Ingar Kaldal: Gender, Work, and Forest in Narratives from the Changing Daily Life in a Woodland Region of Scandinavia

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This is a short presentation of one of the participating projects in the nordic project Cultural Processes in Nordic Woodland Communities

The aim of this project is to investigate the various cultural meanings which, since the 1930s, have been associated with the work of men and women in the Scandinavian  communities lying in the Norwegian-Swedish border regions of Trysil and Värmland, both of whose economies are dominated by the forest.  The aim is not to describe concrete changes in work, but rather to analyze the narrative aspects of what research reveals about them.
 Stories about men's work often express elements of determinism, linearity, and teleology, whereas narratives from women's lives are characterized by diversity, contingency, and openness. The common understanding in this border region was that men were destinated to spend their lives in "the forest," whereas women were relegated to "all" kinds of work except "the forest." In actual practice women also had tasks in the forests, and most men were also engaged in a large variety of non-forest  related activities. Nonetheless, "the forest" has been defined as the nearly exclusive purview of men. Within this construction women were  considered more open to change.  This attitude also surfaces in the histories detailing how men  and women adapted to new technologies and to changes in the labor market in the 1960s: men's histories depict the situation as a tragedy;  they  tell how progress turned into loss - of both employment and honor.  In  women's histories, the same changes are painted more optimistically;  they present a narrative of leaving behind less glorified kinds of work  for better conditions. During the industrialized era of forestry,  women's work had been neither commercially nor culturally valued, and it  took place outside the discursive boundaries of "the forest," a  quasi-sacred realm into which men had invested a lot of cultural  capital.  Suddenly this changed.

Ingar Kaldal
E-mail: Telefon: +47 73 59 64 35 Fax: +47 73 59 64 41
Address: Historisk Institutt, NTNU, N-7491 Trondheim
This page was last time updated on July 11, 2000