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PastForward: The political uses of the past in digital discourses about Nordic futures

Research project In democratic elections, voters regularly have the chance to decide the future of their country. They can choose between political parties with different visions for society that promise them to solve today’s problems and crises. In the project PastForward, we want to find out how parties used the past to justify their visions of the future.

In this project we will analyze how the past featured in the digital campaign material and social media communications of the main political parties during the 2021 Norwegian election, 2022 Swedish and Danish elections and the 2023 Finnish election as well in the responses these communications prompt from other users.

Head of project

Manuel Menke
Tenure Track Assistant Professor , University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Project overview

Project period:

2023-12-01 2026-11-30



Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Sociology

Research area


Project description

The main objective of PastForward is to gain insights into the political uses of the past in the Nordic region to understand how futures are negotiated based on legitimacy claims derived from collective memories and histories. This is relevant because the inclusion or exclusion of specific groups and their pasts within the national imagined community can have an impact on the sense of belonging and representation and ultimately on social cohesion in Nordic societies. Therefore, the project not only researches the campaign communication to identify which references to the past are made and how the past is used to engage potential voters but also how this communication resonates in discourses among citizens, politicians, journalists, activists, and others responding on social media.

Research questions

PastForward is at its core a comparative project. The study designs and analyses will allow comparing the findings across the party spectrum and the four Nordic countries. Based on the outlined background, the project asks the following research questions (RQs):

RQ1: Which references to the past occur in the campaign material and social media discourses during elections in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden?

RQ2: How and when do parties use the past, i.e., national and Nordic collective memories and histories, as a communication strategy to connect to potential voters?

RQ3: How are imaginaries of the future anchored in and legitimized by the pasts of the addressed voters and their imagined communities; and who might be excluded?

RQ4: How and by whom are the uses of the past in party communication supported or challenged on social media?

RQ5: How and why do our findings differ or resemble across the political spectrum and between the four Nordic countries?

RQ6: Is there a shared imaginary of a Nordic future in national elections in the four countries and how is it related to a Nordic past and identity?

RQ7: Which impact on social cohesion do our findings suggest regarding the political uses of the past and their influence on national and Nordic futures?

Do you want further information?

Contact Samuel Merrill, associate professor at the Department of Sociology, Umeå University.


Latest update: 2024-02-27