Maleri af kvinde, der sidder på en stol i hjemmet og arbejder.

Center for Privacy Studies (PRIVACY)

Center leader:

Professor Mette Birkedal Bruun


2017 - 2023

Application round:

9th Round

Host institution(s)

University of Copenhagen



PRIVACY aims to launch privacy studies as a new re­search field. The goal is to develop:

  • systematized historical knowledge of dynamics that shape, induce or curb privacy in society,
  • an interdisciplinary method fit to grasp such dy­namics and
  • an international research environment that specializes in historical research, but is also equipped to incite a much broader investigation of privacy.

Privacy concerns the relationship between individual and society. The Western world harbours a wide-spread conviction that privacy may threaten society, but is at the same time vital for human existence: that too much privacy may threaten society while too little may ruin the individual. This double notion of privacy emerges in the period 1500­–1800. PRIVACY aims to identify early modern factors that shape and are shaped by this double notion of privacy, e.g. religious conflict, the role of home and family, the need to exchange and store information as well as the definition of freedom and con­straints regarding prop­erty, belief, sexual conduct and bodily habits.

Architecture, legislation, religious cultures and societal ideas are primary domains in the early modern understanding of privacy as a threat and a quality. We will examine the facets of privacy by means of a site-based analysis and an integrated interdisciplinary approach that brings together church history, architectural history, legal history and the history of ideas and focuses on particular locations in a particular period. With an understanding of the factors that influence the definition of the private sphere and its boundaries under different historical conditions we lay the foundation for a nuanced view of the complex societal conditions that affect current notions of privacy.

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