Dr Pragya Vohra
I am an early medieval historian, with a particular interest in the social dynamics of the Viking Age and medieval Scandinavia, particularly as part of the processes of migration, settlement and the creation of diaspora. My research interests resonate with my own situation as part of a diaspora, and have been shaped by my first degree in History and Anthropology, and my fascination with maritime technologies and cultures, stemming from my early years spent on ships.
Before taking up this post, I have taught at a number of universities, including Leicester. Most recently, I was Lecturer in Early Medieval European History at Aberystwyth University and was an Early Career Researcher on the recently concluded AHRC ‘Viking Age Languages, Myths and Finds’ Project which ran concurrently with the British Museum’s ‘Vikings: Life and Legend’ exhibition.
My doctoral research, funded by an ORSAS Scholarship, was an ambitious and innovative project, which used the lens of kinship to test medieval evidence of Viking migration and settlement in the North Atlantic against the modern sociological construct of diaspora. I use different theoretical approaches to social memory, social networks, oral history, migration and diaspora and draw on history, anthropology and archaeology for my research. My main focus was the relationship between physical distance, social network formation and the maintenance of kinship ties during and after migration. My study established, for the first time, the Viking world as a socially-functioning diaspora, clearly reflected in the contemporary worldview. Old Norse sources, coming largely from an Icelandic perspective, memorialise a functioning Viking diaspora reflecting maintained social relations and the emergence of local identities in equal measure. This research forms the basis of my forthcoming book Kinship In The Viking Diaspora, currently under contract with Routledge.
My doctoral research represents my first foray into a wider socio-historical investigation into relations across boundaries to see what changes are wrought due to the movement and migration of a people, how social systems cope with geographical displacement, and the manner in which diasporic links emerge and are sustained. These issues of migration, diaspora, acculturation and assimilation resonate in fields beyond medieval and Scandinavian studies and are as relevant to the medieval world as they are to our own times.
Remembering England in the Viking Diaspora — The place of England in Viking diaspora and its memorialisation
Viking Settlement in North-East England — Migration and settlement in Cleveland
This research focuses on the recent discovery by my team of a Scandinavian runic inscription in the Tees Valley, only the eighteenth in England. Despite being a natural conduit into the heart of northern England, the River Tees has traditionally been conceived of as a boundary rather than a region. However, like other major rivers, it was also the locus of Scandinavian settlement, reflected in diverse evidence (place-names, sculpture, etc.). A concentration of enigmatic ‘hogback’ stones in the area points to a distinctive cultural identity. The recently discovered runestone, bearing a Goidelic personal name, hints at connections between this part of the North-East and the Irish Sea Vikings, as well as the wider diaspora. This research investigate the processes of migration, settlement and assimilation in this region, their role in creating the region’s unique cultural identity and illuminate its connections with the wider Viking diaspora.