Nationen på spel. Kropp, kön och svenskhet i populärpressens representationer av olympiska spel 1948-1972

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


In this thesis, I study representations of summer and winter Olympic Games and Olympic athletes in six Swedish popular magazines 1948-1972. The purpose is to examine the forms of identity produced within the nation as an “imagined community”, in discursive processes where gender, sexuality, ”race”/ ethnicity, class and age/generation intersect and mutually construct each other. The study is inspired by feminist and postcolonial perspectives on how gender and “race”/ethnicity are upheld as socially relevant classifications through the cultural repetition of physical and mental differences. Theoretical points of departure is Foucault’s connecting of power and knowledge and Cultural Studies’ conception of representation and how the textual/visual address of the reader makes available and closes off subject-positions. ”Body” and ”nation” are used as intersectional analytical concepts, and the textual/visual meaning making is identified through the techniques that I have termed dichotomisation, compensation, harmonisation, contrasting and connecting.
The material is understood in relation to changing historical contexts such as “folkhemmet” and the welfare state, gender relations, global political processes of decolonisation, the Cold war and the radicalised political climate of the 1960’s. The analysis highlights how historically specific configurations of Swedish masculinity and Swedish femininity are defined not only through gender dichotomisation, but also by differentiation from – for example – communist bodies/characters or “exotic” and racialised subjects. However, “Swedishness” is not only separated from, but also connected to specific identities. The textual ”us” is located in complex and sometimes contradictory processes, through affinity with Nordic countries, the western side in the Cold war and ”white civilisation” – but also in relation to an abstract and universalistic conception of to ”the world”.
The thesis points out the crucial importance of physical work for the merging of masculinity and nation. The sport activities of female athletes are downplayed through compensating markers of conventional femininity and trivialised by being constructed as playful rather than as strained and disciplined physical work. However, the analyses also illustrate the conditions for discursive destabilisations; for example in the case of Olympic medals, where the visual and textual representation of a female Swedish body at work is made possible through intersections of gender, youth or nation. Furthermore, the results show a move towards a higher degree of complexity on the issue of masculinity during the time period, whereas the cultural conception of femininity is characterised by a great degree of stability.


  • Helena Tolvhed
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History


  • cultural history, sports media, nationalism, popular culture, ethnicity, intersektionalitet, gender, massmedia, femininity, masculinity, cold war, discourse, Olympic Games, Sweden, 1960-talet.
Translated title of the contributionSporting the Nation: Gender, "Swedishness" and the Body in the Representations of Olympic Games in Swedish Popular Press 1948-1972 :
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • Edgren, Monika, Supervisor, External person
Award date2009 Jan 24
  • h:ström - Text & Kultur
Print ISBNs978-91-7327-082-3
StatePublished - 2008
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2009-01-24 Time: 13:15 Place: Lärarutbildningen, Malmö högskola, sal D138 External reviewer(s) Name: Blomberg, Eva Title: [unknown] Affiliation: Mälardalens högskola ---