In June 1938 the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter published a special jubilee supplement to celebrate the king’s eightieth birthday, called “Gustaf the Fifth’s Sweden.” Among the articles on topics such as industry and economy there was one article about tourism. The article was titled “We Are a Traveling People,” and the main theme was an evaluation of the Swede as a traveler. In a humorous tone the journalist claimed that the Swede is a popular guest abroad who is not too stingy but who is at the same time somewhat too provincial and complacent. The journalist also claimed that “we are increasingly becoming a traveling people.” The article is one among many other articles about tourism and international travel that explicitly or implicitly discusses a national identity. In this article I analyze how a Swedish national identity was constructed in travel journalism and discussions about travel and tourism published in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter in the 1930s.
In her article about heritage tourism Catherine Palmer writes that “tourism is a powerful force in the construction and maintenance of a national identity”, central to how “concepts of nation-ness are defined” (1999: 313). National identities are expressed through travel narratives about exotic faraway places and peoples, but research on travel narratives has mostly emphasized the image of the other rather than the self. In this article the focus is on how a national identity is formed through the encounter with foreign cultures and peoples. Modernity is an essential part of this identity construction. Tourism is important in order to construct the national self as a modern identity. In Dagens Nyheter in the 1930s, the narratives about masculine aristocratic and colonial ways of traveling were combined with modern tourism practices, presenting comfortable ways to travel that were coded feminine. This shift is significant because it represents a democratization of traveling. The newspaper presented tourism as something that concerned all Swedes.
The articles about exotic foreign places are often preoccupied with asserting a Swedish identity while at the same time being transnational; the narrative about Sweden is constructed within the context of a broader European identity. Many of the ideas about tourism, national identities, and the encounter with foreign others that are expressed in the Swedish newspaper in the 1930s are not exclusively Swedish. However, there are aspects of how the journalists relate to the foreign that are specifically Swedish. Previous research on Swedish travel narratives has described this as the Linnean gaze that expresses an objective stance and a scientific distance to what is encountered (Lagerkvist 2005). In this article, the concept of a Linnean gaze will be placed in the context of the interwar period.
My material is travel journalism and texts about tourism published in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter (Today’s news) in 1932 and 1938. The political situation of the 1930s put questions of nationalism and national identity on the agenda. In order to go through the whole newspaper rather than a specific category of material, I chose two years to represent the 1930s.
The newspaper was first published in 1864 and is still in publication. In the 1930s it was distributed nationwide but was centered on Stockholm and was from the start a liberal newspaper (Holmberg et al. 1983). It presented a specific urban middle-class view that has implications for the kind of national identity that is constructed. I have chosen to study both travel journalism and articles in which tourism and travel are the topics. The latter category includes, for example, editorials discussing the development of tourism.
Becoming Modern through Tourism
Nationalism, modernity, and tourism are intertwined concepts. Tourism is a modern phenomenon, and an important sign of modernity. John Urry and Jonas Larsen write that “to be a tourist is one of the characteristics of the modern experience. It has become a marker of status in modern societies and is also thought to be necessary for good health and a cosmopolitan outlook” (2011: 5). Elfriede Fürsich and Anandam Kavoori write about tourism as an icon of modernity and of nationalism as a marker of modernism when nation-states seek to create themselves as modern countries by defining themselves as tourism sites (2014). The link between these three concepts was made explicitly in the discussions in Dagens Nyheter. Tourism was seen as a necessary aspect of becoming modern as well as being an activity that would foster a moderate nationalism, as I will show.
Previous research has shown how a country showcases its modernity by marketing the country for tourism and how a country is presented for international consumption, one example being Melissa Harper and Richard White’s Symbols of Australia (2010). Researchers have analyzed the branding of countries, the cultural significance of national parks, as well as how heritage sites are used to bolster national sentiments for domestic tourists (Urry and Larsen 2011). Orvar Löfgren writes about how specific landscapes are constructed as typical for a nation (2001). I argue that modernity is also shown by traveling to other countries, by being tourists. Less emphasis has been placed on outbound tourism as a part of how national identities are constructed. One exception is Rudy Koshar’s article “‘What Ought to Be Seen’: Tourists’ Guidebooks and National Identities in Modern Germany and Europe,” about British, German, and Italian guidebooks (1998). He analyzes the image of the self in tourism, for example, when writing about how ideas of Englishness were used in British guidebooks about other European countries.
