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Anna Friberg

Associate Professor

I am Associate Professor in History. My main research interests are linguistic and temporal aspects of modern politics. During recent years, I have worked on environmental discourse and issues of historical futures.


The Multitemporal Horizons of Environmental Activism, ca. 1970-2025

Narratives of environmentalism are shaped by multitemporal horizons that challenge the idea of time as homogenous and linear. By describing future ecological end-time(s), environmental activists of the 1970s advocated present change to prevent these futures. Moreover, the 2010s upsurge in climate activism has brought new horizons that conflict with the above-mentioned. The ecological end-time is no longer put forward in a future tense but a present one.

By exploring key narratives from Greenpeace International and Friends of the Earth International, 1970-2025, the purpose of the project is to identify and analyze the multitemporal horizons of global environmental activism. As international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) are prominent players in global environmental governance, and in the development of visions of possible futures, it is crucial to understand what influences their narratives given the widely different political responses these espouse.

The Utopian Dystopias of Climate Activism

This research focuses on conceptualizations of time within contemporary climate activism. 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.

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 maneuver 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 continuous 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 previously has mainly been discussed 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 characterized 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.