Norlit 2017: Nordic Utopias and Dystopias. Turku, Finland, 8-10 June 2017

Nordic Utopias and Dystopias

The Nordic countries have often been considered as ideal states with regard to their organization of society, including, among other things, their education systems, gender equality, and a strong concern for nature. From the late twentieth century onwards, an increasing interest in Nordic literature, film, and design – genres where social themes have been strongly highlighted – can be noted internationally. This discourse of the Nordic societies can be considered to contain both utopian and dystopian aspects.

According to Ruth Levitas in her seminal work on utopian theory, The Concept of Utopia (1990), contemporary research of utopias is characterized by multiplicity. Levitas claims that the modern concept of utopia can be understood in accordance with criteria such as form, form and content, function, function and form,  as well as by avoiding definitions altogether. If the concept is defined in terms of both form and content and, further, in accordance with Thomas More’s paradigmatic work Utopia (1516), the literary invention of utopia indicates that utopias are good places to be found nowhere. By depicting better societies and civilizations utopias are not only critical of society: they also seem to question the very idea of an ideal society altogether (Hewitt, 1987). In this respect utopias – be they understood as cultural genres, satires, political topoi, or ideologies – contain a dystopian potential or tendency. The opposite is, however, also the case. From Ernst Bloch’s definition of utopia as a site where the principle of hope is always at work, it must be concluded that the dystopia also carries a utopian potential. The ultimately good or bad society that does not exist anywhere can of course not be or become real. Nevertheless, what actually may be identified in most social, cultural and political undertakings and developments, are utopian tendencies as well as dystopian aspects.


Keynote speakers:

Susanna Alakoski, writer, winner of the Swedish August prize for literature in 2010

Professor Nicole Pohl, Oxford Brookes University

Pasi Sahlberg, Education Advisor


Organizing committee: 

Pia Maria Ahlbäck (Åbo Akademi University) pia.ahlback(at)
Lena Gottelier (University of Turku) lena.gottelier(at)
Miikka Laihinen (University of Turku) mjmlai(at)
Freja Rudels (Åbo Akademi University) freja.rudels(at)
Jouni Teittinen (University of Turku) jouni.teittinen(at)

Contact: norlit2017(at)