Iscensättandet av Solskensolympiaden. Dagspressens konstruktion av föreställda gemenskaper vid Stockholmsolympiaden 1912

Christian Widholm

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This thesis analyses the renegotiation of Swedish national identity in newspapers’ coverage of the Olympics of 1912. The “sun-shine Olympics”, as Swedes have come to term the event, idealises early twentieth-century Sweden and early sports events. Researchers have shown that this era was far from idyllic in Sweden: it was characterised by various battles concerning the proper national community. Not much has, however, been said about the impact of “apolitical” events and the role played by newspapers in defining this community. Using constructionist theories of identity and linguistic theories on media texts I analyze how three journalistic genres co-created national collectives. The first analysis deals with how the press represented two inaugurations. The genre was a semi-sacral idiom, utilized by newspapers reporting on both right- and left-wing public events around the last turn-of-the century. This genre included a number of apolitical elements, which functioned to legitimise that which was described: for instance romantic references to nature and descriptions of lovely women. This genre, I conclude, demands that its readers conform to certain norms; it tends to silence alternative perspectives. The reports on the inaugurations constructed a patriarchal order’s self-image. They constructed a male collective through a theatrical display which involved, while implicitly “othering”, foreigners, women and children. The second analysis deals with a physical genre, sports journalism. The bodies represented in this genre loaded the imagined community with substance, and gave the texts an “authentic” aura. Those outside the readers’ imagined community were given another sort of body – a body appropriate to ethnic others. Sports journalism also included articles describing the audience. These confirmed the readers’ middle-class identity through clichéd stories about working-class public and an over-aestheticized elite. I conclude that the authentic aura around sports journalism became a way of defending the genre against the accusation that the imagined community that it generated was a mere cultural construction. The visual language is the last genre examined. Pictures representing the male athletes were different from those which usually represented public men. A new masculinity, I conclude, was launched. Action pictures supposedly represented reality. The bodies represented were no longer simply “our boys”, but our heroes. The middle-class male heroes gained a new body, replacing more traditional heroic bodies. Women athletes were also pictured, and the new masculinity was in implicit contrast to the femininities portrayed. The pictures of women, however, present no easily-decipherable pattern, but a series of ambiguities. The pictures also established the national male collective as “white”. Visualisations of foreigners, presented an ”appetizing otherness”, implicitly fixed that which was particularly Swedish.
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • History
  • Salomon, Kim, Supervisor
Award date2008 Dec 12
ISBN (Print)978-91-7327-079-3
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2008-12-12
Time: 14:15
Place: Department of History, sal 3

External reviewer(s)

Name: Ljunggren, Jens
Title: [unknown]
Affiliation: University of Lund, Department of History


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History


  • sports journalism
  • imagined communities
  • mass media
  • gender identity
  • masculinity
  • social classes
  • nationalism
  • Olympics
  • ethnicity
  • modern history
  • 19th-century
  • Sweden

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