Body-Politics Team

Principal Investigator:
Dr Marianne Hem Eriksen

Marianne is Principal Investigator and team leader for Body-Politics. She is Associate Professor of Archaeology at the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester, a member of the Young Academy of Europe, and winner of the Philip Leverhulme Prize 2022.

Marianne’s research ranges topics from infancy, power (and the powerless), to movement, dreams and complex concepts the self in the past. Her research has centred three main axes of late prehistoric and early medieval Scandinavia: the entwinement between architecture and inhabitants; the complex relationships between the living and the dead; and the social dynamics and politics of everyday life. Often, she has worked with the links between architectural spaces and human bodies, by considering how prehistoric houses are built by bodies, produce certain bodily experiences, can be conceptualised as bodies themselves – and how dead bodies, parts and whole, are linked to domestic space. Marianne has a strong interest in the lived experiences of inequality and gender.

Marianne leads the project overall and is principally responsible for the work package Sexual objects, sexual bodies.


Postdoctoral Researcher in Osteoarchaeology:
Dr Emma Tollefsen

Emma recently completed her PhD at the University of Manchester, and is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute in London, a member of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology, and committee member of the International Bog Body Research Network.

Emma’s research ranges from the funerary archaeology of Bronze Age and Iron Age Britain and continental Europe, investigating mummification and past curation of ancient human remains, to museology and conservation, particularly the ethics of display of human remains in museum settings. She has an interest in exploring ideas of mobility, identity and gender in past societies. Her PhD thesis, “Halting Death in Its Tracks: Scientific Methods and Theoretical Interpretative Frameworks for Investigating Curation in Iron Age Britain (c. 800 BC – AD 100)”, re-conceptualised British Iron Age funerary customs. Her research provided new insights into how differential curation might be achieved and how these practices allowed for more complex temporalities of burial and deposition – bringing both a practical and ideological notion of intervention in time and decay – transforming our understanding of mortuary practices in the first millennium BC.

Emma will be heading the work package ‘Body-Objects’ of the Body-Politics project, recording, documenting and investigating human remains deposited in settlements and wetlands from 1st millennium CE Scandinavia.

Emma started in September, 2022.

Postdoctoral Researcher in Old Norse language and literature: Dr Katherine Marie Olley

Katherine’s research interests include kinship, childbirth, the body, and emotions. Her first monograph Kinship in Old Norse Myth and Legend was published by Boydell and Brewer in July 2022 and she is currently working on her second monograph, Childbirth in Old Norse Literature, which explores the depiction and cultural significance of childbirth in medieval Iceland. Engaging with anthropological analyses of birth as a moment of social microcosm, the book will examine how birth narratives reflect and challenge the power structures and values of Old Norse society. 

Katherine received her DPhil from the University of Cambridge in 2019.  Her doctoral research, supervised by Dr Judy Quinn and funded by an AHRC-Trinity studentship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Training Partnership (2015–18), explored the nature of kinship in Old Norse myth and legend, focusing especially on parent-child relationships.  She subsequently went on to become a Teaching Fellow in Old Norse at University College London (2018–19) before joining St Hilda’s College, Oxford as the VH Galbraith Junior Research Fellow in Medieval Studies in September 2020. 

Katherine will be heading the the work package ‘Body-language’, tracing concepts and narratives on bodies, personhood, sexuality and death across Old Norse literature, poetry and legal texts.

Katherine starts in January 2023.

PhD Researcher in Body-Imagery:
Elisabeth Aslesen

Elisabeth is a recent MPhil graduate and Research Coordinator at the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History at the University of Oslo. In line with her research interest in archaeological knowledge production and identity construction, her MPhil thesis, “The Root of All: Gender, identity and difference in 4th-6th century Voss and Hardanger”, is a re-theoretisation of archaeological gender categorisation in mortuary material. The thesis was nominated for the Centre for Gender Research (STK) award 2020 at the University of Oslo.

Elisabeth will be heading WP5 of the Body-Politics project, investigating how anthropomorphic imagery relates to concepts of personhood and the body in the Iron Age. Elisabeth’s PhD project is preliminarily titled Bodied Objects: Personhood and imagery on clothed objects from Norway in the first millennium CE.

Elisabeth started in September, 2022.

PhD Researcher in Human-Animal Relations: Renate Larssen

Renate has a MSc in Ethology from Linköping University in Sweden, specializing in equine behaviour. From 2020 to 2022, Renate was the chairperson of the Swedish Association of Academic Ethologists.

For her Master’s thesis she researched the effects of training methods on the horse-human relationship. Her research paper “Regular positive reinforcement training increases contact-seeking behaviour in horses” has recently been published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science

For her PhD project “Living with humans: how animals shaped early medieval Northern Europe (400-1100 CE)”, Renate will apply current knowledge of animal behaviour, emotion, and cognition to interpret the lived experiences of horses, dogs, and sheep, as well as their relationships with humans.

This PhD post is funded by the University of Leicester’s Future 100 scheme.

Renate started in September, 2022.

PhD Researcher in childhood and the life-course: Bradley Marshall

Brad recently completed an MSc in Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. For his Masters’ thesis he explored female agency and involvement in Scandinavian raiding, conquest, and migration in England during the eighth to eleventh centuries. This included exploration of sex-ratio disparities, infanticide, female warriors, and a reappraisal of the scale of female mobility and migration; including original isotopic analyses on human remains currently being prepared for publication.

Brad’s PhD project will focus on the work package on childhood and the life course and is preliminarily titled: Gendered and social status disparities in the physical and cultural lifeways of children in Iron and Viking Age Scandinavia. He will investigate the influence of gender and social status on children’s diet, nutrition, pathology, morbidity and mortality, the interconnectedness of these factors with death and burial, and how childhood and children’s bodies were conceived within contemporary populations.

Brad started in September, 2022.

Research Support Administrator: Krupesh Mistry

Krupesh administratively supports a number of research groups across disciplines in the social sciences at the University of Leicester. He studied Biological Sciences BSc at the University of Leicester and has since worked at two research facilities; Medical Research Council and Leicester Diabetes Centre. He has experience in organising scientific conferences, customer relationship management, as well as higher education communications and marketing skills.

International advisory board
Professor Neil Price, Uppsala University
Professor Lotte Hedeager, University of Oslo
Professor Marie Louise Stig Sørensen, University of Cambridge
Dr Stefka G Eriksen,
The Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research
Dr Ben Raffield, Uppsala University
Dr Elise Naumann, The Norwegian Ministry for Research and Higher Edication
Dr Oliver Harris, University of Leicester
Dr Sarah Inskip, University of Leicester
Dr Jo Appleby, University of Leicester