Gå til indhold

Resume af Elsa Maria Magnusardóttir Olsen og Heidi Neshamar Olsens speciale

Specialetitel: Cultural Policy in Faroese Municipalities - A study of the Faroe Islands´Cultural Policy on a Municipal Level | Fróðskaparsetur Føroya / Universitetet på Færøerne


Most of the 29 faroese municipalities have prioritized a political culture board. Despite this, only three of them have a written culture policy. These policies are from 2000, 2014 and 2016. During the last years sports, especially football, seems to have constituted the greatest part of the culture area.
Eventhough culture might seem like a fluid and abstract word, there is a consensus of the great and important impact culture has on societies. This has also been the overall political recognition in the Faroe Islands (Mentamálastýrið, 2002).

Twenty years ago a great nordic research project was released which concluded that the Faroese culture policy was about twenty years behind the other nordic countries. It was not really prioritized and unorganized and never really got the acknowledgment which it deserved. It was in the hands of hard working fire souls.

Considering the small circumstances we live in, where there is a high level of mutual person-based recognisability as a social dynamic, it not only affects the social life but one might also assume it is very difficult for the politicians to navigate in (Hayfield, in press: Johannesen, 2012). When the culture board has no written policy and there is no definition on how to work with culture, the priorities are very person-based. The question is therefore on what background and which purpose the politicians work, and is therefore also interesting and important to get a better knowledge on how politicians understand and describe the culture area. Therefore we have done research to answer the question:

How do key people in medium-sized Faroese municipalities describe the culture area? And what characterizes these descriptions?

Methodological and theoretical basis

To answer the research question the work of this thesis is inspired by constructivistic grounded theory as a research method (Charmaz, 2014). Qualitative interviews with six representatives of selected municipalities were made. These interviews were made with the mayor and the chairman of the culture board in three medium-sized municipalities in the Faroe Islands, named Vága kommuna, Vágs kommuna and Nes kommuna. With grounded theory the thesis has an inductive approach where focus is on the empirical data, in which the theory is developed from the data rather than the other way around. From this, grounded theory also produces potential analytical categories and themes that also give the basis for including other theories in an analysis.

The choice of constructivistic grounded theory as a research method was chosen mainly for two reasons. One, because the research area is an area that not much research has been done before in the Faroe Islands. And two, because this thesis is a research of medium-sized municipalities, where already existing theories used and developed in big cities or bigger municipalities might not be applicable.

The research resulted in a development of our own theory, which we named Mentanarhúsið (eng. the Culture House). With the Culture House the first part of the research question was answered. After the development of the Culture House the characteristics of the researchers' participants were analyzed with already existing theory. Among the theories were Skott-Hansen (2014) and her model of cultural policies of cities, Bille (2016) and her adding of the perspectives of growth and welfare to Skott-Hansen´s (2014) theory. Hayfield (in press) and Johannesen (2012) on how the high level of mutual person based recognisability as a social dynamic, affects the social life in a small scale society. Esping-Andersen (1993) and his theory of welfare, and Habermas (2003) and his theory of lifeworld and system.

Analysis, results and conclusion

In the first part of the analysis the focus is on the key person's description of their culture area. The first part is therefore divided in two main categories: what culture does and what culture is. As mentioned before the research resulted in the development of the culture house. The culture house is a theoretical collection which represents and describes the culture area in
some of the medium-sized Faroese municipalities. The house visualizes the framework for the existing cultural area, as the key people describe it.

Overall the research shows that politicians in the municipalities are occupied with and encouraged to work with culture to achieve a certain identity, cohesion and well-being. This can therefore be seen as the essence of working with culture. Therefore, identity (samleiki), cohesion (samanhald) and well-being (trivnaður) is in the middle of the house to represent core values of culture.

Model 1: Mentanarhúsið, Olsen & Olsen (2021).
Model 1: Mentanarhúsið, Olsen & Olsen (2021).

The research showed that sport constituted the greatest part in the culture area. The contradiction occurs when most of the key persons themselves questioned whether sports ought to be a part of the culture area or not. The chimney symbolizes how sports in a way gets most of the attention and by far the highest financial prioritization in the culture area.
In the culture house the chimney is only to be seen on the outside, this is because the key persons seemed not to be convinced whether sports should have a place inside of the culture house and thereby be a part of the culture content or not.
The research showed clearly that fire souls (eldsálir) were the basis under the culture area in the municipalities. Fire souls can therefore be seen as the foundation under the culture house. To complete the house a roof and walls are necessary. The culture board in the municipality
symbolizes therefore the roof (mentanarnevnd). It is under this roof and between these walls that the plans in the culture area are made. The roof can be seen as the authority that ensures a certain identity, cohesion and well-being. The roof needs to rest on some walls. The research shows that the culture board partially rests on personal descriptions and opinions (persónligt) of the representatives in the committee. It also rests on another wall, which for the key persons seems abstract (óítøkiligt). The walls, which the culture area rests on at the moment, can therefore been seen as unstable. Meaning, it is difficult to make decisions and make plans about something which seems so abstract to the key persons.
In the early phases of the research we got in contact with all of the 29 municipalities in the Faroe Islands. And to our surprise, none of them had a written culture policy or definition of culture. This was also one of the main reasons for our interest in researching the area. Because how do municipalities lead their policy when they have no common definition or written culture policy ?
There can be many disadvantages when decisions and plans that are made in the culture area, rest on personal opinions. This can easily come in conflict of personal interests and end in things like nepotism, because of circumstances that characterize small scale societies, as Hayfield (in press) and Johannesen (2012) describe.

