Viking tattoos of Instagram: Runes and contemporary identities

Lisa Bennett, Kim Wilkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this essay, we explore how and why rune tattoos – that is, tattoos created out of single runes or longer runic inscriptions – become implicated in modern reimaginings of Viking identity. What is critically interesting here is not whether Vikings actually wore rune tattoos. Rather, we are interested in analysing the cultural processes by which certain contemporary subjects come to adapt and inscribe Viking runes as living artwork on their own bodies and to display images of these personal markings on Instagram. That is, we are not arguing from the perspective of trying to find a simple equivalence between the medieval and the modern. Instead, we are trying to understand what kind of cultural work the medieval (in the form of Viking runes) performs in shaping 21st-century identities in a cultural moment when self-perception and social relations have become increasingly embedded in social media.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1301-1314
Number of pages14
JournalConvergence: The Journal of Research Into New Media Technologies
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Adaptation
  • cultural memory
  • identity
  • runes
  • social media
  • tattoo
  • Vikings


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