Staged History in Local Settings: The Popular Norwegian Spel Tradition.


  • Anne Kathrine Larsen Deptartment of Social Anthropology, NTNU



drama, memory, "spel", historical plays, local community, Norway


During the last few decades there has been an enormous increase in locally based historical plays in Norway. These are staged by amateurs, although professionals may hold important positions both on and behind the stage. The dramas have their origin in actual or invented historical events located in the area, and the stage is carefully selected to create an aura of authenticity to the performance. The environment creates dramatic scenery as they are mostly staged outdoor, and the audience frequently have to make an effort to travel to the site of the performance. As the plays are staged annually or biennially, they constitute a regular ritual performance in the community. At the same time, minor changes are allowed for from year to year, and which are widely discussed and appraised by the audience and others. Although these dramas claim to represent historical events and period pictures, their underlying message is of current interest. They become mediums whereby the past is seen through the ideological and moral lenses of the present, and are also catalysts for creating selected memories for the future. As such, they should also be considered on the background of the wider social dramas surrounding the actual plays.

Author Biography

Anne Kathrine Larsen, Deptartment of Social Anthropology, NTNU

The author is an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. She has conducted anthropological fieldworks in Norway, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. Her fields of interest range from studies of local communities and development discourses, to world-views and cognition. She is presently involved in a project on the multiple expressions and representations of cultural heritage in Norway.




How to Cite

Larsen, A. K. (2010). Staged History in Local Settings: The Popular Norwegian Spel Tradition. Outlines. Critical Practice Studies, 12(2), 83–96.