Writing in the late 1990s, Koshar argued that “scholars of leisure travel have done little to explicate the collective rather than individual dimensions of tourism. Specifically they have ignored the national elements of touristic behavior, just as scholars of national identity and nationalism have done little to analyze consumption and travel” (325). In Dagens Nyheter, tourism was discussed as a matter concerning the modern nation, rather than being something that concerned the individual. Tourists that were misbehaving would “bring the Swedish tourist and vacation culture into disrepute” (“Turist-och semesterkultur,” 25 June 1938).
Tourism and travel journalism make it possible to think about and define national identities in often humorous ways. Löfgren sees tourism as a “cultural laboratory where people have been able to experiment with new aspects of their identities, their social relations, or their interaction with nature” (1999: 7). Travel journalism can be defined as first-person narratives about travel. The narrative recounts actual journeys as opposed to fictional accounts, even though the line between fact and fiction in the travel journalism of the 1930s is occasionally unclear, at least for the reader of today. It is typical also of the wider genre of travel writing that the line between fact and fiction is blurred (Holland and Huggan 2000). The genre is notoriously slippery, which also facilitates experimentation and playfulness. The content of travel journalism is often similar to that of foreign correspondence, but since travel journalism is less of a serious genre than so-called hard news, it allows for another kind of examination of events and issues. In the 1930s the political tensions were discussed in articles and shorter texts that can be defined as travel journalism.
The genre of travel journalism is rife with discussions about national identities also, for the obvious reason that the main topic of travel journalism is the encounter with and the presentation of the foreign other, and the writers can only encounter the other through the self. In other words, it is inevitable that they compare and make sense of the foreign through their own cultural background. It is possible to refer to Michael Billig’s concept of banal nationalism, since travel journalism is often thought of as a rather banal and trivial genre, not important enough to be the topic of research (Billig 1995; Hanusch and Fürsich 2014). Travel journalism, however, differs from what Billig describes as mundane manifestations of nationalism, since the nation is not only implicitly present but also explicitly referred to. It is referred to in a way that is most often humorous, the main joke being the contrast between a Swedish way of being and various kinds of exotic others.
The nation, a national identity and way of being, is a constant topic in travel journalism and is presented not least through well-established stereotypes about, for example, the passionate and corrupt Southern Europeans. In contrast to these the Swede is calm and rational. A typical example is provided in an article about Mexico from October 1938, titled “Colonel Meyer—Hotel Owner and Pistol Shooter,” in which the locals ask the writer how often there is a revolution in Sweden, a country that they have never heard of according to the writer, and they are surprised when he tells them that there is never any revolutions. Mexico in contrast is of course chaotic and dangerous, which is established already in the title; the hotel owner shoots with a pistol, as the title claims. A European and Swedish identity is constructed in the encounter with the non-European. The non-European world becomes the exotic and dangerous backdrop that emphasizes the adventurousness of the male European traveler. The supposed backwardness of the other makes the European traveler seem modern.
The image of the non-Westerner as the passionate and dangerous other as well as the image of the self as the rational European expressed in the article about Mexico has been thoroughly explored before in research on colonialism, tourism, travel narratives, and travel journalism. The image of the other and the image of the self are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them. It is impossible to study one of them without also studying the other. In general, however, research has emphasized the construction of the foreign other.
This article is therefore not foremost concerned with the well-known stereotypes of the other, but instead analyzes the image of the self and the construction of national identity through an analysis of tourism culture. Tourism was a common topic of discussion in Dagens Nyheter in the 1930s. Modernity was central to this discussion, as it has been central to a Swedish self-image throughout the twentieth century (Grinell 2004). The following article will explore the connections between modernity, tourism, and a national identity, using Swedish travel journalism as a case study.
I will first present the different kinds of travelers that can be encountered in the material to discuss the different traditions of traveling that they belong to. These will be placed in the historical context of the 1930s. This presentation will show how the newspaper wrote about traveling and the tourism industry that was developing as well as answer the questions of who traveled, how, and why. Tourism can be defined by being placed in contrast to other forms of traveling. I will then present how tourism was discussed and how it was given a role in the cultivation of a modern national identity. Finally, I will show how a Swedish national identity was imagined to have a specific position of distance and rationality in relation to the foreign.
