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Published: 2019-02-08

Nordic Noir trendsetting in Europe

FEATURE Katarina Gregersdotter, senior lecturer at the Department of Language Studies at Umeå University, is a part of the EU funded project DETECT – Detecting Transnational Identity in European Popular Crime Narratives – with the aim to study the formation of Europe’s cultural identity.

Text: Inger Nilsson

Who takes part in the EU project?
I'm the only Swede. The others come from Denmark, Romania, Hungary, France, Spain, Germany, Northern Ireland, Greece, Italy and Belgium. The Danish group is also focused on Nordic Noir. They are media researchers and will primarily study film and TV productions. My focus is on literature.

Why this specialisation?
I've studied Nordic and Anglo-American crime fiction for years, and this is what I'll primarily be doing in DETECT. There is an informative purpose. The objective is to reach as many people as possible, through for instance public conferences, film viewings, a digital platform to help students and teachers with an extensive corpus of crime fiction productions in Europe. Even mobile apps. Several researchers work with production companies and authors, for instance.

What's your approach to a common European cultural identity?
Criminal stories, which we've chosen to focus on, spread well across borders, now more than ever. In novels and TV series, we've chosen themes such as class, ethnicity, location, history and gender. How are these themes presented in different countries? How is class discussed in Hungary compared to in Germany? How can a country's history be described, and how present is it in crime fiction? What is included from Henning Mankell's stories about Wallander when it is filmed for a UK audience? Some study co-produced films and TV series like the Danish-Swedish The Bridge.

What time span are you focusing on?
We've pinpointed the time after 1989 — the fall of the Berlin Wall — and onwards. Many political, cultural and geographical changes have taken place since. But texts older than that are still re-issued and there are constantly new screen versions of Agatha Christie's books, for instance, so they also fit the time span.

Do genres spread diffently aross Europe?
Beside English-speaking criminal genres, I would say Nordic Noir has the greatest spread. Henning Mankell's books about Kurt Wallander hit the roof, and of course, Stieg Larsson's incredible popularity. Many Nordic authors now sell their work to large portions of Europe. It has become somewhat of a trendsetting genre. Many countries want their own "noir" genre, like Italian Noir. They don't sell as well, but it might just be a question of time.

More about DETECT

One focus is to investigate if there is a common international European cultural identity, and, if so, what that would be. Some keywords in the DETECT project are ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, geography/location, genre, transculturalism and history, nationality, transnationalism, globalisation, consumption, spread, production and marketing.

Read more at: www.detect-project.eu/

Text: Inger Nilsson
Translation: Anna Lawrence
Photo: Ulrika Bergfors

This article was first published in the magazine Think no. 1 2019.