My proposed Fulbright project resulted from my attempts to imagine this place I had not been and what I might like to learn. It was ultimately not one cohesive project, but reflections on the ways in which my Fulbright experience would complement and extend my work in three general areas: girls’ cultures, fitness cultures, and educational systems. My title: Consciousness and Movement in Girls’ Cultures and Fitness Cultures.
Teaching in a foreign educational system will certainly be a challenge and will, I hope, help me to develop my pedagogies and programs for American studies and interdisciplinary studies. I will also be co-teaching an American studies theory and methods course with one of my Danish colleagues; we started working on the syllabus when I was on sabbatical. Perhaps most exciting, I will also have the opportunity to work with graduate students for the first time, and I am already advising a B.A. student's thesis project about black feminism and Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
When I had more time to really start doing some pre-Fulbright research about Denmark (again, during my sabbatical), the part of my project surrounding girls’ cultures and fitness cultures evolved into a more specific project that considers the Danish concept and practice of hygge (hoo-gah) and the concept and practice I have taught and studied (and preached and tried to practice) in the U.S.—self-care. I am interested in how Danes understand and practice hygge and how these practices and understandings can help me understand, develop, and extend the concept of self-care. My new working title is: Understanding Self-Care through Hygge (hoo-gah): An Interdisciplinary Exploration of Danish and American Culture.
Hyyge has no one-word translation in English, but is often understood as “cozy.” This simplification stems, at least in part, from the fact that hygge is not just a concept or a style or something you adopt for certain occasions or certain spaces, it is a foundational aspect of Danish culture and identity. In the U.S. and the U.K., we look to the concept of hygge to help explain why the Danes are cited as some of the happiest people in the world as well as to give advice on how to find this concept in, for instance, the design of classroom spaces and having a cozy lifestyle to survive winter. But this is, I think, a shallow understanding of a much deeper concept.
I’m excited to learn more about hygge and Denmark, and I plan to learn many other things along the way… I have already learned so much in just a few days!