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Keynote Lecture - April 17, 2004

Dr. Leigh Symonds presented Warp and Weft, Sword and Spear: exploring the construction of gender in Viking and Anglo-Saxon communities


Gender is a hot topic in today's world of multiple identities, ethnicities and global economies. As we seek to understand the construction of gender in our own communities, we look with interest to other societies, past and present, to bring perspective to our own society. This talk explores the way in which current attitudes to gender have altered our approach to the past by expanding our understanding of the complexity of human social practice. It also highlights the pitfalls of bringing our changing world view to the construction of past social identities.

Gender structures how we, as individuals, get on with the world. It affects whether we are born, what skills we are taught, it alters as we mature through childhood, adulthood and old age. This talk explores how gender was articulated in Viking and Anglo-Saxon society and how it affected, not only individuals, but the society as a whole. It focuses on the expression of gendered identities throughout early medieval society. It looks at what the historical and archaeological sources can tell us about this complex topic as well as where they fall short. Finally, it highlights where gender research is headed in the future.

Dr. Leigh Symonds received her undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto where she specialized in Anthropology with a minor in Celtic Studies. She then completed both her masters and doctorate degrees at the University of York in the U.K, concentrating on urban and regional landscapes in Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Scandinavian England. Currently, she is researching prehistoric and early medieval landscapes in the North Atlantic region, specifically the Isle of Man. Her research interests include landscape archaeology, GIS and computer applications in archaeology, gender and ethnicity. Recent publications include: ‘Territories in Transition: the construction of boundaries in Anglo-Scandinavian Lincolnshire’, Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History (2003, volume12, 28-37); Landscape and Social Practice: the production and consumption of pottery in tenth century Lincolnshire, (2003, British Archaeological Reports, British Series 345); ‘Traveling Beneath Crows: Representing socio-geographical concepts of time and travel in early medieval England’, co-authored with Rik Ling, (2002, Internet Archaeology, volume 13).