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Norwegian cultural policy: a civilising mission?

By Egil Bjørnsen


This dissertation aims to explore the extent to which what has been termed „the civilising mission‟ has been a central rationale behind Norwegian cultural policy.\ud In order to contextualise the research the German term Bildung, which refers to human growth processes, is used as a conceptual framework. Bildung can be achieved in two different, albeit related, ways: firstly, through an object approach, which takes great works of arts as its point of departure and where personal growth can be achieved through exposure to these and which endorses clear cultural hierarchies, and secondly, through a subject approach, which emphasises each individual‟s own preferences and desires and where a much greater range of cultural activities can facilitate personal growth.\ud In addition to an historical analysis of the ideas that have informed Norwegian cultural policies dating back to 1814, this project draws upon „green papers‟ published by the Norwegian government through its Ministry of Culture. This is supplemented by a more detailed analysis of a key cultural policy initiative of the 2000s: den kulturelle skolesekken (DKS)1, which is a major programme initiated to enable children in primary school to be exposed to art-works produced by professional artists.\ud The project concludes that although a subject and an object approach to Bildung have co-existed throughout the period charted here there has since the 90s been an increased focus on the object oriented approach. This appears evident both in the general cultural policy discourse but articularly through the disciplining aspect of DKS and its strong focus on, what is being referred to as, the „professional arts‟ as a vehicle for Bildung

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