foto Karin Sennefelt

Karin Sennefelt


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Works at Department of History
Telephone 08-16 26 02
Visiting address Universitetsvägen 10 D, plan 9
Room D 824
Postal address Historia 106 91 Stockholm

About me

I am a cultural and social historian of early modern Europe with an emphasis on the history of the everyday, spatial practices, material culture and the body. To this I am interested in cultural and social theory and the development of historical methodology.

I am currently working with the project The Word made Flesh: The Body in Protestant Culture, 1600–1750, funded by the Swedish Research Council. The project studies the significance of corporeal religious experience for understanding how the early modern world worked.

In 2016-2018, I was coordinator of the Faculty of Humanties Doctoral School on Corporeality in Theory and Practice.

In 2017-2019, I charied the Swedish Research Council's review panel HS-I for Historical disciplines and archaeology.

In previous projects I have studied visual culture of the Swedish estate society, protest, masculinity and political culture in eighteenth-century Sweden, and the social processes of identification in Sweden and early America c. 1650–1850.


The Word made Flesh: the Body in Protestant Culture, c. 1600–1750

The purpose of the project is to study the connection between religion and the lived-in-body between 1600 and 1750. We intend to examine how the early modern religious world-view influenced the body, and how the body in turn shaped religious experience. The body was involved in all kinds of existential conflicts in religious life: between good and evil, life and death, the body could be fallen or redeemed. Through three separate case studies on the influence of the word of God on the body, on the somatic and emotional reactions to sin, and on the body as the teller of truth, it will be possible to reach an understanding of a lay embodiment of Protestantism. Our focus on the living body leads to an investigation of sources of power, as they were utilized by ordinary people: bodies laid claims to truth, spiritual connectedness and transcendence in a way that words did not. In so doing, corporeal experience shaped not only religious and emotional practice, but understanding of the world and how it worked.


2016-2019, funded by the Swedish Research Council

Karin Sennefelt (PI), Department of History, Stockholm University

Anton Runesson, Department of History, Stockholm University


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2019. Karin Sennefelt. Gendering Spaces in European Towns, 1500-1914, 168-183

    The chapter delves into an exceptional court case about the pulling down of 13 houses in Stockholm in 1719 to explore the multifaceted interpretations of space within a local community. Through a gendered notion of place, crowd attacks on the homes of ‘suspicious women’ were made possible: the space of a house was equated with those who dwelled within it and husbandless women perceived as immoral tainted a whole house. The crowd’s entrance into these spaces functioned as a form of reinstating of patriarchal authority in the dwellings of suspicious women.

    Of interest here are the reactions of the women attacked during the riots. Just as the crowd ransacked houses of personal possessions, the victims made great attempts to regain their possessions as a way of recreating their positions within the local community. Objects built narratives of good housekeepers, dutiful wives and mothers, and self-sufficient members of society. The virtue of these women was placed in their possessions; a looting crowd had displaced it. Taking things back was a way of replacing virtue. Metaphorically, by means of sheets, pots and tables, notions of identity came full circle and returned to the women.

  • 2019. Karin Sennefelt. Scandinavian Journal of History

    This article uses social practices to better understand the interrelations between a social ideology that decried aspiration and the practices of the young men bettering their lot in life when entering the Stockholm guilds. The path into guild membership is investigated regarding the inclusion of would-be members, their social networks, the materiality of documentation and the ideas, symbols and aspirations expressed in the process. The article shows that transition from one social position to another was laden with positive value and symbolism, and that this was underscored with the help of scores of participants apart from the would-be apprentice himself. These young men held a liminal position in society, but one that was understood as largely positive. They were deeply embedded within a local community, but with a direction in life, unmarried, skilled or wanting to acquire skill. While practices of social mobility opened paths for these young men, they also contained social order and the mobility of others.

  • 2017. Karin Sennefelt. Migration, Regulation and Materialities of Identification in European Cities, 1500-1930s
  • 2015. Karin Sennefelt. Cultural and social history 12 (2), 179-195

    Starting from the significance of the visual for the creation of distinction in early modern Europe, the article investigates the everyday practices of eyeing, inspecting and scrutinizing other people's dress and personal possessions. In that, it addresses the ways of seeing (rather than the ways of displaying) that were at the root of managing appearances and that formed a significant part of the urban experience. Cases are drawn from everyday visual practices among the lower orders in early modern Stockholm. The article argues that a discerning eye that inspected people and their material goods played an integral part in distinguishing respectability and honour in the city a way of seeing that was very different from the overview and order sought by city authorities. Therefore, these visual and material practices were part of ordering the social in the city.

  • 2015. Karin Sennefelt. Scandia 81 (2), 71-79
  • 2015. Karin Sennefelt.
  • Book (ed) Fråga föremålen
    2014. Anna Maria Forssberg, Sennefelt Karin.
  • 2014. Karin Sennefelt. Past & Present (222), 277-295
Show all publications by Karin Sennefelt at Stockholm University


Last updated: December 13, 2019

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