contexts. Here, political, cultural, moral and existential needs and agendas are found. Where, when and why has Johansson's memory been kept alive and by whom? What are the gendered dimensions of the memory cultures embracing Alma Johansson?

Lina Sturfelt, Lund university

Female activists, fostering parents and mere children. Gendered humanitarian practices and narratives of Swedish Save the Children, 1919–1925 ca.

The First World War deeply affected constructions of masculinities and femininities and led to a severe gender crisis in Europe. Gender conflicts was an integral part of the post-war reconstruction process and relief programs. Humanitarian aid agencies thus often played an important role in (re)constructing gender ideas.

In this paper, Swedish Save the Children, SSC (Rädda Barnen) serves as an illustrative example of what is called ‘feminization’ of humanitarianism, both when it comes to aid workers and victims. This secular, transnational NGO was founded in 1919 by five women organizing emergency relief to the starving children of the former Central Powers. Later, it expanded its work to Russia and the Baltic states. In contrast to f ex the Red Cross, all members of the SSC board in Stockholm and nearly all of the fieldworkers were women, many of whom were well-known feminists, peace activists, child workers, and writers. First, the paper will discuss the gendering of humanitarian practices of interwar SSC and how ideas of gender was played out in the daily relief work on the ground, both when it came to activists and recipients. Second, it will analyse the different contradictory ways in which gender explicitly and implicitly shaped the organization’s humanitarian narratives.

Maria Thorin, Åbo Academy University

An Exploratory Review of Humanitarianism from a Care Ethical Perspective

As we research women’s contemporary and historical roles in humanitarian aid it becomes critical to revisit the underpinning philosophy of humanitarianism from a feminist care ethical perspective. In the field of moral philosophy thanks to the pioneering work of Carol Gilligan in the 1980´s, listening to women's voices allowed for fundamentally new ethical questions to emerge, ways to understand the world, expose and solve moral dilemmas, which radically re-shaped moral philosophy and created a new branch of philosophy, separate from virtue theory. Because this philosophical gender dimension has largely been overlooked within humanitarian studies so far, this exploratory review will problematize the humanitarian doctrine, informing itself by key care ethical theories, looking for the "Different Voice" within humanitarianism. Drawing from linguistic analysis the paper explores how the concept of care is used and understood by humanitarians and the implications of these conceptualisations. It investigates assumptions, rights-based perspectives, and draws from recent lively debates around sexism, racism, neocolonialism in the sector, with an aim to identify the contribution of Feminist Care Ethics to a much needed strenghtend humanitarian undertaking in the contemporary global context of unprecedented crisis.

Malin Thor Tureby, Linköping University

The Jewish women in Sweden and the persecuted Jews of Europe. Humanitarian aid in the shadow of the Holocaust

The experiences and histories of Jewish women are in general not represented in previous Swedish research on the history of the Jewish minority, the Swedish Jewish response to the Nazi terror and the Holocaust or the history of the women’s movement in general. Previous research on the Swedish Jewish response and assistance for the Jewish refugees and survivors of Nazi persecution has mainly dealt with the Jewish community in Stockholm and its relief committee, where the women were absent from leadership positions.

The aim of this study is to make Jewish women visible as historical actors. This is done through an empirical study, using a previously ignored archived: The Jewish women’s club archive, with the aim of exploring how and in what ways Jewish women’s club in Stockholm engaged in the persecuted Jews of Europe during and after the Holocaust.

However, the women's humanitarian aid to the persecuted Jews of Europe is also being investigated in the context of how the Jewish women’s club manifested itself in the public.  The empirical aim of this study is thus twofold, first, the formation of Jewish women’s club in the public is investigated. Second, Jewish women’s’ involvement and contribution to humanitarian aid for Jewish refugees and survivors in Stockholm, Sweden and Europe are examined.

Sofia Österborg Wiklund

Educating for a better world. Historical Perspectives on Swedish Development Aid Education 1965-1995

The purpose of this project is to investigate the historical relationship between Swedish development aid (biståndet) and popular education (folkbildningen) and how development issues, as an area of cultivation (bildningsområde), has been understood, communicated and negotiated in their intersection. From there, the study aims at investigating how national and social identities, and roles in the emerging field of international development aid, are constructed over time. Departing from a critical discourse historical approach (DHA), the study focus on archives with educational activities that have been conducted by the former Swedish International Development Authority, SIDA, and its educational institute, the “Sandö-school”, under the operating years of SIDA, 1965-1995. The research questions revolve around the aims of the institution and the educational content and pedagogies over time. How have the purpose and the function of the institute been described and motivated? What actors are involved and how? Who is subjected to the educational activities? What is considered valuable knowledge, and what is not? How and what are the students supposed to learn? How are classed, gendered and racialized notions of development issues, as well as identities and roles in aid, expressed and negotiated? The study aims at adding knowledge to the fields of History of Popular Education as well as History of Aid.