Focus areas

Our contextual approach to the study of law concentrates on three focus areas that function as lenses through which we put law into perspective. The three focus areas are the overarching topics that frame and shape the research projects of the center.














Ongoing projects

An important part of research activities in CIS are organized around collaborative projects that involve members of the center as well as partners outside the center. Members of CIS are currently involved in a number of large interdisciplinary research projects, most of which are externally funded:


Julie Laursen and Louise Victoria Johansen lead the research project ‘Indeterminate sentencing and imprisonment - an interdisciplinary study of the experiences of court processes and prison practices’, which is funded by the European Research Council and the Carlsberg Foundation. The research project deals with the indefinite detention measure. Foreign research shows that detention is characterized by great uncertainty, frustration and anxiety about the future, but the last comprehensive Nordic study of detention dates from 1965, underscoring the need for new and updated knowledge in this area. The project is divided into two main parts, namely a study of trials where detention is in question, and an ethnographic and interview-based study of remand prisoners' terms of imprisonment and conditions in Herstedvester prison. The aim of the project is to gain knowledge about how defendants and prisoners orient themselves towards, interpret and serve their detention. The project has partners at the University of Cambridge, England and at universities and the Prison and Probation Service in Norway, where similar projects are underway. The project runs from 2021-2024.

Frederik Rom Taxhjelm is a PhD fellow and conducts research about prisoners' rights and their experiences of their own imprisonment. The project is co-financed by the Department of Human Rights and focuses on prisoners' right to a safe, meaningful and proportionate punishment. In international research, Danish prisons are described as particularly humane, but the Danish prison service presently experiences a major crisis with reduced staff, outdated buildings, a rising number of inmates, many disciplinary sentences and a lot of violence. Through qualitative interviews and a six-month fieldwork in a closed prison, the project seeks to investigate what this means for the experience of imprisonment. There is a special focus on exploring which groups of prisoners come under pressure when the prison system is burdened to such an extent. The project runs from 2021-2024.



– an interdisciplinary study of the experiences of court processes and prison practices

Our understanding of the specific pains and possibilities of contemporary experiences of indeterminate confinement in Denmark remains limited. Using ethnographic research methods, IndeSent will provide an in-depth examination of the experience of being indeterminately sentenced by a court and of serving an indeterminate sentence in prison.

Read more about the research project










Thirteenth-century Danish town legislation and Danish language and cultural heritage

Funded by the Augustinus Foundation and Aage and Johanne Louis-Hansens Foundation. The project consists partly of a commented modern Danish version of the laws, and partly of a research element where a number of researchers from Denmark and abroad cooperate on a project about regulation of thirteenth-century Danish towns.

Background of the project

Language is one of the important monuments over the Danish immaterial cultural heritage and one of the most significant elements of the collective identity: a historical databank of knowledge of all the conditions of life, which language users have acquired over generations and shared with each other. Language can unite or divide nations.

The oldest traces of the Danish language are found in runic inscriptions from the Iron Age, but they are few, brief and difficult to interpret. The fullest and most giving source of early Danish language comes from the legal world, which, then as now, was a central entity in the regulation of society and control of the material values.

To say language is also to say dynamic development, and we cannot understand the mother tongue, if we do not have eye for the radical changes that the language underwent after the Christianisation, where Latin became the written language of the elite, and thus the language that shaped the formulation of law and morale.

The foundation of both Danish law and Danish written language stems from the thirteenth-century, where laws of the realms three countries and for the growing towns, the market towns, was developed and written down. These laws will be the foundation for law and its language in Denmark far into the nineteenth century, and traces thereof can still be found in both legislation and legal thinking.

The two types of legislation, for market town- and the realms three legal provinces, has in no way received the same attention in research or in the national narrative about the middle ages, where the Danish provincial laws and especially the Law of Jutland (1241) with the iconic prologue about building the land with laws has been given special status. Town legislation has on the other hand been rather neglected, probably because it has been seen as local history without greater interest for the national development, where the particular Danish has been a strong component in the cultural historical narrative about the legislation of the middle ages.

Thus, only a few of the Danish town laws from the thirteenth century (Roskilde, Copenhagen and Ribe) are available in Danish, and unfortunately, only in severely outdated translations, which do not live up to today’s readers linguistic prerequisites. When it comes to research, the picture is the same: the contributions are few, sporadic and all aged, and no younger researchers deal with the town laws – neither linguistically nor in terms of content. The lack of research into town laws stands in stark contrast to the medieval archaeologists, who in the last decades has contributed substantially to the uncovering of the material cultural heritage in the cities, and who in coming years will publish its results. Thus a breach in the research’s food chain occurs, since legislation is an important interpretation tool for the many archaeological achievements, which now are not being exploited due to lack of availability. The laws are certainly available in scientific text-critical editions, but in the original language, Latin and Old Danish. Even among researchers, knowledge of these languages is unfortunately so limited today, that the editions are a closed land for practically everyone.

The project will both open new perspectives for research and lead to an increased consciousness regarding the Danish linguistic and legal cultural heritage. The project is centered around the thirteenth century, which in the Middle Ages is the legal developments most formative period, where laws are formulated and written down, while densely populated areas – the cities – are pulled out of the “regular” law and is given its own legislation and judiciary. These partly opposite, partly unifying currents are neither linguistically nor materially researched, but both tendencies are essential for the understanding of the creation of the Danish legal language in a field between the Latin and Danish linguistic cultural heritage. It is likewise here we find the roots to the relationship between the urban and the rural, and thus the division between land and city in the sense of self, which still affects the modern society.

Execution of the project

The project is led by Professor Helle Vogt, CIS, with assistance of senior editor Anders Leegaard Knudsen, who will preside over the philological research and the preparation of the translations. The research group consists, beside Helle Vogt and Anders Leegaard Knudsen, of Professor Per Andersen, Odense, Professor Bjørn Poulsen and Associate Professor Jeppe B. Netterstrøm, Aarhus, Associate Professor Johnny G. Jakobsen, Copenhagen, senior researcher Grethe Jacobsen, Royal Library, Professor Kurt Villads Jensen, Stockholm, Professor Kirsi Salonen, Bergen, Associate Professor Miriam Tveit, Bodø, Professor Em. Bertil Nilsson, Gothenburg, Dr Tobias Boestad, La Rochelle. The project will be executed in cooperation with The Danish Society for Language and Literature, who will create a professionally competent supervision group, who will both be a part of constructive dialogue and guarantee the quality of the translation project.