Citizenship, Democracy and Social Justice: A Conversation with Maria Olson

By Peters, Michael A. | Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Citizenship, Democracy and Social Justice: A Conversation with Maria Olson


Peters, Michael A., Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice


Maria Olson is a researcher and lecturer in Education at Stockholm University and the University of Skövde, Sweden.

Her areas of interest include democracy and citizenship in relation to education. Her major fields are educational theory and educational philosophy. Her current publications include most recently a series of papers that develop themes of citizenship, democracy and social justice, including: "Citizenship Education without Citizenship? The Migrant in EU Policy on Participatory Citizenship - Toward the Margin through 'Strangification,'" in R. Hedke and T. Zimenkova (eds.), Education for Civic and Political Participation: A Critical Approach (pp. 155-170). London: Routledge, 2012; "Citizenship 'in Between': The Local and the Global Scope of European Citizenship in Swedish Educational Policy," in S. Goncales and M. A. Carpenter (eds.), Intercultural Policies and Education (pp. 193-203). New York: Peter Lang, 2012; "The European 'We': From Citizenship Policy to the Role of Education," Studies in Philosophy and Education 31(1), 77-89, 2012; "Opening Discourses of Citizenship Education: Theorizing with Foucault" (with Nicoll, K., Fejes, A., Dahlstedt, M. & Biesta, G. J. J.), Journal of Education Policy, 2013 (forthcoming); "Democracy Lessons in Market-oriented Schools: The Case of Swedish Upper Secondary Education," Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, online first, Doi: 10.1177/17461979134836842013 (with Lundahl, Lisbeth), 2013; "What Counts as Young People's Civic Engagement in Times of Accountability? On the Importance of Maintaining Openness about Young People's Civic Engagement in Education," in M. Olson (ed.), Theme: Citizenship Education under Liberal Democracy. Utbildning & Demokrati [Education & Democracy] 21(1), 29-55, 2012.

Michael Peters: Maria can you tell us something of your educational background and upbringing in Sweden and how you became interested in the question of citizenship.

Maria Olson: My educational background includes a Bachelor's degree in psychology and philosophy at Stockholm University, and a Master's degree in religious science at Uppsala University. My doctoral degree is in pedagogic practices, with a minor in political science, at Linköping University, Sweden. I was raised in Lugnâs, a small village with only 2000 inhabitants. Lugnâs, which means 'quite ridge' in Swedish, is located in the mid south of Sweden. The area is marked out by its relatively flat landscape and farmland. When I was nine years old my family moved to Mariestad, a city nearby. Mariestad is an industrial city that basically lives of producing refrigerators and toilet paper. Located on the coast of Sweden's largest lake its humble beauty is evident.

As concerns the question of citizenship I find it enthralling as it often denotes collectively nurtured politico-ideological desires for a better world. These desires do not seem to be weakened by the notion that we are facing the present and future situation in society in a way that is riven with severe problems. To provide an example, we may turn to the present situation in Europe, where some people become expelled from the place where they live their lives for being considered not to embody a 'proper' citizenship. I think that this political, or betterly, governmental meagemess in present times calls for deepened investigation.

Put briefly, I think that the question of citizenship is intimately related to the very idea of humanity, or human-ness. As education is one of the most critical public bodies in modem times in providing for these processes, my interest in citizenship is closely linked to education and its alleged and assigned commitments. Could you fall in here, Michael, and tell us something about the question of citizenship and its relation to education from your point of view?

Michael Peters: Thanks for information on your background. To evade your question for the moment what occurs to me is that Swedish intellectuals seem to feel a strong responsibility for producing conditions for a better world not only in conflict studies but across the board. …

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