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Money Can't Buy Me Hygge : Danish Middle-Class Consumption, Egalitarianism, and the Sanctity of Inner Space

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In this article, the style of social interaction known as hygge is analyzed as being related to cultural values that idealize the notion of 'inner space' and to other egalitarian norms of everyday life in Scandinavian societies. While commonly experienced as a pleasurable involvement in a social and spatial interior, hygge is also examined as a mode of withdrawal from alienating conditions of modernity. In spite of its egalitarian features, hygge acts as a vehicle for social control, establishes its own hierarchy of attitudes, and implies a negative stereotyping of social groups who are perceived as unable to create hygge. The idea of hygge as a trait of Scandinavian culture is developed in the course of the interpretation, and its limitations are also discussed against ethnographic evidence that comparable spatial and social dynamics unfold in other cultural contexts.
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... "Hygge" is aspirational, something to strive for, as well as real and distinctly materializes in social situations and is immediately recognizable by those familiar with this concept. It often stands in for what is "typical" Nordic culture [68]. The Dutch notion of "gezellig" is comparable, yet different, connoting cosyness and comfort, but with a distinct emphasis on conviviality over solitude. ...
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Within the current AI ethics discourse, there is a gap in empirical research on understanding how AI practitioners understand ethics and socially organize to operationalize ethical concerns, particularly in the context of AI start-ups. This gap intensifies the risk of a disconnect between scholarly research, innovation, and application. This risk materializes acutely as mounting pressures to identify and mitigate the potential harms of AI systems have created an urgent need to assess and implement socio-technical innovation for fairness, accountability, and transparency. Building on social practice theory, we address this need via a framework that allows AI researchers, practitioners, and regulators to systematically analyze existing cultural understandings, histories, and social practices of ethical AI to define appropriate strategies for effectively implementing socio-technical innovations. Our contributions are threefold: 1) we introduce a practice-based approach for understanding ethical AI; 2) we present empirical findings from our study on the operationalization of ethics in German AI start-ups to underline that AI ethics and social practices must be understood in their specific cultural and historical contexts; and 3) based on our empirical findings, we suggest that ethical AI practices can be broken down into principles, needs, narratives, materializations, and cultural genealogies to form a useful backdrop for considering socio-technical innovations.
... Indeed, even when I pushed them on this issue, my interlocutors rejected the possibility of a world in which increased migration (to Europe from the Global South) is not only tolerated but encouraged and normalised. 54 53 SeeLinnet (2011) for an anthropological account of the Scandinavian emphasis on "hygge," understood as a form of sociality characterised by the expression of egalitarian values and cooperative efforts to avoid divisive and controversial topics.54 Notably, this contrasted sharply with some of my Greek interlocutors on Lesvos who, perhaps because of their island's history of movement, described migration as "part of the circle of life" (cf.Hirschon 2007). ...