Early Mass Tourism and the Interwar Years
I have chosen articles from the 1930s to study perceptions of early mass tourism. It is difficult to pinpoint the beginnings of mass tourism. Urry and Larsen place this beginning in the 1840s and the travels of the British working class (2011). Others would say that mass tourism begins in the mid-twentieth century with the development of package holidays (Baranowski and Furlough 2001). Dagens Nyheter in the 1930s wrote about tourism as if it were an established practice, which is evident, for example, in the existence of tourism stereotypes that the readers of the newspaper were expected to be familiar with, but the idea of ordinary people vacationing and traveling and perhaps even going overseas in large numbers was a novelty and therefore something that was discussed recurrently in the newspaper. Tourism was treated as something that needed to be understood and dealt with. There was an ongoing discussion about how tourism should be organized and what its purpose should be. Rather than being the beginning of mass tourism, this era can be seen as the beginning of discourses of mass tourism.
In the interwar years mass tourism grew further with the development of car ownership, coach travel, and air transport as well as “the growth of holidays with pay-movement” (Grinell 2004). For the first time, legislated paid vacations were perceived as a right of citizenship. The thought that going away was necessary for health was established. Vacations were “touted for workers’ health, hygiene, and, ultimately, productivity once back on the job” (Baranowski and Furlough 2001: 16). In 1932 a guidebook company published what it claimed was the first tourists’ guidebook devoted chiefly to the interests of ordinary workers (Koshar 1998). The interwar period has been seen as a decisive point of change, not least in Paul Fussell’s analysis of British travel narratives, in which he claims that the interwar years were the final age of travel after which only tourism is possible (Fussel 1980).
The Swedish tourism industry was established in the interwar period. In the 1930s Swedes made a total of around one hundred thousand visits abroad, including business travel, which means that only a few percent of the population was able to travel. The main destinations were the other Nordic countries as well as Germany, Great Britain, and Italy (Grinell 2004). In 1938, workers were given the right to twelve days of vacation in addition to national holidays. This was made, as it was elsewhere, with arguments about the health of the people and of democracy. The workers were not expected to travel abroad. Rather, they were expected to go on cycling holidays and go camping. Car ownership was limited in the 1930s, and only one Swede in sixty had a car (Löfgren 2001).
In the 1930s Sweden was perceived as rich and prosperous. The transformation from an agrarian to an industrialized society was further established (Grinell 2004). It is also around the 1930s that a Swedish national identity is connected to ideas of modernity. Sweden was increasingly seen as being the most modern and rational nation. The desire to be modern became central to the state ideology of the nation and the idea of a social democratic welfare state.
The Travelers of the 1930s
The travelers presented in Dagens Nyheter in the 1930s can be divided into three categories that in different ways reflect ideas of a national identity and modernity: the adventurous male traveler, the educator, and the tourist. The first category was often presented in longer articles that were published in the Sunday supplement. The destinations were most often non-European places or parts of Europe that were lesser known for the readers, such as Albania. These articles were almost exclusively written by men and about men. The narratives told of various adventures, often arduous and humorous. Foreign places were presented as exciting and dangerous, filled with exotic animals and peoples.
Men who traveled as a part of their jobs were a slightly less daring version of the courageous and adventurous male traveler, but it was in articles about these men that a Swedish and Western identity is most clearly connected to modernity. One article titled “In the Far East” presents a ljudfilmsingenjör, a film sound engineer who traveled to places that he had contacted using short-wave radio. In the article “Flying Millionaire,” the protagonist is a rich man who flies around in his airplane, making voyages of discovery while capturing the world with his camera. Some of the adventurers are engineers and diplomats; a few of them are working-class men like rallare, that is, men working with the railroad. Men from the latter category, the workers, were not writers themselves but could be described in the articles as adventurous travelers.
A less common example is the professor traveling on “expeditions.” This gives the articles a kind of scientific authority. It is telling that an article about Hawaii was titled “Skottsberg Visits the House of the Sun.” Skottsberg was not the writer but the professor who was heading the scientific expedition that is described. The article otherwise expresses a tourist gaze rather than a scientific one. The narrative follows the journey of the botanical expedition and presents the reader with the natural features of the place: the landscape and the flowers. The scientific frame of the article is mostly provided by the mentioning of the professor’s name in the title and photos of the professor.
Authority was gained with reference to the professions of the travelers, but it could also be gained through an emphasis on the new technology that they mastered. The use of more or less new technologies like aircraft and photography was an important marker of modernity and progress that also gave a visual mastery over the foreign and exotic (Urry and Larsen 2011). In the articles about adventurous male travelers, the European explorations of earlier centuries continued with the use of modern technologies.
