Gendering the Nordic Past: Tensions and Potentials in Narratives of Past Gender

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In this session, our interdisciplinary collaborative research project, Gendering the Nordic Past, invites researchers from all interested disciplines to contribute to our ongoing work of exploring the interplay of identities in the past and present. By seeking to establish the discursive lines between narratives of past and present gendered behaviours, we wish to offer a platform for exploring gender as part of the Nordic collective identity. We seek especially to probe the tensions embedded in narratives of the Nordic gendered past, and to thereby unlock the manifold potentials found in challenging these narratives.  

Drawing on critical heritage perspectives along with recent developments in gender theory, we explore and scrutinise how notions of gender and diversity are incorporated into perceptions, representations, and thereby also collective memories of a mythical, shared Nordic past. We wish to examine how these understandings of the past may in turn nurture and inform present national and pan-Nordic identities.  

Gendering the Nordic Past is anchored in archaeology, but we work across disciplines including museology, theology, history, critical heritage studies, art history and gender studies. We welcome contributions from all interested disciplines, who wish to contribute to our ongoing dialogue seeking to understand and make explicit the role of the past in current Nordic identities, and how and to what extent the current view on the Nordic nations as champions of gender equality has influenced interpretations of the past. 

Some suggested areas of interest are listed below, but contributions outside of these are equally welcome: 

  • Intersectional perspectives on past Nordic identities 
  • Anchoring Nordic identities in the past: the role of history and heritage in current societal ideals 
  • How the past speaks in the present: gender in representations of the past 
  • Imag(in)ing the past: how past gender roles are represented visually in Nordic culture 
  • Narrating gender in the past: past gender as a societal trope in literature and other media 


Unn Pedersen is Associate Professor in Archaeology at the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo. Pedersen combines empirical archaeological knowledge with a theoretical engagement in amongst other subjects narratives of the gendered past. She is moreover a passionate disseminator as well and an author of children’s books. Her engagement and work with challenging the established discourse is evident for instance in her role as project lead of HEI: Heritage Experience Initiative, which seeks to develop critical heritage research by integrating students, researchers and heritage professionals, and in Gendering the Nordic Past, a project that seeks to revitalize the field of gender archaeology in the Nordic countries.  

Marianne Moen is a postdoctoral fellow at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo. Moen has a background in gender-focused archaeological research, having focused her PhD-research on challenging the discourse and narratives connected with gender in the Viking Age. Her main research interests concern the production and use of knowledge about the past in the present from a gendered point of view especially, with a focus on how archaeology is fundamentally political as it provides origin stories that legitimise current social order. Her research interests also include understandings of personhood and value, as well as the interface between archaeology and critical heritage studies. She is currently working on the project Human Sacrifice and Value: the limits of sacred violence.  

Elisabeth Aslesen is a recent MA Archaeology graduate and research assistant on the Gendering the Nordic Past project, whose current research interests centre on gender and archaeological theory. Her MA thesis was nominated for the STK Award 2020, awarded by the UiO Centre for Gender Research. 

Published Sep. 20, 2021 1:25 PM - Last modified Sep. 21, 2021 2:57 PM