In the second part of the research question, where the focus was on what characterized the key persons descriptions, some of the main conclusions were:

That the sport descriptions were characterized by a notion that the crowd was in favor over the individual. In Bille (2016) terms this is the marketing rationality, which according to Bille (2016) is not a good rationality for the public sector to build and make plans on. The thought that culture should not cost was also dominating. Culture policy descriptions mainly rested on instrumental rationalities. Some of the rationalities were placed on a market based thought, but most rationalities were based on a welfare thought. Theory focuses on culture being a goal in itself and if municipalities use culture as a means to achieve other goals these goals must build on a welfare thought.

As pointed out before the research shows that fire souls are the foundation of the area of culture. Theory shows that this might be because of the small community where there is high mutual person based recognisability which has a social dynamic effect on the social life, for example that people feel more responsible and have interest in the local area too (Johannesen,
2012: Wilson, 2012). One thought that characterized the key persons' descriptions was that cultural initiatives should cost as little as possible, preferably nothing at all, except sports.
The research showed that this can become problematic in the future as the key persons described that there seems to be a structural change going on. The fire souls are getting older and younger generations are not as willing to work for free. This might indicate a transformation where tasks that have rested on private peoples initiatives are being transferred to the public sector.
As mentioned, our research method led us to some of Skott-Hansen (2014), Bille (2016), Esping-Andersen (1990) and Habermas´ (2003) theories. When analyzing and comparing their theoretical work to the result of our research, we were inspired to develop a model, named cultural compass. We believe that the public sector can use this tool when planning and making policy decisions within the cultural area. Metaphorically speaking this tool can be seen as a compass for decision making. Meaning that the model is a good overview of different factors that are essential when it comes to policy decision making within the cultural area.

Model 2: Cultural compass, Olsen & Olsen (2021).
Model 2: Cultural compass, Olsen & Olsen (2021).

The cultural compass is a research based guide, to how the municipalities can be aware that ultimately culture should be a goal in itself and not be used as an instrument to reach other goals, like economic growth, entertainment, enlightenment or empowerment. The goal is to experience culture for its own sake. Thereafter it can be seen as a bonus when a rich culture life also leads to empowerment, enlightenment, entertainment and empowerment among the community. The culture compass also sheds light on the important balance between the municipality (kommuna), the citizens (borgarar) and the business industry (vinnulívið). According to theory it is important for the municipalities to operate with rationalities that can be considered welfare-orientated, which can be seen in the green area in the culture compass. The compass also focuses on the important fact that public sectors mainly are dominated by a system-world (systemverð). Whereas the citizens' lifesphere is in the lifeworld (lívsverð). For example the municipalities can offer long term structure and funding to the culture life, but the citizens are considered the experts in knowing how to get a culture life to bloom, because they bring freedom and feelings (experience) into the culture life. In short this means that the municipalities should be conscious of strengths and limits when it comes to working with culture. The teamwork with the citizens is essential.


Metaphorically culture is like the blood in our veins. As a part of the kingdom of Denmark it is therefore important both to focus on cultural similarities and differences. Both perspectives give opportunity for growth, well-being and cohesion.

In a report from 2003, which the Ministry of Culture on the Faroe Islands made, it says that the Faroe Islands compared to neighboring countries, are twenty years behind in the culture area. Culture is the essence of a society and has a major impact on citizens and societies (Duelund, 2003). Much has changed during the last twenty years. Therefore it is about time to take a look at the cultural circumstances in the Faroe Islands again now. And considering the circumstances of the world nowadays, it has never been more important to be aware and know your own culture. In a world of uncertainty and algorithms that colonize our lifeworld, people are looking for cohesion. In the kingdom of Denmark we are three different countries with three different cultural backgrounds. On our own we are lonely and weak in the big picture, but together we are strong and have many and very different pillars to lean on.

The purpose of this research is to gather knowledge about how municipalities view and work with the complex concept of culture. Especially when they do not have a written culture policy. Since culture is believed to have a major impact on citizens and societies, this research may be relevant to municipalities and the Danish Kingdom as a whole.

The results of the thesis gives a valuable insight to how culture is handled in local democracies. Furthermore the tool culture compass is a good tool for other culture committees to use when making policy decisions.

Specialet er indstillet til specialekonkurrencen 2022.

Handlinger tilknyttet webside

Senest opdateret 16. november 2022