According to Klas Grinell, industrialism is a central part of a Swedish self-image. In the early twentieth century it was thought that the Swedes could conquer the world with their industrial production (2004). One article from 1938 tells of a general foreman and “ten other capable men” that were building nitroglycerin factories for the “development friendly” shah of Iran. The journalist proudly claims that “Sweden has as we know in recent years accomplished much in Persia, as it was called in the past. We started with organizing their gendarmerie and then we built a splendid saloon car for the Shah. His royal highness was very content with the luxury car that was delivered by A.B Nydqvist & Holm.” What follows is a long list of Swedish companies and professionals, mostly engineers, that according to the writer have all contributed to the modernization of Iran by teaching the Iranians to drive trains and fabricate explosives. The importance of the work carried out by the Swedes is emphasized when the journalist claims that a Swede works three times as fast as an Iranian and that the Iranians lack initiative. The Swedish men as well as the Swedish companies in Iran are presented as being representatives of their country.
Even though the articles presenting adventurous male travelers might have similarities with tourism, when it comes to how foreign destinations are described one crucial difference is that the reader was not expected to visit these places. The articles about adventurous male travelers have more in common with narratives of colonial travels and exploration than tourism trips. They build on a long tradition of narratives about brave European men in the colonies, including pop cultural representations of travel and adventure, for example, Tintin and other boy’s adventure stories. The colonial tradition is combined with an interest in modernity, progress, and new technology. The Swedish engineers and professors who worked in exotic foreign countries made possible a Swedish contribution to building the modern industrialized world. In some cases the places they worked in were European colonies, such as South Africa, which provided a way of imagining Sweden as a part of European colonialism despite not having colonies.
The second category, educational travel, is represented by Torsten Fogelqvist, a well-established writer who was a member of the Swedish Academy. In his articles he acted as an educator. He traveled almost exclusively to Italy, and his articles were published on the third or fourth page of the newspaper, a place reserved for culture debate and book reviews. A large part of his texts are preoccupied with historical events and people, as well as biblical tales and ancient Greek myths, more than the present-day place. His texts rely heavily on a classical education. This kind of traveling can be likened to the grand tours that the young aristocrats of the eighteenth century took in the company of an older man who acted as a teacher (Baranowski and Furlough 2001). To visit the places of classical antiquity was an important part of these journeys, just as it is in Fogelqvist’s articles. It is assumed in the articles that the reader is familiar with the classics as well as with modern European literature and history. His articles have many similarities with tourism articles, even if he repeatedly separated himself from tourism by claiming to be a true traveler. However, when Fogelqvist traveled to Italy and complained about the amount of tourists there, it was not Swedish tourists he encountered but American and German.
The adventurous male travelers and, to a lesser degree, the educator stand in contrast to a budding tourism culture. Articles about tourism trips published in the early 1930s share many similarities with the texts published in the travel sections of newspapers today. Many of the typical characteristics of the genre that are recognizable to readers of today can be found, for example, in an article about Jordan from 1932 titled “The Camel in the Eye of the Needle,” published in the Sunday supplement. The article is a travel story that takes up a whole page. It is written in first person, even though the journalist uses a pseudonym, and it centers on the personal experience of the journalist.
The article narrates the journey of the journalist, which follows an established tourism itinerary with typical sights. The potential journey of the reader is not mentioned. There is, however, a marked difference between this article and articles that narrate the story of an adventurous man who travels the world. Even though it is not expected that the reader would be able to make the same journey to Jordan, the text expresses a tourist perspective. The journalist travels to a specific destination and engages in tourism activities. His reason for being there are touristic, and he does not position himself as an educator. He does not educate the readers about the place.
In the 1930s it is very seldom that the texts mention the possibility of the reader traveling to the destinations that are described. There is practically no “How to get there” information on flights and prices and addresses to hotels. In 1932 the newspaper published a text about the popularity of amateur photography, and an article about how to cook during a road trip. In an article from 28 July 1938 titled “Around the World in Paris,” the journalist says “Come over and continue the trip personally” (“Jorden runt i Paris,” Tzigane). This is, however, rare, both the direct address to the reader and the suggestion to travel. The text continues with information about prices, with an emphasis on how cheap it is. In a text from 1938 titled “Blue and Yellow in Paris,” the writer claimed that she could “‘do’ Paris practically over the weekend, which can be done terrifically comfortably with Mr. Flormans and Air France’s express machines” (“Blågult i Paris,” Cyrano, 30 June). New technology, the airplane, and amateur photography played a part also in this category of traveling, but in a more domesticated version. In comparison to the adventurous travels, tourism provided another way to create modernity through technology in which the technology made possible comfortable and fast journeys as part of an urban culture; you could pop over to France for the weekend.
