Scandinavian Studies

Nordic Branding and The Reception of the Nordic Model Abroad

The Nordic Model 

The Nordic model and the Nordic countries themselves have attracted increasing international interest in recent decades. References to Nordic solutions to political problems have traditionally played a relatively peripheral role in European politics. In recent times, however, the Nordic model has assumed centre stage in many political debates and electoral campaigns in Europe, as well as in discussions about the development of society in a wider sense. To ‘go Nordic’ has been presented as the solution to many problems, and even as the socio-economic order that best realises social justice and human well-being. Concepts of this sort have figured prominently not least in Scottish political debate, with the Scottish Government explicitly and repeatedly advocating Nordic-style solutions to a range of problems.

While many projects on the Nordic model have concentrated on the view from inside the Nordic countries themselves, our focus is on what might be termed ‘the view from outside’, namely the perceptions and views of the Nordic model and Nordic region that exist in other non-Nordic (and especially near-Nordic) European countries.

The conference 

This conference will address perceptions of ‘The Nordic’ through issues including:

  • How the Nordic countries themselves would prefer to be presented to the non-Nordic world.
  • If there really is such a thing as a unitary ‘Nordic model’, or whether it exists as a series of related, complimentary or even contradictory views.
  • The extent to which prevailing understandings of the Nordic countries are factually accurate, more or less inaccurate, or out-dated.
  • The motives of politicians who make reference to the Nordic model, and the specific aspects of the Nordic model they choose to focus on.

In illustrating this last point it will be stressed how the Scottish debate on the Nordic model tends to focus on its traditional mainstays, such as the welfare state, redistributive taxation, equality, and a consensus-oriented political culture, whereas the French presidential campaign of 2017 revealed an interest in the idea that the Nordic countries have incorrupt, and thus more ‘virtuous’ political elites. In both cases it is likely that the respective focus and perceptions reflect domestic concerns.

While the main emphasis of the conference is on the political, it will also raise relevant questions concerning cultural expressions of Nordicness. In the case of the UK, for example, the popularity of the ‘Nordic Noir’ genre of prose fiction has arguably led to an increased interest in the Nordic region, but has it also affected understandings of the Nordic model?

The academic dimension will be further secured by local and invited scholars presenting papers on minority rights as a component of wellbeing, and gender equality. We also aim to question the recent high-profile marketing of concepts such as hygge, lagom and sisu – perceived externally as Nordic cultural philosophies – by discussing the darker aspects of these concepts, such as introversion and exclusion.


This conference will takes place over two days at various locations. Please see below for details of venues:

Day 1: St Leonard's Hall, St Trinnean's Room, 09:45 - 18:45

Day 2: 50 George Square, The Project Room (1.06), 09:45 - 18:00

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View the conference programme 

Special Event - Northern Scholars Lecture

The final talk of the conference will be a Northern Scholars Lecture. In The Icelandic Tradition of Silence, Icelandic author Hallgrímur Helgason will explain his country's culture, where literature is a religion, writers are holy figures and the Sagas are the Bible. With examples from those, as well as his own works, he will inform us on the Icelanders' peculiar way of preserving language through silence. If you wish to attend this free lecture, please select the ticket named 'Conference - incl. Northern Scholars Lecture'.

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Find out more about the Northern Scholars Lectures 

This conference has been made possible with the support of the Co-ordinating Committee for Nordic Studies Abroad (SNU), the University of Edinburgh’s Northern Scholars Scheme, and the University of Oslo.


Nordic Branding and The Reception of the Nordic Model Abroad

This free two day conference will address perceptions and issues of 'The Nordic' and the 'Nordic model'.