Helena Wulff

Telephone: +46 (0)8 16 26 85
E-mail: helena.wulff@socant.su.se
Room: B624
Office hours: Mon 3-5 pm


Helena Wulff is Professor of social anthropology at Stockholm University. Her research is in the anthropology of communication and aesthetics based on a wide range of studies of the social worlds of literary production, dance, and the visual arts. She has held visiting professorships at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, National University of Singapore, University of Vienna, and University of Ulster, as well as a Leverhulme visiting professorship at University of East London. She was Chair of the Anthropological Association of Sweden (SANT). Helena Wulff is a member of the board of the multidisciplinary research programme Cosmopolitan and Vernacular Dynamics in World Literatures, funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond 2016-2021. She is editor (with Deborah Reed-Danahay) of the book series “Palgrave Studies in Literary Anthropology” (Palgrave, New York), and editor (with Jonathan Skinner) of the book series “Dance and Performance Studies) with Berghahn Books, Oxford, and a member of the advisory boards of the journals Cultural Sociology, Social Anthropology, Culture Unbound: The Journal of Current Cultural Research, Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, and Cultural Anthropology. She was Editor-in-Chief (with Dorle Dracklé) of Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale, the journal of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA), and Vice President of EASA.

Among Helena Wulff´s English-language publications are the monographs Ballet across Borders: Career and Culture in the World of Dancers (1998, reprinted 2001, Berg/Bloomsbury) and Dancing at the Crossroads: Memory and Mobility in Ireland (2007, paperback 2009, Berghahn), as well as the volumes The Emotions: A Cultural Reader (editor, 2007, Berg/Bloomsbury) and Youth Cultures: A Cross-Cultural Perspective (editor with Vered Amit-Talai, Routledge, 1995), New Technologies at Work: People, Screens and Social Virtuality (editor with Christina Garsten, 2003, Berg/Bloomsbury), and Ethnographic Practice in the Present (editor with Marit Melhuus and Jon P. Mitchell, 2010, Berghahn). Articles have appeared in journals such as Body & Society, Identities, Ethnography, Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, and Ethnologie française. She has written book chapters in many edited volumes, and entries in a number of encyclopedias. Drawing on her research, she also occasionally writes popular articles for newspapers and magazines in Sweden and the UK.

While Helena Wulff´s early research was on youth culture and ethnicity, her specialist skills now include expressive cultural form (dance, art, images, text) in a transnational perspective, visual culture, the emotions, and media, as well as anthropological methods. She has conducted field studies in Stockholm, London, New York, Frankfurt-am-Main, and Ireland (mostly Dublin). Her current research is on writing and literature as cultural process and form focusing on contemporary Irish writers. Drawing on her research, she teaches courses on Media anthropology, Visual Culture, Studies in Cultural Form, Communication and Aesthetics, Anthropological Writing Genres, and Anthropological Methods.

Read more about Wulff's current research here: Helena Wulff's current research April 2016 (160 Kb)

Book review of Rhythms of Writing: An Anthropology of Irish Literature published in The Irish Times (2018-04-07).

Interview with Helena Wulff about her book Rhythms of Writing. An Anthropology of Irish Literature published on the CaMP Anthropology blog (2018-04-09).

Interview with Helena Wulff about her book Rhythms of Writing. An Anthropology of Irish Literature published on Alma Gottlieb’s blog (2018-05-27).

Selected publications




  • “Jazz i Ghana: Musik som kosmopolitism,” in Kulturella Perspektiv, 2(24): 34-38.
  • “In Favour of Flexible Forms: Multi-Sited Fieldwork,” in Forum: Re-thinking Euro-Anthropology. Social Anthropology, 23(3): 355-357.
  • “The Pains and Peaks of Being a Ballerina in London,” in Ilana Gershon (ed.),
    A World of Work: Imagined Manuals for Real Jobs. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • “Ireland in the World, the World in Ireland”, American Anthropologist, 117(1): 142-143.
  • “Dance, Anthropology of,” in James D. Wright (ed-in-chief), International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition, Vol. 5. Oxford: Elsevier, pp. 666-670.


  • “Anthropologist in the Irish Literary World: Reflexivity through Studying Sideways”, in Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Christina Garsten and Shalini Randeria (eds.). Anthropology Now and Next: Essays in Honor of Ulf Hannerz. New York: Berghahn, pp. 147-161.
  • Review of Nordic Dance Spaces: Practicing and Imagining a Region edited by Karen Vedel and Petri Hoppu, Nordic Journal of Dance 5(2): 50-51.
  • Review of Multi-Sited Ethnography: Problems and Possibilities in the Translocation of Research Methods edited by Simon Coleman and Pauline von Hellermann, American Anthropologist 116(1): 198-199.
  • Review of Moving subjects, moving objects: transnationalism, cultural productions and emotions edited by Maruška Svašek, for Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 20(4): 374-375.


  • “Ethnografiction and Reality in Contemporary Irish Literature,” in Marilyn Cohen (ed.), Novel Approaches to Anthropology: Contributions to Literary Anthropology. New York City: Lexington Books.
  • “Dance ethnography,” in Oxford Bibliographies Online. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • “Ways of Seeing Ireland´s Green: From Ban to the Branding of a Nation,” The Senses and Society, vol. 9, no.2: 233-240.


  • “An Anthropological Perspective on Literary Arts in Ireland,” in Ullrich Kockel, Máiréad Nic Craith och Jonas Frykman (eds.), Blackwell Companion to the Anthropology of Europe. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.


  • “Histoires de Terroir: Les Écrivains contemporains et l'Irlande Nouvelle,” Ethnologie française, Avril, 2: 301-308.