The adventurer was definitely male, but their class identity varies somewhat. The exception is texts about female adventurers, such as Sally Bauer (a well-known swimmer) and Amelia Earhart. Some of the foreign correspondents are women, like Vagabonde—the pseudonym for journalist Mollie Faustman. The developing tourism culture, however, is feminine in contrast to adventurous travel. One example of feminine travel is an article from 1932 in which the topic is how to cook in the caravan. The journalist argues that a successful trip depends on how well the woman can cook while on the road. The domestic, rational, and thrifty could be combined with a certain amount of adventure.
Learning to Travel Properly
Tourism was a recurrent matter of discussion in Dagens Nyheter in the 1930s also outside of the genre of travel journalism. The increase in traveling was perceived as largely positive for the well-being and development of the nation, but negative perceptions of tourism were also included. John Urry and Jonas Larsen, among others, has argued that tourism is a competence to be learned, and this is clearly exemplified by the recurrent discussions about the right way to travel as a central aspect of a nation’s strivings to become modern (Urry and Larsen 2011).
Tourism was the topic of the aforementioned article with the title “We Are a Traveling People,” published in June 1938 in a special supplement that celebrated the king. It is evident from the article that tourism was already established as a cultural practice. The article presents different tourism behaviors that the reader was expected to recognize and find humorous. The fact that the supplement included an article about tourism makes it evident that tourism was a central aspect of the time. Other articles in the specific jubilee supplement dealt with the development of the national industry and other such topics. Tourism was important for a modern Swedish society, as the title shows by expressing it as an established fact rather than as an argument.
The article furthermore exemplifies how tourism facilitates a discussion about a national identity in ways that other topics do not. The supplement as a whole evaluated the state of the nation, but the text about tourism is the only one in which the identity of the nation and its people are explicitly discussed. Tourism is presented as something that unites the nation, as something everyone engages in. The topic of tourism is used to explore how Swedes were perceived abroad and to define a Swedish way to travel compared to tourists from other countries. The proper way to travel was to explore and to be adventurous rather than comfortable. The article ends with the assertion that travel would enrich with “experiences of beauty, with ideas” that would stimulate the work that needed to be done at home. Tourism behavior is made fun of, but the main argument is that tourism is necessary for the development of the nation.
Another article making fun of tourism culture is an article titled “Man from Stockholm Celebrates Arabic Christmas.” It is not completely clear whether the article is fictional or not. If the text is fictional it falls outside of the genre of travel journalism, but it is still interesting in what it can say about tourism culture. In comparison to the article mentioned above, it is decidedly less positive in its treatment of tourism.
The narrative tells of a Swedish man who decides to celebrate Christmas in an Arabic country. In the climax of the narrative he goes on a hunt in order to assert his masculinity, but this endeavor ends in total failure and he manages to injure himself. He is culturally insensitive, becomes homesick, and what he appreciates the most is the modern luxury hotel and all the electronic buttons he can push in his hotel room. The humor of the article centers on the main character as a type, a man of the lower middle class who represents the typical Swede and who is also an upstart. The article is specific about his background, having been brought up in the countryside by parents who were farmers. He is himself a real estate agent who, the article implies, has earned a fortune in dubious ways. The stereotype of the tourist as the uneducated petit bourgeois and city slicker is easy to recognize.
The text ends with a question that is also a conclusion of the text’s argument: “What does one gain from traveling in countries in which one does not understand the soul of the people?” This is a direct criticism of tourism as shallow and unsophisticated. The type that is described is also in contrast to the travelers otherwise presented in the newspaper, both the male adventurer and the educator, in that his presence in an Arabic country is presented as meaningless, since his only reason for being there is touristic. He lacks the masculinity and bravery of the adventurer as well as the education and authority of the educator.
