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Henrik Martin Hansen Torjusen

Postdoctoral Research Fellow


E2009 ( Universitetsveien 25, Kristiansand )

My post.doc. project mainly analyzes works, where children or grandchildren retells the history of their relatives or families. These families were in different ways connected to the “wrong” side in the Second World War in Norway. Either as soldiers or members of Nation Samling. The aim of the project is to examine how these works relates to, reworks, criticizes, or reevaluates the dominant Norwegian understanding of the Second World War, as it has been described by among others Anne Eriksen and Synne Correll. It is also a central goal to look at how memories of the Second World War are framed.

My approach to these works is ideas of national identity and national mythology, where the reception of these works is central to analyze their effect on the creation and recreation of collective memory. The theoretical framework for this project is to view collective memory as a construction, which is constantly being remade in a contentious process – and that literary representations plays a central role in the formation and reformation of collective memories and ideas about national identity.

The works in this project sits between the communicative memory of the family and the cultural memory of the published works, especially and particularly since the majority of the books examine omissions or lacunae in their own family history that has never been spoken about, and which the authors only have access to through other relatives, through archives, or through their imagination. The authors have some or no experience of the war, and if they have, it is mainly childhood memories. These stories are therefore second or third hand stories, which at the same time claims that they in one way or the other “is based on real events”. This advances a contentious ideal of truth based on reconstruction.

The stories all circle family history. Taken in general family histories is a central part of identity formation. They are the first form of collective memory, which is a part of, but also in contentious with, national narratives. Memories within families is played out in an intersection of different memory formations: the autobiographical, the interactive-familiar, the institutional-national, and the mass-mediated. At the same time loyalty towards family and family ties plays a central role for the interpretation and framing of institutional and national narratives. And finally, family narratives are also influenced by cultural chances and changes in national narrative, which also provides a framework and structure.

With this as my starting point, it is one of the hypotheses of the project that the different texts tell stories, which challenges the dominant Norwegian narrative of the war, and one of the main questions, which this project examines, is to what degree and how these texts attempt to navigate and find solutions to this problem. For instance, in the shape of an examination of silence or gaps in their own history – or through the difference between their family history and the national narrative. A central assumption is that the actions performed by their parents or grandparents not necessarily fits into the formula about Norway during the Second World War, which builds from a notion of the difference between us and them – the good Norwegians and the evil Nazis – and my hypotheses is that the authors attempts to create meaningful memories and identity at the intersection of personal, familial, and collective memory, which necessarily must confront the national narrative – which Anne Eriksen has described as the foundation Norwegian narrative of national resistance, and whice Synne Correll has defined as a “nationally framed understanding” of the dichotomy of us and them. Here the heroes (the resistance movement) represents the entire nation. The resistance attains a mythical quality, and the occupation is turned into “a different time” or a dark parenthesis in history, which closes off any integration or reevaluation of the past in the present.

The project therefore aims at examining if these works attempts to reintegrate or reevaluate the past and include the dark or repressed parts of the personal history. And if the past becomes a means to understand themselves and the world in the present. And if they are, does this turn it into a question of identity and blame? Who am I, if my family has a problematic past? In this case memory is placed somewhere between national identity, individual identity and the identity of the family.



Work experience

M.A. i Liberal Studies, The New School for Social Research, New York, 2011.

Ph.D., Universitetet i Oslo, 2018.


Making Memory. Norway and the second world war in contemporary arts.

Scientific publications

  • Torjusen, Henrik Martin Hansen (2015). Wealth and Virtue: Utopian Republicanism in Tom Wolfe's "The Bonfire of the Vanities". American Studies in Scandinavia. ISSN: 0044-8060. 47 (1). s 22 - 39.
  • Torjusen, Henrik Martin Hansen (2018). Kapitalismekritisk fyrverkeri.

Last changed: 3.07.2020 10:07