The 2022 Nils Klim Seminar: Historical Perspectives on Women's Mobility

What enabled or compelled women to move in the past? This seminar explores aspects of women’s travel in the Ancient Mediterranean.

Since antiquity, women have been linked with sessility and domestic spaces, while a great deal of famous travellers have been men. Though cultural expectations and divisions of labour have shaped patterns of human mobility in gendered ways, various sources point to women on the move. Some of them travel voluntarily but others by force, which draws attention to the motives behind their trips. As a result, a more nuanced notion of the social complexity of travel history begins to emerge.

Academic seminar held in honour of the 2022 Nils Klim Laureate Elisa Uusimäki and her research. There will be an introduction of the topic by Uusimäki, followed by presentations by three invited guests, a panel discussion and Q&A. 


Elisa Uusimäki
Photo: Lars Kruse

Elisa Uusimäki: Introduction of theme

Elisa Uusimäki is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Judaism at the School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University. She is also AIAS Associate Fellow at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies. Uusimäki serves as the Principal Investigator of the project “An Intersectional Analysis of Ancient Jewish Travel Narratives”, funded by the European Research Council. Uusimäki is awarded the 2022 Nils Klim Prize for her outstanding research into the literary and cultural history of Judaism in antiquity.



Jessica van't Westeinde
Photo: Daniel Alter

Jessica van 't Westeinde: "'Forced Mobility' of Servants and Slave-Girls"

From the fourth century CE, there appears a rise in travel undertaken by Roman noble women. Egeria, Melania, and Paula are famous examples of such mobile women. However, the invisible group of people that formed their entourage have often been overlooked. Domestic servants, slave-girls, were forced to leave the comfort of the domus for an arduous journey, to end up living in a monastery abroad. I will try to render visible these invisible women who accompanied their matrons on their travels.

Jessica van ‘t Westeinde  is a Research Fellow at the University of Tübingen. She recently published her first monograph, Roman Nobilitas in Jerome’s Letters (Mohr Siebeck, 2021). An article on Jerome and Paula's travels appeared in Elisa Uusimäki’s journal Views on the Mediterranean (NTT, 2021).

Troels Myrup Kristensen
Photo: Private

Troels Myrup Kristensen: "Archaeologies of Women’s Mobility"

This paper engages with the ‘pilgrimage moment’ in current scholarship on ancient Mediterranean religion and examines some examples of how archaeology can shed light on the different experiences of sacred travel. Material culture indeed provides important nuance to the study of religious mobility that so often is studied exclusively through texts, such as inscriptions and literary accounts, that tend to be one-sided in terms of both status (elite) and gender (male).

Troels Myrup Kristensen Troels Myrup Kristensen is Associate Professor at the School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University. He has published widely on the archaeology of ancient Mediterranean pilgrimage and is currently working on a book about religious mobility in the ancient world that takes inspiration from the so-called “New Mobilities Paradigm.”

Lien Foubert
Photo: Eva Steentjes

Lien Foubert: "Forced (Im)mobility in a Gendered Roman Antiquity"

A highly mobile culture was the norm in the ancient Mediterranean. Yet, travel was one of those social practices that catapulted women in the ‘public’ domain. Graeco-Roman writers sought ways to come to terms with the gendered dynamics of mobility. The expansion of the Roman Empire made them turn to a new narrative strategy: picturing women as the embodied link between displaced men and their patria, from a geopolitical and/or religious perspective.

Lien Foubert focuses her research on the gendered dynamics of changing societies, a subject which she tackles through the lens of women’s movements in the ancient Mediterranean. She is Associate Professor at the History Department, Radboud University, and head of its BA and MA teaching programmes.

Jorunn Økland
Photo: DNVA

Jorunn Økland (moderator) is Professor at the Centre for Gender Research and Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo.







This event is a part of the Holberg Week, which this year takes place 7—10 June.


to 12:00, CEST.

04:00 AM to 06:00 AM, EDT

University Aula, Bergen
Practical information
Free admittance.
No pre-registration needed.
Livestream: TBA