  • “Literary Readings as Performance: On the Career of Contemporary Writers in the New Ireland,” Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, 17: 98-113.
  • ”Ethereal Expression: Paradoxes of Ballet as a Global Physical Culture,” Ethnography, 9(4): 519-536.


  • “Longing for the Land: Emotions, Memory and Nature in Irish Travel Advertisements,” Identities 14(4): 527-544.


  • “´High Arts´ and the Market: An Uneasy Partnership in the Transnational World of Ballet,” in David Inglis and John Hughson (eds.), The Sociology of Art. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • “Memories in Motion: The Irish Dancing Body”, Body & Society, themed issue on “the dancing body”, (ed.) Bryan S. Turner, vol. 11(4): 45-62.

Research funding/grants

  • Visual Media in Anthropology, Social Science Faculty Programme on Future Learning in the Social Sciences, 2015-2016. With Paula Uimonen.
  • Cosmopolitan and Vernacular Dynamics in World Literatures, multidisciplinary research programme funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond 2016-2021. Member of the steering committee.


  • Media anthropology
  • Communication & Aesthetics 
  • Master and PhD supervision

Research networks

Conferences, workshops


  • American Anthropological Association (AAA), Denver, CO, 18-22 November 2015. Presented the paper “Ireland, Greater than Its Size: Small Scale in Life and Literature” in the session ”Exploring Small Countries” organized by Andre Gingrich and Ulf Hannerz. Discussant in the session ”Expressing Ethnographic Experience: Experimenting with Cultural Evocation” organizerad by Jonathan S. Marion.
  • Stockholm Anthropology Roundtable on “Transnational Elites: Towards an Anthropology of Mobile Professionals,” 29-30 October 2015. Presented the paper “Stars of Stage and Shelf: Transnational Dancers and Writers.”
  • Seminar ”Kreativa platser,” Övralid, 17 October 2015. Presented the paper “Irland som en plats för skönlitterärt skrivande.”
  • Anthropological Association of Sweden (SANT), Lund University, 17-19 April 2015. Presented the paper “Diversifying from Within: Diaspora Writings in Sweden.”


  • Symposium on “Irish America: Past and Present Perspectives”, Uppsala University (Celtic Section and Swedish Institute for North American Studies, both at the Department of English, Department of History and the Hugo Valentin Centre), 20 March 2014. Presented the paper “America as Hope in Irish Fiction.”
  • Anthropological Association of Sweden (SANT), Linköping University, 3-5 April 2014. Presented the paper “Greater than its Size: The Impact of Ireland´s Small Scale in Life and Literature.”
  • European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA), Tallinn, 31 July-3 August 2014. Organized with Pál Nyíri (Vrije Universiteit) the panel “Writing across Borders: Textual Mediation and Collaboration in an Interconnected World” and presented the paper “Speaking Truth to Power: The Role of Public Intellectuals in Ireland and Beyond.” Discussant in the panel “Collaborative Intimacies in Music and Dance: Anthropologies in/of Sound and Movement.”   
  • Workshop on ”Cosmopolitan and Vernacular Dynamics in World Literatures,” Stockholm University, English Department and Department of Social Anthropology, 20-21 November  2014.
  • American Anthropological Association (AAA), Washington, DC, 3-7 December 2014. Organized with Deborah Reed-Danahay (University of Buffalo SUNY) the Executive session “Writing Diaspora and European Imaginaries: Engaging with Anthropology´s Interlocutors” and presented the paper “Diversifying from Within: Diaspora Writings in Sweden.” Discussant in the panel “Apprenticeship Pilgrimage and the Production of Embodied Experience.”

Service to the profession

  • Expert evaluator of research proposals, European Research Council
  • External examiner of Caitríona Coen’s PhD thesis “Everyday Life, Debt and Death in North Dublin”, Department of Anthropology, National University of Ireland Maynooth. 5 February 2016.

Editorial assignments

  • Editor (with Deborah Reed-Danahay) of the book series Palgrave Studies in Literary Anthropology, New York: Palgrave.
  • Editor (with Jonathan Skinner) of the book series “Dance and Performance Studies,” Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books
  • Member of the Editorial Board of Cultural Anthropology
  • Member of the International Editorial Advisory Board of Social Anthropology/AnthropologieSociale: The Journal of the European Association of Social Anthropologists
  • Member of the National Advisory Board of Culture Unbound: The Journal of Current Cultural Research
  • Member of the International Advisory Board of Cultural Sociology
  • Member of the editorial board of Anthropological Journal of European Cultures (AJEC)

Lectures, seminars, teaching


  • Seminar presentation, ”Telling the Truth through Irish Fiction: Anthropology and the Literary Imagination”, Tallinn University, 25 March 2015. See more: https://vimeo.com/123831617
  • Seminar presentation “Writing: How to turn your master´s thesis into a journal article”, School of Dance and Circus (DOCH), Stockholm University of the Arts, 27 April 2015.


  • Seminar presentation “Accented Writings: Diaspora Fiction and Journalism in Sweden” in the Transnational Migration Series, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University, 20 May 2014.
  • Workshop, commented on PhD projects, Institute for Cultural Anthropology, University of Göttingen, 23 May 2014.
  • Seminar presentation “In the World of Irish Writers: Anthropology and the Literary Imagination,” University of Göttingen, 23 May 2014.
  • Seminar presentation “Cosmopolitanizing from Within: Diaspora Fiction and Journalism in Sweden,” Centre for Languages and Literature, Lund University, 10 June 2014.
  • Creole Intensive Programme, “Writing Cultural Journalism: Anthropology and a Tale of Two Translations,” National University of Ireland, Maynooth,  30 June – 10 July 2014.



Information about past activities can be found in the Department’s previous Annual Reports.