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Aarhus University Press enters the American book market with knowledge about life in the Nordic countries

Denmark is more than just hygge, the Little Mermaid and a royal family. Americans will soon be able to read about children's literature, trust and equality in a Nordic perspective in a series called The Nordic World, published by Aarhus University Press together with the University of Wisconsin Press.

2021.01.19 | Henriette Stevnhøj

Aarhus University researchers write about the Nordic countries to the Americans. Aarhus University Press and the University of Wisconsin Press jointly launch a book series on Nordic culture and society. The first titles will be published in May 2021. Photo: Aarhus University Press.

The distinctive characteristics of the Nordic countries, not least their welfare states and high tax burden, are viewed by other countries with both scepticism and envy: they were even a theme in Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign.

Americans can now delve into Nordic culture and society in a book series, The Nordic World, published by Aarhus University Press in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Press. The first five books in the series were written by researchers at Aarhus University.

The agreement with the American university publishers has been concluded after several years of preparatory work, and it is part of the Danish publisher’s strategy to strengthen its international profile. The director of Aarhus University Press, Carsten Fenger-Grøndal, says:

"AU University Press has always had an international publication line, and we’ve always had distributors abroad and published books in English. But this is the first time we’ve planned and published a series for the American market with an international publishing house.

Sanders and Trump have helped

The book series will be launched during the spring with the titles: Equality in the Nordic World by Carsten Jensen, Happiness in the Nordic World by Christian Bjørnskov and  Economic Performance in the Nordic World by Torben M. Andersen. Other titles will follow this autumn: Social Trust in the Nordic World by Gerd Tinggaard Svendsen and Children's Literature in the Nordic World by Charlotte Appel and Nina Christensen.

The aim is to provide a subtle and many-faceted picture of the fundamental values of the Nordic welfare states. 

"The momentum is there now. We’ve got a solid base because of our membership of the International Association for the University Presses, and there is much interest in the Nordic welfare society. Presidential statements – some more accurate than others – have also nurtured interest, so that now is precisely the right time to enter the fray with knowledge about Nordic conditions, so that narratives don’t only build on opinions and incorrect assumptions. Luckily, our American partner agrees," says Carsten Fenger-Grøndahl.

The collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Press came about after attempts to establish a Danish-Chinese collaboration.

"We’d invested a lot of resources in a book series about Nordic social conditions that was to be published by a publishing house in China, but that fell apart very late in the process. On the other hand, this meant that we had a concept ready when, in the following year, we attended a book fair in Frankfurt and I met Dennis Lloyd, the director of the University of Wisconsin Press. He had already come a long way in his deliberations about publishing books about the Nordic region, and when we started talking together, we found there was a lot of overlap in our ideas," says Carsten Fenger-Grøndahl. The details fell into place at a number of meetings in Madison in February 2020 between the editor of the series, Karina Bell Ottosen, and staff at the University of Wisconsin Press.

Nordic region trending

Although the Aarhus publisher has defined the first topics, the rest of the series will be planned jointly by the two publishers. The framework is research-based knowledge about welfare in Scandinavia. Readers will come from the education and research sectors, as well as the business community, and the means to reach them include experience from the popular 'Tænkepauser' (Reflections) series, which communicates academic knowledge in summary form.

"One of our goals is to break down the gap between a scientific publication and an article in a newspaper. A book in the Nordic World series will be longer than a Tænkepause book, but it must also be readable by others than specialists, and even though we’ve defined the target group rather tightly, we hope to reach a wider audience that just those working with Nordic relations for professional reasons. Actually, our dream is that it becomes trendy to know more about Nordic social conditions. At all events, now we're starting a small movement, which may form wider ripples later on," says Carsten Fenger-Grøndahl.

Children's literature on children’s terms

He has no favourites among the books in the pipeline, but Carsten Fenger-Grøndahl is pleased that one of the planned titles is Children's Literature in the Nordic World.

"The book demonstrates that the series is not only social science, but also deals with other aspects of our society, such as children. Denmark has a strong tradition of talking to children on their terms, and this is mirrored in the history of childhood literature. The Ramasjang channel under the Danish Broadcasting Corporation is a very good example of a particularly Danish phenomenon," says Carsten Fenger-Grøndahl.

He stresses that the book series should not be seen as a smug Nordic contribution that the Americans should learn from.

"As a university press, our raison d’être is to bring research knowledge into play, and we want to help forge the foundation for good dialogue, without it becoming a romantic ideal. But we won’t just highlight the differences, we’ll also describe the many similarities between the nations," says Carsten Fenger-Grøndahl. 



The Nordic World will be launched in spring 2021 and is scheduled to be published four times a year as a printed book, e-book and audiobook.



Director Carsten Fenger-Grøndahl
M: + 45 29 86 27 60
Email: cfg@unipress.au.dk














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