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  • Scandinavian Studies:The Past Hundred Years, The Next Hundred Years
  • Jason Lavery, SASS President

Opening Plenary Address delivered at the One Hundred First Annual Meeting of the Society Chicago, Illinois, May 5, 2011

Members of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study, honored guests, my dear colleagues and friends! This conference is a commemoration of the society's centennial. It is also a homecoming. This society, our society, was founded in this city in 1911. In the ensuing century SASS has held fourteen more meetings in Chicago, sponsored by institutions ranging from the University of Chicago to the Svenska klubben of Chicago to North Park University, our current host. In addition to the fifteen meetings held in Chicago, three more meetings have been held in neighboring Evanston. In total, the Chicagoland area has hosted the annual SASS conference eighteen times, more than any other metropolitan area.

Speaking of North Park University, I would like to recognize the hard work of our conference organizers, Dean Charles Peterson of North Park University, his chief assistant Karin Andersson, and the many others here who helped them make this centennial conference possible. I would them to stand and ask all of you to acknowledge their work with a round of applause.

Over the last two years as SASS president, I have noticed that our conferences are held with a very strong sense of the present. We present papers based on our most current scholarly findings, we share the [End Page 299] current news about ourselves with others. We seek to manage most of the society's affairs for the next year in a matter of a couple of days.

At this conference I hope that we not only attend to the tasks at hand, but also that we start to establish a common sense of mission for the next century. I suggest we start this process by recognizing our current strengths, identifying the challenges before us, and learning from the experiences of our past century.

Over the last century, this society has developed two great strengths: a commitment to building an ever inclusive scholarly community and a dedication to publishing high-quality scholarship.

SASS members have made their society a vibrant support network for fellow scholars in Scandinavian Studies. This function of SASS is more important to its members than to members of most other similar scholarly societies. Most of the members of SASS do not hold positions in departments of Scandinavian, but rather in departments such as foreign languages, history, English, or comparative literature. Many active members of SASS work outside of universities in such capacities as museum curators, professional translators, and independent scholars.

Of the thirteen members of the society's current Executive Council, only five hold positions in departments of Scandinavian. For the majority of SASS members, this society is its Scandinavian department, the institutional framework for its scholarly activity in Scandinavian Studies. Such a framework provides an important resource when a member must justify her or his activities in a daily work environment that does not specialize in Scandinavian Studies.

We might be tempted to believe that this commitment to inclusive community stems from our desire to apply to SASS the values that we encounter when we study Scandinavia, such as consensus, egalitarianism, and flexibility for difference. We should also consider less scholarly and lofty explanations. Our commitment to an inclusive community stems from the collective recognition that we work in a small scholarly field. We cannot afford to be too exclusive and survive. We're realists. We realize that we're all we've got.

Most members of this society have experienced this spirit of inclusive community primarily at the annual conference. This inclusiveness is evident in the diversity of panels, presentations, and meetings of various groups within the society, such as the Women's Caucus, the Society of Historians of Scandinavia, the Sámi caucus, the Ibsen Society, ASTRA, NORTANA, the Finnish caucus, and many others. We also grow our [End Page 300] community through our dedication to developing the next generation of scholars. The society's President's Grants support the travel of graduate students to the annual conference. The society awards Aurora Borealis Prizes for...


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