Interestingly, the article about the man of the lower middle class stands out from the other articles in its emphasis on class. In Dagens Nyheter social hierarchies were not foremost marked out through condescending comments about specific places or practices as being too touristy, which has so often been the case in tourism history (Urry and Larsen 2011). Instead, the class position of the journalists was often expressed through the desire to teach the lower classes how to travel and the desire to control them. The newspaper repeatedly wrote about tourism and even outbound travel as if it was something that every Swede could participate in. In one editorial that discussed tourists and “vacation culture,” the journalist wrote about a character called Traveler Bengt that represented the typical Swedish traveler.
Class positions were clearly articulated when the newspaper wrote about working-class travel in an article titled “200,000 Travel. No Panic.” The article was a response to the laws that were passed in 1938 giving all workers the right to two weeks’ paid vacation. It is obvious from how this was discussed in the article that the viewpoint was that everyone had a right to travel. The article even discussed whether the state should make sure that everyone could travel. And it was of course important that people made use of their vacation properly.
Tourism as a Way to Foster Proper National Sentiments
Learning to travel properly would make the Swedes modern, healthy, and knowledgeable. Tourism, furthermore, had a purpose in fostering a sense of national pride in those who traveled. When meeting the world the tourist would come to understand and appreciate cultural differences between nations. This would foster proper national sentiments that were warm but not chauvinistic. The idea of proper national sentiments was a reaction to the political situation at the time but can also be understood as a Swedish position in relation to the rest of the world that transcends the historical context of the 1930s.
One editorial in June 1938 discusses what the writer calls “tourism and vacation culture,” and says that “one of the positive phenomenon among our people in modern times is the increasing desire to travel, whether it is tourism travel or vacation outings. The latest generations have become more mobile and gotten more rhythm in their blood, and the ‘cottage sitters’ [stugsittarsläktet] molding in their corner, creating false perceptions of the world and criticizing what they have never seen, are diminishing.” Then the journalist continues with the positive aspects of this: “new opinions, updated perceptions, increased ability to observe peoples and landscapes is valuable both from the perspective of recreation and for education.” Furthermore, the journalist also says that travel “shows mobility and rejuvenation.” Traveling was, in other words, an essential part of modernity. Vacationing and traveling was good both for health reasons and for becoming educated. The connection with modernity is clear in the contrast that is made between those that travel and the “cottage sitters” that belong to a preindustrial and rural society. The strong emphasis on the tourist as dynamic and modern stands in stark contrast to what attracted foreign visitors to Sweden. Incoming tourists took an interest in Sweden as a “premodern, peasant nation set in a ‘romantic’ wilderness” (Baranowski and Furlough 2001: 15).
According to the writer, the Swedes were increasingly mobile but had not learned the basics of tourism culture, of how to be a good guest. The article criticizes the traveling Swedes for not being able to accommodate and adjust to foreign cultures, of being too provincial, which is the same argument that is presented in the aforementioned article titled “We Are a Traveling People.” The Swede had to learn to appreciate foreign cultures, and to see how all cultures complete each other. The editorial claimed:
The reason to travel is not least to discover that which we do not have, not to inspire jealousy, but for the sake of having knowledge of the world and for the sake of completion. Because everything in the world completes each other, both humans and landscapes. And to admit the value of this completion—therein lays the seed of communion and culture. This cannot be emphasized enough in this confused and dark time of nationalistic chauvinism.(“Turist-och semesterkultur,” 25 June 1938)
To travel would foster the right kind of national sentiments, not the chauvinistic one that was dominant at the time, the article claims, but “an emotion that becomes warm and natural when one returns to one’s home and native country.” The ideas are well in line with the ideology of nationalism that presents all countries as fundamentally different while they at the same time complete each other (Ehn et al. 1993).
Shelley Baranowski and Ellen Furlough describe how tourism during the interwar period became central to the ideological projects of the time. They write that “tourism and vacations in this era were even more intensely politicized and ideologically inflected, and as cultural practices they showed striking similarities across political divides” (2001: 16). Tourism played a central part in the ideological projects in Nazi Germany and in Soviet Russia. The role tourism is given in the Swedish newspaper shows similarities to this in that tourism was given importance as a part of a national project, even though the Swedish national project was imagined as an antidote to the ideologies of Nazism and fascism. A Swedish national identity that was cultivated through outbound tourism, among other activities, was defined by being contrasted to the chauvinistic, overheated nationalism of other European countries. National sentiments are defined in the article as natural feelings, but Swedish national identity is paradoxically also something that carries ideals of being rational and objective.
