My name is Thomas Söderqvist. I am a citizen of Academia who am about to transmogrify from university employee to retired free-floating intellectual.
My present professional life
Since 1999 I have been professor in history of medicine at the University of Copenhagen. For many years I was also Director of the university’s Medical Museion, where I was responsible for transforming the old medical history museum into a medical science art and culture venue.
I loved the job at the helm of a small, creative and growing institution, but the 60+ hours working week and the constant mental tension that came with the job didn’t give me much time over for serious reading, thinking and writing. So, last summer, in June 2015, I stepped down as Director.
However, I still hold my position as professor (though on reduced time, 60%) in medical history at the University of Copenhagen for another year until final retirement in 2016. I am also still engaged in the university’s cross-faculty Center for Healthy Aging and continue as member of its Steering Committee. This website/blog to some degree reflects my research interests and engagement in the Center and its quest to understand the process of ageing.
My current scholarly interests and activites are difficult to separate from my other wordly interests and activities (I don’t have, at least consciously, any other-wordly interests). I spend most of my waking hours reading, thinking and writing about a plethora of scholarly, intellectual and political topics and issues — anything from the use of memories in the construction of autobiographical narratives to the role of biomedical technology in new future class societies.
I still write research publications to keep abreast with my ambitions as a member of Academia. Most of my scholarly books and articles up to 2012 are listed here, and those after 2012 here. One of my latest publications is “Successful Ageing : A historical overview and critical analysis of a successful concept”, written together with my former student Morten Hillgaard Bülow and published in the Journal of Aging Studies (2014).
However, as I am verging towards full retirement I produce fewer book chapters and articles in scholarly journals now than I did five, ten or 20 years ago; instead I spend an increasing amount of my waking hours engaged in intellectual and political discussions on social media.
I started my first blog, Biomedicine on Display, in 2005. After merging it with Medical Museions’s blog four years ago, I turned to Twitter, and later to Facebook, where I currently have a very active presence. I think these and other social media platforms are perfect for intellectual engagement in the major intellectual and political problems of our time.
My present personal life
I mostly work at my desk in our house on Strindbergsvej in Valby, Copenhagen, where I live together with my spouse Anna and our two children Johanna (born 2008) and Jussi (born 2011). (My oldest daughter from an earlier marriage lives in Stockholm with her husband and children.)
Valby is a district in the southwestern part of the Copenhagen inner city area that is separated from the rest of the city by cemeteries, parks and industrial sites, rendering it “a certain air of ‘independence’, or isolation, even today.” This is even more true of our beautiful local, green neighbourhood, Författerkvarteret (The Authors’ Neighbourhood), so called because the two major streets are named after the famous 19th century Scandinavian authors Bjørnstjerne Bjørnsson and August Strindberg.
I must confess that I don’t have many sparetime interests outside my extended work hours and everyday household chores. I do some press-ups to improve my muscle strength and I often go for a brisk walk in the neighbourhood, but otherwise I’m not engaged in any kind of sports (hey, healthy ageing!?).
Nor do I frequent concert halls, cinemas or theatres, I rarely read fiction books or watch fiction movies, except for a Netflix or HBO series now and then (my last favourite was River), and I much prefer reading Wikipedia articles than short stories. I listen to the news on radio, but never watch the telly. I don’t have urge to become an amateur painter or carpenter or gardener. On our annual summer vacations, however, I like going to museums, reading staples of pulp detective stories, and visiting botanical gardens. And I love just sitting doing absolutely nothing or watching people who are busy doing something.
A number of online psychological tests have convinced me that I have a pretty introverted personality (but I have learnt to hide it and sometimes behave as if I were an extrovert):
“I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing“ (quoted from here).
This is probably why, as a museum director, I liked the idea of material culture more than actual material things, and probably also why I prefer to read, think and write about autobiography, memory, self-therapy, and graceful ageing — instead of just doing all the ‘fun’ things that senior citizens are supposed to do together.