Learn about Sweden For Members

KEY POINTS: What do we know about the plans for a future Swedish cultural canon?

The Local Sweden
The Local Sweden - [email protected]
KEY POINTS: What do we know about the plans for a future Swedish cultural canon?
Books for sale and the Akademibokhandeln bookshop in Stockholm's Gallerian shopping mall. Photo: Amir Nabizadeh/TT

The government has promised to set up a committee to develop a proposal for a Swedish "cultural canon". Foreigners may end up having to know about the works included for a future citizenship test. Here's what we know so far.


What do we know about the government's plans? 

For the government, this is a political project. 

"Culture and our common history are the ground of our collective identity," prime minister Ulf Kristersson said in his speech outlining the government's plans. "It creates a sense of community and increases our understanding of one another." 

He said that "a committee of independent experts" would be appointed to develop a proposal. 

In the Tidö agreement between the three governing parties and the far-right Sweden Democrats, it adds that the experts would have "artistic competence in their respective fields", and would develop a canon that included "different cultural forms".


The agreement also calls for experts with "literary as a well as pedagogical competence" to develop reading lists with Swedish and international literary works". 

Denmark's cultural canon, which was presented in 2006, includes 108 works. divided into eight categories: architecture, visual arts, design and crafts, film, literature, and music. 

Culture Minister Parisa Liljestrand told SVT in an interview last month that she hoped that exposing everyone to a common cultural canon could "bring together a divided country" and would also help teachers know what works to expose their students to.

Will it be part of a future citizenship test? 

Culture Minister Parisa Liljestrand told SVT in an interview last month that this was not something she was ruling out.  "That's something I think a government inquiry should look at and experts should think about," she said. 

But in the run-up to the 2018 election, the Sweden Democrats then culture spokesperson Aron Emilsson told SVT that he felt there could be a test on the cultural canon, or that it could feed into the citizenship test. 

In Denmark, the cultural canon feeds into the (badly out of date) learning material given out in advance for those taking the Danish citizenship test. 

This means that the cultural canon is part of the citizenship test, but those taking the test can concentrate on learning facts about the 108 works which form part of the official citizenship-test learning material.

The Danish citizenship test does, however, include questions on current affairs and other issues which are not part of the official learning material. 


What does Sweden's artistic world say about the plans? 

Almost everyone hates them.

A group of 35 leading Swedish authors, including leading literary and bestselling authors such as Viveka Sten and Camilla Läckberg, wrote an article in the Expressen newspaper condemning the plans. 

"To control literature is to control people's thoughts and lives, and that does not belong in a democratic society," they wrote. 

A cultural canon, they continued, would mean "excising the unwanted", and would be a "repressive instrument". 

Anna Troberg, head of DIK, the union for creative people and authors, wrote this week in Svenska Dagbladet that the proposal "ignored the expert competence of the entire cultural sector" and was "fundamentally a nationalist education project". 


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also