The kind of national sentiments that journalists thought tourism could give rise to—sentiments that were warm but not chauvinistic—can be understood as a specifically Swedish position in relation to the rest of the world. In her analysis of Swedish travel narratives, Amanda Lagerkvist uses the concept of the Linnean gaze as one of a variety of different kinds of viewing positions, as she calls it (2005). The concept of a Linnean gaze makes reference to Carl von Linné and the supposedly objective gaze of natural science. According to Lagerkvist, however, this gaze shares many similarities with a tourist gaze. When science was popularized in the nineteenth century, tourism was constructed as a kind of edutainment. The scientific gaze and the tourist gaze share the same worldview, and both try to construct a knowable unity out of the foreign and unknown, to make sense of it (Lagerkvist 2005). In the articles in Dagens Nyheter in which an increase in tourism is discussed, what is expressed as an ideal is a kind of Linnean gaze that the Swedes should adopt through their travels and encounters with the foreign.
The Linnean gaze shares similarities with what Mary Louise Pratt describes as the bourgeois strategy of anticonquest (1992). It is a gaze that is distanced and rational. Everything that was seen could be made sense of by being incorporated into existing categories (Lagerkvist 2005). Lagerkvist calls this a Swedish visual culture connected to Carl von Linné, in which Swedishness represents an elevated and neutral position outside of the rest of the world. The Linnean gaze has claims to innocence in contrast to the colonizing missions. It claims to study, compare, and evaluate rather than conquer. But it gives expression to a desire for ownership in its quest to structure and create overviews. It strives for a visual mastery.
A Swedish national identity relies on being a part of a more general European identity in relation to the rest of the world, for example, by celebrating colonialism as a pan-European endeavor, while at the same time keeping a distance to Europe when it is needed. Closeness to Europe could be expressed in the 1930s, for example, by taking pride in European colonialism even though Sweden had few non-European colonies. This tension of inclusion in and distance from a European identity is especially prevalent in the political situation of the 1930s. A position of distance is strengthened in the time leading up to World War II, when Swedish journalists report on the events as bystanders. In the later part of the twentieth century and early twenty-first century, the Linnean gaze of objectivity and distance is used to separate oneself and a Swedish identity from a problematic heritage of European colonialism (Ljungberg 2012).
Becoming a Traveling People
Tourism was an essential part in the construction of the Swedish nation as a modern nation, not just when it came to travel within the country, but also including outbound tourism. Tourism symbolized movement and new perspectives that challenged old prejudices. Through tourism experiences the Swedes would become modern. Travel journalism provided ample opportunities for journalists to think about national identities, the relation to other nationalities, and how Sweden was perceived abroad. Dagens Nyheter presented tourism as an established practice that concerned the whole nation, even though few Swedes could travel abroad in the 1930s. Most of the articles about foreign destinations lack practical information aimed at prospective tourists. There is, however, in many of the articles a presentation of a tourist itinerary and discussions about prices.
The benefits of tourism are now mostly discussed on an individual level, but in the 1930s it was seen as benefiting the nation. Class differentiation was expressed implicitly in the attempts to define the proper way to travel. Many of the articles commented on the democratization of traveling. Traveling was for everyone and was almost a duty as well as a right. The article from 1938, “200,000 Travel. No Panic,” written shortly after the passing of the new laws regulating the right to vacations, has a streak of fear of the masses in the title, but overall the journalist takes a positive stance on tourism.
John Urry and other tourism scholars have emphasized how tourism is a learned behavior, and in the 1930s the need for the Swedes to learn proper tourism behavior was discussed explicitly in the newspaper, in articles that evaluated the Swedes as tourists to point out skills that needed to be learned. Despite the humorous and playful tone of articles such as “We Are a Traveling People,” they had a purpose in educating the reader by pointing out what is laughable and what is desired behavior.
The Swedes needed to learn how to experience the foreign properly in order to foster proper national sentiments. The opposite of German and Italian chauvinistic nationalism of the 1930s was not a cosmopolitan identity but benign and “natural” national sentiments, a national identity based on an understanding of national differences, warm but rational. The Swedish identity that is constructed is part of a broader European identity, while there is simultaneously a need to distance the identity of the national self from the rest of Europe. Disinterest and innocence in relation to the imperial and aggressive endeavors of other European nations is a central aspect of a Swedish national identity. In the 1930s this innocence could be expressed through a distance from the growing European conflicts leading up to World War II.
The research undertaken for this article was generously supported by a research grant awarded by the Ridderstad Foundation.
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