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Brown-bag lunchtime seminar: Linnea Tillema ‘“An exercise in freedom”: Emotional work and norms of self-improvement in Sweden, 1960-1980s.’

Wednesday 7th February, 2018

1pm, 2.17, Arts Two

At this ‘Brown bag seminar’ (bring your own lunch), Linnea Tillema, will give a paper titled ‘“An exercise in freedom”: Emotional work and norms of self-improvement in Sweden, 1960-1980s.’


In my ongoing doctoral project, I study the pedagogical and normative aspects of the insistent talk about sexual and emotional liberation, fulfilment, and personal growth as it transpired in Sweden c. 1960–1980. The empirical cases are drawn from three different fields of pedagogical enterprise: leadership training, parenting courses, and sexual advice literature. Within these three, rather different contexts, freedom and authenticity in emotional (or sexual) reactions and expressions were systematically encouraged and made the goal of advanced exercises, elaborate training programmes, and a structured, goal-oriented work aimed at improving the self and one’s ability to form authentic relationships to others. By studying the norms embedded in these projects, and the role they played in modern subject formation and the construction of social and political identities, I hope to shed light on the emergence of late modern reform programmes focused on the individual and concerned with individual self-optimisation, which have since proliferated.

At the advertised seminar, I will exemplify the larger themes and questions of my project by discussing one of my case studies in some detail. This study focuses on discourses and practices surrounding “sensitivity training”, a method for leadership training within the larger frame of organisational development, which became popular in Sweden in the early 1970s.

The talk will take place in room 2.17, Arts Two, Mile End Campus, London E1 4NS. For directions to Mile End and a campus map, see bit.ly/QMcampusmap.

See our events programme for information about other seminars this term.