The Danish school as a haunted house: Reforming time, work life and fantasies of teaching in Denmark

Nana Katrine Vaaben, Helle Bjerg

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The article explores the affective effects of school policy on Danish teachers, by using a ghostly perspective supplemented with Lacanian psychoanalysis as described by Zizek. The empirical case concerns how Danish teachers experienced a series of political events, including a lockout, a school reform, and a new law regulating their working hours. Our ghostly reading draws attention to the ways in which linear time collapses as past events continue to have an influence on the present. What becomes clear is that what bothers the teachers is not a matter of having to work more or less. Nor is it exclusively a question of settling accounts and rewriting history. It is also a matter of teachers having become seriously bewildered about what others require of them. The key claim is that ‘the spirit of teaching’ is rooted in a fantasy of what the Other wants, and creates a desire to provide exactly that. However, this ‘spirit of teaching’ has been killed, and teachers are now ‘working dead’ (teaching machines), driven without desire. But they are also haunted by the absent presence of ‘the spirit of teaching’ calling to them: ‘Remember me! Remember me!’
Translated title of the contributionDen danske skole som et hjemsøgt hus: Tidsreform, arbejdsliv og fantasier om undervisning i den danske folkeskole
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)107-128
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


  • schools, courses and institutions


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