Since 1987, the Swenson Center has sponsored academic conferences in the field of Swedish-American studies.
Dealing with the Past in the Present: Swedish Experiences of World War II and the Holocaust
This one-day symposium brought three leading historians from Sweden to discuss how neutral Sweden dealt with the war, the question of Jewish refugees and the memory of the war, and repercussions of the Holocaust in Sweden up to the present time. We also welcomed Göran Rosenberg to discuss his book A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz as well as representatives from the Embassy of Sweden in Washington, D.C.
Co-sponsorship for the event brought together the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center, the Scandinavian Studies program, and the Center for the Study of Judaism and Jewish Culture. Financial support came from several campus entities as well as the Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities.
Indians and Immigrants: Entangled Histories
This conference examined the relationship between Indians and Immigrants. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, millions of European immigrants migrated to North America. But for centuries these lands had been home to several different Indian nations. Very rarely does this fact enter into descriptions of European, Scandinavian and Swedish settlements. But it is not just immigrants who seemed oblivious to the existence of some of their neighbors. Immigrants are rarely part of accounts of Indian experiences, whether they are tribal histories or interpretations of relations with colonists. When immigrants enter into the picture, most often they are lumped together as "white settlers." This separation of histories has resulted in an important gap in our understanding of points of intersections, contact, and conflict between immigrants and Indians.
Presenters included leading scholars in the fields of Indian and immigration history from the United States and Sweden. The opening address also served as the 2013 O. Fritiof Ander Lecture and was given by Gunlög Fur, Professor at Linnaeus University in Växjö, Sweden. The title of her talk was "Indians and Immigrants - Entangled Histories."
Beyond Bergman: Modern Swedish Film
This conference dedicated to modern Swedish film was presented by the Scandinavian Department and the Swenson Center at Augustana College. Five films by Swedish directors were screened in the week leading up to the symposium. The films shown were: Everlasting Moments (Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick), Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg (God afton, Herr Wallenberg), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor), Together (Tillsammans) and Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in).
The conference concluded with a one-day symposium with participants from Sweden and the United States where the films were discussed. The symposium participants were: Leif Furhammar, professor emeritus of film studies at the University of Stockholm, Maaret Koskinen, professor of film studies at the University of Stockholm, Rochelle Wright, professor emerita at the University of Illinois, Kjell Hilding, digital production manager in the Department of Art History and Visual Arts at Occidental College, and Larry Scott, professor of Scandinavian at Augustana College.
Friends and Neighbors? Swedes and Norwegians in the United States
This conference examined the relationship between Swedish and Norwegian immigrants in the United States. The ways immigrant and ethnic groups related to and interacted with each other is a central dimension of American immigration history. Among the Scandinavians, there were numerous contacts and close interactions between Swedes and Norwegians. They were often neighbors, had similar occupations, married each other, cooperated and developed comparable—but not identical—religious, cultural and ethnic traditions. The relationship was not always harmonious; there were also friction and competition.
Presenters came from the United States, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. The opening address, which also served as the 2007 O. Fritiof Ander Lecture in immigration history was given by Thomas Tredway, President Emeritus of Augustana College. The title of his presentation was “Pinching Pennies in the Provinces: The Mid-Century Finances of an Immigrant College.” The conference formed the basis for the book Norwegians and Swedes in the United States: Friends and Neighbors, edited by Philip J. Anderson and Dag Blanck and published by Minnesota Historical Society Press of St. Paul MN.
Jag lever och har hälsan: Letters and Diaries of Swedish Immigrants in North America
This conference examined Swedish immigrant letters from a variety of perspectives, with some comparisons to Norwegian letters. Presenters explored what the letters tell us about social, religious, political and cultural dimensions of Swedish immigrant life in North America. They also addressed ways in which the immigrants related to events in both the new and the old countries, as well as ways in which they served to maintain contacts with friends and family on both sides of the Atlantic.
Paper presenters came from the United States, Canada, and Sweden, and the keynote address, which also served as the Ander Lecture in immigration history, was given by Professor Werner Sollors of Harvard University.
