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helle

Helle Rytkonen
Lecturer, Stanford University, USA

I was born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark and I studied Political Science at the University of Copenhagen. I came to the US as an exchange student to study political science and rhetoric at UC Berkeley. At the time, I thought it would be against all odds if I stayed for the duration of an academic year (9 long months). I feared the violence in the US, which I had seen in American movies back in Denmark, and I also just knew that Scandinavia was the best place to live.

This is now 15 years ago.

I still love to go back to my native Denmark and I spend 3 months in Europe every summer. But when harvest (and the rain) comes, I'm happy to return to San Francisco and to Stanford.

After staying two years at Berkeley, I went to graduate school at Stanford and earned my Ph.D. in modern thought and literture in 2002. I have taught at Stanford since. My research is on how contemporary European identities are constructed in relation to Europe's nazi past and to current Muslim immigration. My current focus is on cultural and legal discourse on Muslim immigrants. I have recently published articles on the gendered rhetoric of the infamous Mohammed cartoon crisis as it unfolded in Europe and in America respectively.

My teaching centers around issues of race, class, gender, ethnicity and religion, and I am currently teaching classes in Stanford's Program in Writing and Rhetoric on the role of satire in challenging, consolidating, or questioning racial, ethnic and gendered stereotypes.
The cross cultural rhetoric program is of particular interest to me because of my research focus, and the fact that I and my students will be communicating with Scandinavia. But it is also of personal interest, because I and my (also) Danish husband are raising our two US born children here in the US. We are constantly facing cross cultural challenges in our very family and have had to question the norms and values we took for granted as Danes. (I secretly force-feed my kids Danish liquorice to make sure that they will be able to pass as true Danes if they ever choose to live in Denmark.)

I have traveled extensively in what was once known as East and West Europe, and I have lived for longer periods of time in Spain, Italy, Ireland, and, of course, Denmark. I have also traveled in Thailand, Morocco, Egypt, Tahiti, Jamaica, Mexico, and the US. In fact, being without a ticket abroad makes me slightly dizzy.