Wilhelm Freddie, "En families genvordigheder" (A family's hardships), 1940

The Politics of Family Secrecy

Every family has a skeleton in the closet, or so the saying goes. A dubious deed or a disgracing detail that is kept under wraps through more or less elaborate practices of secrecy. But what does this convey about the family and its relationship to society or the state? And how might a historical perspective help us better understand the nexus between private and public management of knowledge in contemporary society?

This project examines: 1) how families have handled knowledge about social taboos associated with a family member, 2) how public authorities and professionals have encouraged or thwarted secrecy and 3) how family secrecy practices might have affected broader social, political and legal developments, and vice versa. Introducing a novel methodological approach that interrogates the connections between the micropolitics of mundane practices and macropolitical change, this historical investigation will improve our understanding of the role of knowledge management in the power dynamics between individuals, families, society, and the state.

Understanding the politics of family secrecy is an important prerequisite for dealing in a sensitive and suitable manner with an ongoing challenge for ordinary citizens, practitioners, and lawmakers alike: Navigating the fraught intersections between the public and the private domains in the modern welfare state.

Read more about the project.


Secrecy and Divorce

The Concealment of Mental Maladies

The German Occupation of Denmark

Illegitimate Children and Adoption
Supporting study: Ethical Exposure

Director of Research (PI)

Associate professor Karen Vallgårda
E-mail: karenva@hum.ku.dk 
Phone:  + 45 20 20 38 61