Being Swedish-American Today
This conference examined contemporary aspects of Swedish immigration to the U.S. and what it means to be Swedish or Swedish-American in America today. Scholars from both Sweden and the U.S. discussed questions such as the characteristics of the contemporary Swedish-American community; who the Swedish-Americans are today, socially, religiously, politically and culturally; why Swedes had moved to the U.S. during the past half century and who they were; and the connections, if any, that exist between recent Swedish immigrants to the U.S. and the descendants of the mass immigration a century or more ago.
The keynote address, which also served as the Ander lecture in immigration history, was given by Professor Barbro Klein of Uppsala University.
The Migration of Ideas: Sweden and the United States in the Twentieth Century
This conference focused on an important dimension of the relationship between Sweden and the United States in the twentieth century: the exchange of ideas. It examined ways in which ideas have migrated between the two countries, how they were perceived and received, how they were transformed, and how they influenced the respective countries.
Paper presenters came from the United States and Sweden, and the keynote address, which also served as the Ander lecture in immigration history, was given by Professor H. Arnold Barton of Southern Illinois University. The papers from the conference were published in the Swedish-American Historical Quarterly, Volume 50, July and October 1999.
O Pioneers! Swedes on the American Frontier and Swedes in the Twin Cities
In 1996 the 150th anniversary of the beginnings of Swedish immigration to the United States was celebrated in both Sweden and the United States. The Swenson Center sponsored or co-sponsored two conferences.
The first, "O Pioneers! Swedes on the American Frontier" was held on the Augustana campus in Rock Island in April, and focused on the early phase of Swedish immigration to the United States. Scholars from the United States and Sweden presented papers, and the keynote address, which also served as the Ander lecture in immigration history, was given by professor Kathleen Conzen of the University of Chicago. The papers from "O Pioneers!" were published in the Swedish-American Historical Quarterly, Volume 49, October 1998.
The second conference, “Swedes in the Twin Cities” was held in St. Paul, Minnesota in September and dealt with the history of Swedish immigration to the Twin Cities. Co-arranged with the Minnesota Historical Society, the Swedish-American Historical Society, and the American-Swedish Institute, the conference included presentations by two dozen scholars from the U.S. and Sweden on a variety of aspects of Swedish immigrant life in the Twin Cities. The conference formed the basis for the book Swedes in the Twin Cities: Immigrant Life and Minnesota's Urban Frontier, edited by Philip J. Anderson and Dag Blanck and published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press of St. Paul, Minnesota and Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis in Uppsala in 2001.
Scandinavian Immigrants and Education in North America
The 1992 conference focused on the educational experiences of Scandinavian immigrant groups in North America. Scholars from the United States and Canada discussed the role and significance of education for Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, Finns, and Icelanders in North America.
The keynote address, which also served as the Ander lecture in immigration history, was given by Professor M. Mark Stolarik of the University of Ottawa.
The papers presented at the conference are included in Philip J. Anderson, Dag Blanck, and Peter Kivisto, eds., Scandinavian Immigrants and Education in North America (Chicago: Swedish-American Historical Society, 1995).
Swedish-American Life in Chicago
In 1988, together with the Swedish-American Historical Society, the Swenson Center sponsored a major conference on Swedish-American life in Chicago, the "capital of Swedish America."
Held on the campus of North Park College in Chicago, it attracted some twenty scholars from the U.S. and Sweden, and dealt with the complex and varied experience of Swedish immigrants in the Windy City.
Most of the presentations at the conference are included in Philip J. Anderson and Dag Blanck, eds., Swedish-American Life in Chicago: Cultural and Urban Aspects of an Immigrant People, 1850-1930 (Urbana, Illinois and Uppsala: University of Illinois Press and Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 1992).
Marcus Lee Hanson
In 1987, the Swenson Center arranged a conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of immigration historian Marcus Lee Hansen's influential lecture at Augustana College on the role of generations for immigration history (Hansen's famous dictum being "What the sons seek to forget, the grandsons seek to remember").
The conference attracted a number of leading American and Canadian scholars in immigration history and ethnic studies, including John Higham and Nathan Glazer.
The essays in the book American Immigrants and Their Generations: Studies and Commentaries on the Hansen Thesis after Fifty Years (edited by Peter Kivisto and Dag Blanck and published by the University of Illinois Press in 1990) originated in this conference.