Wie wir wurden, was wir sind – kleine Beitragsreihe zur Geschichte des Netzwerkes und der Geschlechterarchäologie, Teil II:
Pioneers on feminism, gender and equality issues in Scandinavian archaeology

Autorin: Tove Hjørung­dal, Datum: 21.02.2021


This is a brief over­view of ear­ly works on femi­nism and gen­der in Scan­di­na­vi­an archaeo­lo­gy, initia­ted in the midd­le 1970s. Howe­ver, it is neces­sa­ry first to take a brief look back as Swe­den has some­thing like a tra­di­ti­on from the 19thcen­tu­ry. This is that archaeo­lo­gists Oscar Mon­te­li­us and Hans Hil­de­brand in the late 1800s, and later on Han­nah Rydh, were acti­ve in the suf­fra­gist move­ment as well as they wro­te on women in pre­histo­ry. While Nor­way intro­du­ced women’s right to vote alre­a­dy in 1913, Swe­den fol­lo­wed in 1921, two years after Rydh as the first woman, defen­ded her PhD in archaeo­lo­gy. Sin­ce, the­re have been a rela­tively high num­ber of women in Scan­di­na­vi­an archaeo­lo­gy.

Despi­te the renow­ned foun­ders and pro­fes­sio­nal fema­le archaeo­lo­gists, the­re was a gap until the 1970s, with the New Femi­nist move­ment, or The Second Wave. The first works were popu­lar artic­les, one by Nor­we­gi­an Jen­ny Rita Næss (1974) on Viking age women, and one by Swe­dish Ber­ta Stjern­quist (1975) on women’s social posi­ti­on in pre­histo­ry. In the years to fol­low, a few ana­ly­ti­cal works appeared, on a very rare occa­si­on, even one artic­le on Danish con­di­ti­ons. Fol­lo­wers were few until Eli­sa­beth Arwill Nord­bladh in Gothen­burg picked up the thread and star­ted to publish in the 1980s.

We have to look to Nor­we­gi­an col­le­agues born in the 1930s and 1940s to find the actu­al estab­lish­ment of femi­nism-infor­med ana­ly­ses and of sug­ges­ti­ons for new approa­ches. Thus, in the midd­le of the 1970s, a group of fema­le col­le­agues from muse­ums, uni­ver­si­ties and other insti­tu­ti­ons gathe­red and arran­ged a work­shop on women in pre­histo­ry. Soon after, the­re was a broa­der work­shop Were they all Men? With fema­le as well as male col­le­agues and aut­hors (Published about 12 years later, name­ly in 1987).

Fresh moti­va­ti­on inci­ted on many when Con­key & Spec­tor published their ground­brea­king paper Archaeo­lo­gy and the stu­dy of gen­der in 1984. The jour­nal KAN (Women in Archaeo­lo­gy in Nor­way), was estab­lished in 1985 and exis­ted for 20 years. With the years, it has been more com­mon to get gen­der infor­med papers published in gene­ral jour­nals and in mixed antho­lo­gies buil­ding e g on con­fe­rence papers/sessions.

Tea­ching gen­der-infor­med archaeo­lo­gy was car­ri­ed out from the end of the 1980s in Scan­di­na­via, and during the 1990s gen­der per­spec­ti­ves were estab­lished in Swe­dish and Nor­we­gi­an uni­ver­si­ties; howe­ver less, if not at all in Den­mark and hard­ly at that time in Fin­land and Ice­land. The­ses on advan­ced level (Magis­ter arti­um) came in Nor­way alre­a­dy in the 1970s, and the first PhDs came in Swe­den in 1991 and in 1998.

Heri­ta­ge was a topic for gen­der infor­med eva­lua­ti­on in Swe­den as well as in Nor­way, prin­ted in the jour­nal KAN and in a jour­nal published by the Swe­dish Anti­qui­ty Board.

Femi­nist cri­ti­cism deve­lo­ped during the 1970s and 1980s, as well as did expl­ana­ti­ons on ide­as and con­cepts in sci­en­ti­fic models and con­s­truc­tions. Theo­ry-con­scious col­le­agues like Eri­cka Engelstad, Liv Hel­ga Dom­mas­nes, and Eli­sa­beth Arwill Nord­bladh dis­c­lo­sed how archaeo­lo­gy was an acti­ve part in a com­mon sci­en­ti­fic, cul­tu­ral and poli­ti­cal uni­ver­se, a tra­di­ti­on that declared women as secon­da­ry. A num­ber of case stu­dies came, con­nec­ting to femi­nist theo­ries and pla­cing pre­his­to­ric women as acti­ve agents in pro­duc­tion, trade, and offi­ci­al respon­si­bi­li­ties. The few pio­nee­ring Scan­di­na­vi­an works within que­er per­spec­ti­ves, were published in the 1990s, but fol­lo­wers are scar­ce. An over­view writ­ten by Ing Marie Back Dani­els­son & Ben­ja­min Alber­ti shows that que­er per­spec­ti­ves as well as inter­sec­tion­al approa­ches are under-explo­red in archaeo­lo­gy at all.


Pio­neer works in Eng­lish from Scan­di­na­via on gen­der, femi­nism, que­er per­spec­ti­ves

Ber­tel­sen, Reidar et al. (eds.) 1987: Were they all Men? An Exami­na­ti­on of Sex-Roles in Pre­his­to­ric Socie­ty. AmS Varia 17. Sta­van­ger Muse­um.

Dom­mas­nes, Liv Hel­ga 1982. Late Iron Age in Wes­tern Nor­way. Fema­le Roles and Ranks as dedu­ced from an Ana­ly­sis of Buri­al Cus­toms. Nor­we­gi­an Archaeo­lo­gi­cal Review. Vol, 15/1.

Sol­li, Brit 1999. Odin the que­er? On ergi and shama­nism in Nor­se mytho­lo­gy. In Gustafs­son, A, & Karls­son, H. eds. 1999. Gly­fer och arko­lo­gis­ka rum. En vän­bok till Jarl Nord­bladh. Göte­borg.


Tove Hjørung­dal, Gothen­burg Uni­ver­si­ty, Swe­den


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