Sara Ellis Nilsson

Sara Ellis Nilsson

researcher, Deputy Department head
Department of Cultural Sciences Faculty of Arts and Humanities
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I am a medievalist educated in Canada (University of British Columbia), the UK (University of Glasgow and University of York), and Sweden (University of Gothenburg). I have a Ph.D. in (medieval) history from the University of Gothenburg. My dissertation focuses on the emergence of new cults of local Danish and Swedish saints in the early medieval period and their connection to the Christianization of the region. My research interests are interdisciplinary and include cultural heritage, cultural history, material culture, hagiography/liturgy, and digital humanities.

I have been employed as a university lecturer at the University of Gothenburg, Malmö University, and Lund University. In addition, I have been a visiting lecturer at the University of the Highlands and Islands (Orkney) and a research fellow at Stanford University. Since February 2019, I have been working as a Researcher in Nordic Medieval History at the Department of Cultural Sciences. From January 2020 until December 2023, I was the Director of Studies in History. From January 2024, I am the Deputy Head of the Department of Cultural Sciences, with special responsibility for undergraduate and post-graduate education.

I am also the Online Editor for Scandia: Tidskrift för historisk forskning.


From the Autumn Term 2020, I lecture on "Digital History" and am a thesis supervisor for the Master Programme in Digital Humanities.

Since the Autumn Term 2021, I am the coordinator and one of the lecturers on the course, Digital History (4HI505).

Previously, I have taught a variety of courses on all levels from survey courses on global history from 10,000 BCE to 1789 CE, to teacher training courses (history didactics), medieval history, the cults of saints as cultural history, historical theory and method, and cultural heritage studies, as well as supervised theses at both the BA and MA level.


I am the project leader of the Swedish Research Council funded, 'digitisation and accessibility of cultural heritage collections' (DIGARV) project, Mapping Lived Religion: Medieval Cults of Saints in Sweden and Finland. The project runs from 2019-2024. As part of this project, I will be studying the development of special feast days, their role in lived religion, and their connection to lay piety.

Since defending my doctoral thesis, I have written about the construction of sanctity as reflected in the lives of Scandinavian women; the portrayal of non-holy bishops in Scandinavian hagiography and how this reflects the formation of textual networks and communities; and the inclusion of travel narratives and companions in medieval hagiography. In addition to the above research project, I study the communication of the past and the use of history. In particular, I examine how objects and their reconstructions are used by different actors in the creation of narratives about the past. My current case study involves how viking ships and their reconstructions are used in the formation of narratives and the transmission of knowledge in museum contexts.

From 2021-2023, I was one of the co-leads of the project and initiative, Nordic Spatial Humanities: Linking, Building, and Sustaining Humanities Digital Spatial Infrastructures for Research in the Nordic Countries. Working together with the PI at Uppsala University and co-leads at the University of Bergen and the University of Iceland, we have generated diologue and exchange between academic and non-academic sectors, focussing on the needs of the humanities in terms of spatial data and data infrastructures for research and dissemination.

I am also a founding member of a public history project, "Visiting the Past", in which we have created opportunities for researchers, cultural heritage practitioners, and re-enactors to engage in a dialogue with each other. One of these initiatives involves creating a guidebook for re-enactment together.


Deputy Head of the Department of Cultural Sciences, with special responsibility for undergraduate and post-graduate education.


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Collection (editor) (Refereed)

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Article, book review (Other academic)

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