Bodil Selmer "Inheritance and concepts of family in life and law in Denmark"

Departmental Seminar Series features Bodil Selmer, Associate Professor at Department of Anthropology, School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University.

The seminar is followed by informal gathering, at which refreshments are served. All are welcome!

Copyright: Aarhus University


Anthropological studies of the relationship between persons, death, and things in a modern western context have focused on personal loss and the gradual disposal of personal belongings in the grieving process of detachment.  This talk, on the other hand, focus on the role inherited material possessions and money play in constituting kinship and keeping long-term connections between the living and the dead. Starting from my study of Danish inheritance practices and inspired by Weiner’ work on inalienable possessions I discuss those inherited things that are kept as heirlooms, the precarious value they possess and their capacity to give personal historical depth to present lives and identities. I then turn to recent developments in Danish inheritance law. As an answer to societal changes and legal challenges that follow from divorce, remarriage and blended families, the latest changes have favoured the horizontal conjugal bond between current spouses with reference to their so-called life companionship.  This notion resonates well with modern kinship studies that also focus on relatedness and kinning as performed and created through common daily practices.  Nonetheless, presenting material from interviews and court cases I demonstrate, that when it comes to inheritance practices, formal kinship continues a powerful coexistence with relative fixed norms of obligations and rights. 

Research profile

Bodil Selmer is Associate Professor in Anthropology and Ethnography at Aarhus University. She has specialized in legal anthropology, kinship studies and the recent cultural history of Denmark.

For several years, she has been involved in interdisciplinary research on inheritance and family law in the Nordic countries. Within this field, her main area of research is the significance of inherited valuables and things in relation to identity, kinship and social ties. She is the author of two books and has co-edited several volumes. Further information

Published Dec. 15, 2017 11:47 AM - Last modified Mar. 22, 2018 3:18 PM