Thesis
Following the so-called refugee crisis unfolding on the Greek islands in 2015, a multitude of citizen-led agencies emerged to mitigate or contest the EU’s policies of securitisation and containment. This dissertation explores the trajectory of one of these initiatives: a Norwegian humanitarian volunteer organisation Dråpen i Havet (A Drop in the Ocean, DiH). Established by a mother-of-five with no prior experience in humanitarian or social work, DiH aspires to “make it easy” for ordinary people to help refugees in Greece, but has undergone a process of partial professionalisation, leading to larger responsibilities inside and outside Greek refugee camps. The organisation also tries to scale up their acts of care and hospitality to the Norwegian state and to influence co-nationals who do not share their humanitarian sensibilities. The dissertation is based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Greece and Norway. Chapter 1 discusses the emergence of a new humanitarian geography and the rise of “Fortress Europe.” Chapter 2 and 3 trace DiH’s trajectory from spontaneous volunteering to “NGOization” and explore the organisation’s shifting and contested efforts to “fill humanitarian gaps” on Europe’s southern border. Chapters 4 and 5 examine DiH’s widespread appeal amongst Norwegian citizens and the organisation’s vision of volunteering as a transformative experience. These chapters also explore volunteers’ pathways to help refugees in Greece and ambivalent experiences of returning home and negotiating different worlds and relationships. Chapter 6 analyses DiH’s political turn and efforts to witness and mobilise for more inclusive asylum policies and positive public orientations towards refugees in Norway. The conclusion discusses the redemptive potential of volunteering. Taken together, the chapters challenge enduring representations of humanitarian actors and volunteers as “rootless cosmopolitans” or “transnationals” motivated by either selfish or altruistic concerns to help distant strangers. Conversely, the dissertation shows that DiH staff and volunteers felt deeply ashamed by Norwegian affluence and their government’s restrictive asylum policies and increasingly worried over the moral health and future of the Norwegian state and society. The dissertation argues that DiH staff and volunteers can be understood as “cosmopolitan nationalists,” called to help as indignant and ashamed Norwegian citizens and mobilising against what they perceive as an illicit, inward-looking nationalism. Drawing on feminist and anthropological work on the politics of affect, the dissertation analyses shame (skam) as both culturally and politically contingent, expressed on personal and collective levels and simultaneously on behalf of and against the nation. Contrary to popular and scholarly assumptions, DiH staff and volunteers experience shame as largely productive and self-affirming. However, the dissertation argues that its political force is hampered by its reliance upon (and reproduction of) a sanitised and romanticising national narrative. While primarily a contribution to the study of humanitarianism, nationalism and border politics, the dissertation addresses anthropological and philosophical debates on ethics, affect, cosmopolitanism and liberalism. It further provides windows into changing and increasingly fragmented and hostile humanitarian and political landscapes on the fringes of Europe. Analysing volunteers’ post-utopian and redemptive aspirations, the dissertation identifies “sticky attachments” to national and humanitarian frames and imaginaries yet also some cracks and openings.
... The feeling of being in a cosy place may also occur in cabins, boats, local coffee shops or other touristic commercial settings (Wiking, 2016). As Linnet (2011) suggested, these places may be 'experienced as homey and authentic, often through the presence of close social ties among the neighbourhood, guests and staff' (p. 95). ...
... • Denmark illustrates the typical Scandinavian approach to social democracy with concepts such as hygge, and strong lifelong learning, building a culture and society that protects individuals from unhappiness (Linnet 2011;Wiking 2016). • Singapore illustrates the impact of a strong strategic approach to economic, social and environmental development sustained over time by leadership. ...
... • Denmark illustrates the typical Scandinavian approach to social democracy with concepts such as hygge, and strong lifelong learning, building a culture and society that protects individuals from unhappiness (Linnet 2011;Wiking 2016). • Singapore illustrates the impact of a strong strategic approach to economic, social and environmental development sustained over time by leadership. ...
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This chapter presents the findings of the work of the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC) that is funded via UK Research and Innovation as part of the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The chapter is based on case study research conducted in two cities in each of the seven countries in the Global South. The cities are Cape Town and Johannesburg (South Africa), Dar es Salaam and Dodoma (Tanzania), Kigali and Huye (Rwanda), Delhi and Madurai (India), Dhaka and Khulna (Bangladesh), Chongqing and Datong (China) and Manila and Batangas (Philippines). Based on an analysis of data drawn from planning and urban development policy documents in the respective countries over the last two decades, the case studies identify key ideas and policies that have shaped the delivery of public services, especially education and health care. The chapter focuses on four themes: urban inequalities, urban planning policies, understanding health and well-being and learning cities.
... • Denmark illustrates the typical Scandinavian approach to social democracy with concepts such as hygge, and strong lifelong learning, building a culture and society that protects individuals from unhappiness (Linnet 2011;Wiking 2016). • Singapore illustrates the impact of a strong strategic approach to economic, social and environmental development sustained over time by leadership. ...
Thesis
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