Helena Wangefelt Ström
part-time fixed-term lecturer at Department of Art History
I am at the final stage of my PhD thesis in museology at Umeå university, and I teach courses up to master level at the ALM department and at the Conservation/Art History department. My thesis explores the transfer of religion between sacredness and heritage, with a case study in 17th century Rome and Venice. My academic background is within History of Ideas and Science, and professionally within museums, rare book collections, NGO's, and regional cultural governance.
Keywords: kulturarv museer museologi heritage critical heritage stiudies critical heritage studies religious heritage early modern history religiöst kulturarv tidigmodern historia religious dissent early modern italy rom venedig
Also available at
Title of on-going PhD thesis project: Lighting candles before a headless Jesus. Enchanted heritage, disenchanted sacredness, and the journey in-between.
As a museologist within the field of critical heritage studies (i e focusing less on the museum practice and the institutions, and more on the processes, effects and historical frameworks etc surrounding the heritage field), and with a background in history of ideas and science, I study the process of heritagisation of religion: What happens when religious artefacts, places and practices become musealised or inscribed in new contexts such as history, art/aesthetics, politics, science, tourism, etc? Who performs the change, with what means and motives, and for whom? My case study is Rome and Venice, compared, in the 17th century, and the encounter with non-Catholic (principally Swedish) travellers. My focus is new uses of the sacred past.
I started reflecting on religion and heritage in my master thesis in the field of history of science and ideas (Uppsala university), where the subject of my study was the Swedish 17th century national inquiry for antiquities and the listing of Catholic items. Given the discourse of Sweden defending a status as Great power with an ancient Gothic origin, along with the lingering fear of Catholicism, I found the transformation of sacred and threatening Catholic items into national heritage to be an act of control, of domesticating and incapacitating of the potentially dangerous.
The case study for my dissertation reverses the perspective and applies same theories and questions, not on an environment where Catholicism was something strange and threatening, but one where Catholic belief and practice was normative. I explore the encounter between Swedish Grand Tour travelers to Early Modern Rome and Venice to see how Catholic items, customs and environments are accounted for in letters and diaries. I also explore and analyze the ongoing musealisation, deconstruction and instrumentalisation of sacred items, buildings and traditions in 16th and 17th century Rome and Venice, with the growing number of foreign tourists, guide books and new narratives, as a fundamental context for this topic. I touch upon theories concerning materiality, authenticity and performativity, as well as Max Weber's concept of 'disenchantment', and theories presently taking shapes in the international field of critical heritage studies.
My general field of interest is vast and includes, among other topics: heritage production and heritage politics, history of religion and history of ideas, visual and material culture, museum culture and authenticity, and cultural policy and politics. My professional background includes museum practice at Skokloster castle, NGO project management and cultural policy making and funding.
Supervisors: Associate Professor Richard Pettersson (Umeå university), Associate Professor Federico Barbierato (University of Verona)
Member of the steering board of the international research group for Early Modern Religious Dissents and Radicalism, EMoDiR (www.emodir.net)
For more information, see Academia: https://umu.academia.edu/HelenaWangefeltStröm
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