The Gustavian Weekly

MAYDAY! Conference… | The Gustavian Weekly

By Tram Bui Staff Writer | April 30, 2012 | News

celebrates Multicultural Sweden

A goal of this year’s conference is to inform people about modern Sweden. Gustavus Office of Marketing and Communication.

The MAYDAY! Committee worked in conjnction with the Scandinavian Studies Department for this year’s 32nd MAYDAY! Conference: Multicultural Sweden. The conference will discuss a broad range of issues taking place in contemporary Sweden.

“This topic raises many important questions about integration, the kind of society we will come to have and where groups will learn to fit together in this country,” Professor and Chair of Scandinavian Studies and Member of the MAYDAY! Committee Helena Karlsson said. “It will hopefully question the inequalities that persist in our communities.”

In addition to this year being the Sesquicentennial Celebration at Gustavus, there are many connections of multicultural Sweden to Gustavus.

“All of us wanted to emphasize our new curriculum of multicultural Sweden. Our idea is also to bridge the Swedish topics around here,” Karlsson said.

On Wednesday, May 2, 2012, Swedish author and journalist Dilsa Demirbag-Sten will deliver the morning keynote address in Christ Chapel at 10:00 a.m. Born into a Kurdish family, Demirbag-Sten immigrated to Sweden as a young girl and grew up in Karlstad and Uppsala. In addition to working as a journalist, she is a frequent media contributor on issues of immigration, integration, amnesty, religious oppression and Islamic fundamentalism.

“She is a talented writer, that takes on serious issues with a sense of humor,” Professor of Scandinavian Studies and Committee Member Kjerstin Moody said.

Demirbag-Sten’s keynote address will be streamed live online for those unable to attend the conference in person. To watch her speak, go online to

Award-winning Swedish novelist and playwright Jonas Hassen Khemiri will give the afternoon keynote address in Alumni Hall at 1:30 p.m. Born in Stockholm in 1978 to a Swedish mother and a Tunisian father, Khemiri grew up in a multi-lingual home. Khemiri is a sought after lecturer on themes linked to language, identity, anti-racism and growing up in a multicultural family. His book, Montecore (2007), won several literary awards and his play, Invasion!, was recognized with a Village Voice Obie Award in 2011 for best script.

Khemiri also happens to be the artist-in-residence for the college’s Out of Scandinavia weeklong celebration, which strives to enhance the college’s awareness of its cultural ties to the Scandinavian world. For a week, Khemiri will participate in classroom discussions with students, as well as participating in the conference. The theatre department is also planning on a reading of his play, Montecore and a discussion of Invasion!.

The discussion panel this year, taking place in the Heritage Banquet Room at 12:15 p.m., will have members of the Scandinavian Studies Department including Karlsson, Moody and Glenn Kranking. They will discuss the particularities of contemporary Sweden and its multicultural society

The committee is also actively trying to get more students involved this year. Students who are currently or have recently studied abroad in Sweden submitted pictures to be displayed on the panel outside of the Evelyn Young Dining Room.

“I lived in Sweden for one year and it influenced my participation in the conference,” Student Committee Member Sophomore Annalise Dobbelstein said. “In the region where I was staying, there were a lot of immigrants from Asia and Africa. My host mother was an elementary school teacher and asked me to help the kids with English, and they had a whole different idea of what America was. It was like a sharing circle. It was so fun that I went back again.”

The conference will hopefully show the campus and those unaware of modern life in Sweden that the country and people are different from what people typically think.

“People believe Swedish people are blonde and blue-eyed, and that’s not the case anymore in Sweden. The country is more developed than people think. It was a very Scandinavian culture, but it has a different side that’s more,” Dobbelstein said.

For a complete schedule and more information, visit


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