Staff Profile:Dr Karen Dempsey


HERSTORY (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, EU Horizon 2020)

Holistic Research into the story of buildings, objects and people in the high medieval period of Ireland, Britain and France from a gendered perspective.

Areas of Interest:
  • Castle studies
  • Medieval archaeology
  • Gender archaeology
  • Gender theory
  • Social archaeology
  • Material culture
  • Interdisciplinary research
  • Community archaeology and engagement
Research groups / Centres:

Objects, Materials and People Research Cluster

Key Facts:

Karen is currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at SAGES. Her project, entitled HERSTORY takes an holistic approach to the study of high medieval England, Ireland, Wales and Normandy (1066-1398). Through contextual analysis of the architecture, material culture (buildings and objects) and historical record of 12 case-study sites, HERSTORY will reveal how material culture (buildings and objects) constructed, reinforced and renegotiated gendered roles in medieval society. Essentially this means telling the story of medieval people, especially women, through the things that they used and cared about, within the spaces they inhabited, through the lens of what we know of the medieval past. Her project challenges current male-orientated views of the medieval world, so typical of castle-studies, which have largely excluded the everyday experiences and lives of women. The outcomes of this research will deepen our knowledge of gender identities in medieval Europe.

Karen has a Joint International BA in Archaeology and Greek & Roman Societies (University College Dublin, Ireland and University of Cyprus), a Masters in Historical Archaeology as well as a PhD in Archaeology (University College Dublin, Ireland). Her PhD, fully-funded by the Irish Research Council, focused on some seigneurial buildings, formerly described as ‘hall-houses’, that were common in Ireland during the thirteenth century. This study concentrated on the architecture, interior spaces and associated surrounding features of these buildings. Using investigative methods including original buildings and geophysical survey, this interdisciplinary research developed more nuanced understandings of medieval social spaces.

One of the core themes of her research is that space and place are intrinsic to how communities make themselves; therefore, she believes that communities’ engagement with cultural heritage enables people to make meaningful contributions to their individual and shared identities today. This concept drives her passion for public outreach and community archaeology as evidenced by her involvement with l heritage projects such as Lea Castle Conservation Group close to her home town in Ireland (see

She is very interested in how present societies utilise past material culture to negotiate and legitimise their views or ideals.

ORCID iD 0000-0001-9025-3535

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Number of items: 10.







  • Curran, S. and Dempsey, K., eds. (2012) Trowel XIII. School of Archaeology Research Journal. University College Dublin.
This list was generated on Mon Oct 21 05:38:20 2019 UTC.

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