Photo of Anna Friberg

Anna Friberg

Associate Professor

Anna Friberg is Associate Professor in History. Her research focuses on conceptual history, temporality studies, and the conditions for modern politics.


The Future is Now

The environmental movement has long been infused with a dystopian sentiment. However, during recent decades, the catastrophe is no longer seen as a future threat but a present reality. If climate breakdown is here, how can climate activism matter today? In the project, the significance of climate activism is understood through the lens of temporality.

The project’s purpose is to analyze the underlying temporalities that climate activism is entangled with, challenges, and (re)produces. This is done by examining how temporalities of climate change are addressed in international climate activism, with special attention to the youth climate movement.

By synthesizing theories and methods from conceptual history and critical utopian studies, the project maps out how the activists’ climate change narratives interrelate past, present, and future, the expression of the negotiation of contingency between temporalities, and what this means for promoting visions of possible futures. The aim is to provide knowledge of how ideas about time and temporality affect popular climate change discourses, to explore the possibilities offered by climate activism, and to discuss its relevance to wider society. The project relies on the idea that understanding how climate change is framed is an important part in the process of inducing actions toward mitigating climate change.

Visions of the Good Future

The project “Visions of the good future: Sustainable development and long-term political thinking in the Swedish climate debate, 1970-2015” (financed by the Swedish Fundation for Humanities and Social Sciences, 2018-2022) aimed at analyzing ideas about political rooms of manouevre in a temporal sense, with special focus on Swedish climate politics.

The project has shown how the political parties understood the concept of sustainable development as a complex situated at the intersection of sustainability and development. For long, development constituted the dominant part of the concept while being closely associated with ideas of continous improvement within a growth discourse. Sustainability was primarily given a moderating function, to control the expected improvement and to give shine to goals formulated in terms of economic growth. To encompass all dimensions of sustainable development, the concept of sustainable society was put forward. This concept should hence be understood as an umbrella concept under which specific forms of sustainable development was integrated.

The project has empirically shown how the postpolitical condition, which previsouly has mainly been descussed at a theoretical level, came to characterize the Swedish climate debate. The research shows how the Swedish election debates and campaigns - a domain that is traditionally characherized by political vocabulary and politicization - gradually adopted a universalist language which made it problematic to name political subjectivities.

Democracy Beyond Politics

I completed my doctorate at the Department of Humanities at Mid Sweden University in 2013. My dissertation Democracy Beyond Politics is an analysis of the changing meaning(s) of the concept of democracy as it was used by the Swedish Social Democratic Party (SAP) during the years after the introduction of universal suffrage.

The analysis shows that the profound changes in society provided impetus for a continuous renegotiation of meanings, allowing concepts to retain their explanatory power under changing circumstances. At the same time the SAP needed new ways to express what kind of society the party strived to realize. The party did not limit itself to only one concept of democracy but instead used several composite concepts, e.g. political democracy and economic democracy. I argue that the use of composite concepts should be understood as a re-temporalization of the concept of democracy. The analysis shows how the composite concepts pointed forward in time, toward new political goals that reached far beyond the political sphere.