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Canonising Culture: Collective Identity Construction in the Denmark Canon


  • Stine Ebbesen

Summary, in English

Inspired by what appears to be a nationalist turn in cultural policy-making across Europe, this thesis is concerned with the recent upsurge in the canonisation of Danish culture as it seems to somewhat contradict the cultural policy priorities pursued by the supranational and intergovernmental bodies of which Denmark is a member. The purpose of the research is to investigate how collective identity is constructed in the Denmark Canon. Moreover, it explores the motivations behind the project. The empirical material – the ten-page Denmark Canon, two newspaper articles featuring the former Minister for Culture Bertel Haarder and a speech given by him at a seminar – is analysed using a hermeneutical approach and a combination of three methods. Thematic qualitative text analysis and social linguistic analysis are used to identify the most dominant narratives on collective identity present in the Denmark Canon. Critical discourse analysis is used to elaborate the resulting identity narratives in the context of the articles and the speech to clarify and explain their latent socio-political motifs. A theoretical framework outlining aspects pertaining to four interconnected pairs – identity and belonging, cultural heritage and collective memory, loyalty and civil religion, ontological security and cultural trauma – substantiates this approach.

The first part of the analysis resulted in three identity narratives. The first two focused on securing a sense of national self and state self, respectively. These two combined to form a biographical identity narrative framing the entire Denmark Canon. In addition to their individual characteristics, they were all concerned with a distinctly national dimension and the establishment of continuity through the activation of selected memories giving meaning to the past, present and future. The second part of the analysis revealed the presence of two discourses in the articles and the speech – a discourse of crisis and a discourse of inclusiveness. It was evident that both, in different ways, tried to create a legitimate context within which the biographical identity narrative could be justified as either a tool for crisis management or a common cultural denominator.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Master's degree (two years)


  • Social Sciences


  • Denmark Canon
  • collective identity
  • cultural heritage
  • canonisation
  • identity narrative
  • Danish identity
  • nationalism
  • European Studies


  • Eleonora Narvselius