Maria Nordbrandt Bergström defends her thesis on 14 January


Maria Nordbrandt Bergström defends her thesis Modern Talking: On the Democratic Roles of Cross-Cutting Communication in a Polarized World on 14 January at 13:15.The defence will be held in Brusewitzsalen, Östra Ågatan 19. A link to the digital meeting is available here. A limited number of people (max 40) will be able to participate live.

The defence will be held in Swedish.

Maria Nordbrandt Bergström Photo Mikael Wallerstedt

The external reviewer is Professor Åsa von Schoultz, University of Helsinki.

The members of the examining committee are Professor Thomas Denk, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences, Örebro University, Associate Professor Susanne Urban, Institute for Housing and Urban Research and och Department of Sociology, Uppsala University and Professor Kristina Boréus, Department of Governmenr, Uppsala University (chair of the public defence).

Modern Talking: On the Democratic Roles of Cross-Cutting Communication in a Polarized World

The philosopher Hannah Arendt once wrote that representative thinking – the ability to imagine being in someone else's shoes and reflect as if that person was me – is the definition of political thinking. Only in this way, Arendt argues, can views emerge that are political in that they have taken common concerns into consideration rather than just strictly private preoccupations.

Political thinking in this sense presupposes an awareness of alternative ways of thinking about different issues. It requires insights into how other people reason based on their specific life circumstances and experiences. Arendt’s take on political thinking should therefore benefit from an exchange of views between people with different living conditions and opinions.

The topic of this dissertation Modern Talking: On the Democratic Roles of Cross-cutting Communication in a Polarized World is the democratic roles of the exchange of views between differently minded citizens in their day to day life – something referred to as cross-cutting communication. Maria Nordbrandt demonstrates that there are different ways of thinking about the value of cross-cutting communication that are more or less in line with Arendt's approach. But theory is one thing and reality another. There is a lack of previous research on how people tend to react when they encounter cross-cutting views in practice. Do such exchanges tend to make us wiser, more tolerant and more engaged as many have hoped? Or, do they rather activate psychological defense mechanisms that foster parochialism and cement pre-existing biases? And, how does the digital revolution, whereby more and more communication and information are mediated through screens, interact with these tendencies?

The aim of the thesis is to examine – both theoretically and empirically – the roles that exchanges of views between people with different political views play from a democratic perspective. The author shows how the study of this issue can increase our understanding of some of modern society's great challenges and how exchanges of cross-cutting views can improve the chances of finding constructive ways forward. Particular focus is devoted to challenges in the wake of the climate crisis and increased hostility and mistrust between different political groups. Leaning on survey data from three countries (The US, The Netherlands, and Spain), Nordbrandt shows that colloquial cross-cutting communication – face to face and via social media – are associated with stronger support for environmental policies and less negative attitudes towards political opponents. All in all, the dissertation shows that exchanges of views between political opponents may be an important ingredient in upholding democratic virtues such as political problem-solving and the maintenance of peaceful political relations.

Find out more about Maria Nordbrandt Bergström here

Full-text available on DiVA Open Access

Public Defences

Last modified: 2023-11-23