«Kunnskap for framtida»


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This project focuses on the role of religion regarding the ongoing debate about basic values in two different national cultures like those of Norway and the USA. It starts in the history of immigration, aiming at understanding the influence from immigrant church life on the development of democracy in Norway in the 1800s. We will also conduct a comparative study of traditions for teaching basic values to children in Norway and the USA. Basic values are understood to be more or less universal; they might be founded in a religious or philosophical conviction, but are dealt with in two different school systems, one in close connection with a national religion while in the other one there is no teaching of religion at all. Finally we will focus on values in contemporary politics of the two nations.

By studies of cultural contacts, contrasts and influence, we will hopefully gain new insights in factors which so far have been underlying the societal development of Norway and the USA. By focusing on religion as one of the basic elements in a national culture we might be able to establish scientific knowledge concerning conditions for cultural development and conditions for decision-making in society.

The relevance of this project should not be restricted to Norway and the USA. By this focus we intend to gain new insight in processes of cultural changes in a time of unlimited global mobility. One result of this mobility is cultural encounters which start complex and long lasting processes in many ways similar to those we concentrate on, and if we understand better how Norwegian emigrants have contributed to changes in Norway, we might also find ways to equip our own immigrants to be tools for changes in their own homelands, changes concerning peace, equal rights and welfare.

The whole project will be carried out as three integrated parts:

Part 1: Exchange of values in migration history

Part 2: Values in education: Formation for citizenship

Part 3: The role of values in politics


The managers of the project are a group of researchers from different departments at Volda University College. We have established a formalized partnership with St. Olaf College. The project will be open for research fellows from both institutions.

Project manager: Professor Birger Loevlie

Manager of part 1: Professor Inger Marie Okkenhaug

Manager of part 2: Professor Birger Loevlie

Manager of part 3: Associate professor Alf Tomas Tønnessen


Associated researchers:

Associate professor Ralph Meier, Volda University College

Associate professor Yvonne Wang, Volda University College

Associate professor Kristin Norseth, MF Norwegian School of Theology

Assistant professor Kristin Hatlebrekke, Volda University College

Professor Margaret Hayford O’Leary, St. Olaf College, Northfield

Professor Todd Nichol, St. Olaf College, Northfield


Workshop March 26, 2012 Participants and papers