From Sin to Sears: Norwegian Women in Postwar New York and the Transformation of the Immigrant Body

About the project

This project maps the physical and cultural transformation among a group of young Norwegian women in New York City after WWII. Hailing from Agder, the pietistic southern tip of Norway, this young female labor force encountered a dramatically different society in the American metropolis than they knew from the Norwegian countryside. Incorporating qualitative interviews, photos, and material culture, I want to examine how these women’s appearance and behavior changed once they immigrated to New York and to illuminate which conditions contributed to this transformation. I want to emphasize “the natural body” as a cultural construction by showing how these women’s views on body and beauty were challenged and changed when confronted with the American city. Additionally I will argue that these women served as cultural interpreters; each individual used her body as a tool to position herself between old and new ideals.



Liv Emma Thorsen, professor, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages.

Kristin Asdal - professor at the Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture.

Siv Ringdal works at the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages.