Department of European Languages and Cultures

Meet our graduates: Anke-Beate Stahl

Artist, curator and teacher Dr Anke-Beate Stahl came to Edinburgh in 1989 as an undergraduate student to study Swedish and Old Icelandic and fell in love with Scotland.

Anke-Beate Stahl in her studio
Anke-Beate Stahl in her studio

Anke spent a year in Edinburgh before going back to her native Germany to finish degrees in English and Politics and Fine Art (painting) in Braunschweig.

However, the Scottish pull was too strong, and she later returned to Edinburgh to do a PhD in Scottish Studies and Scandinavian Studies at the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC).

A love of languages

Anke’s fascination with languages started early. She grew up in Kiel, a large port city on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast with daily ferries to Scandinavia. She started attending Swedish evening classed aged 14, and went on to study Swedish at Kiel University at 17. She also studied French, Latin and Russian, and came to Scotland as an undergraduate student to practise English.

During her year abroad in Edinburgh, Anke took Nordic language classes in the, at the time, newly established Scandinavian Studies department at LLC, one of the first places in the UK to offer such courses.

Anke says that studying at LLC furthered her love of languages and writing and encouraged her to look more closely at English, Swedish and German.

“Languages open doors into entirely different cultures and ways of thinking.”

Anke-Beate Stahl

Collaborating across subjects

In 1994, Anke started her PhD journey at LLC, focusing on onomastics, particularly place-names of Barra in the Outer Hebrides. The project required knowledge of both Gaelic and Old Norse, which meant that Anke was jointly supervised by Arne Kruse from Scandinavian Studies and Ian A. Fraser from Scottish Studies.

Talking about what she liked about her time at LLC, Anke says: “I loved the international mix of people at the University of Edinburgh and the wonderful interdisciplinary nature of my research project.”

Anke's interest in Scottish place-names never waned. In December 2022, she wrote an article about place-names on the small island of Mingulay for a festschrift in honour of her PhD supervisor Arne Kruse.

It's a place close to Anke's heart - and not only as a researcher, she reveals: "As a keen sea kayaker, I spend most of my summers in remote parts of the Outer Hebrides, and the use of bright colours in my art is very much influenced by the special light in Scotland. "

Feeling at home in Scotland

After graduating in 2000, Anke moved to Berlin to work. “But the call of Scotland was too strong,” Anke tells us. “When it was time to decide where to settle permanently, I chose Scotland.”

Now, Anke has an art studio in the heart of Edinburgh. A charted teacher, she is qualified to teach English, German and art, and recently gained the Gaelic Medium Education qualification. She is also a copywriter and occasionally translates books on artists and art theory for museums and art galleries.

This year, Anke created the Put Your Thinking Cap On exhibition with her students at Ferryhill Primary School, on display in the Museum of Edinburgh on the Royal Mile until 26 February 2023. The pupils designed headgear – or ‘thinking caps’ – for a performance alongside youth samba band Pulse of the Place. The collaboration highlights the pupils’ imagination as well as her own creative spirit.

“I’ve always wanted flexibility and intellectual freedom in my working life,” Anke says, and emphasises that education doesn’t stop at the degree ceremony.

“Learning is a lifelong habit. My advice to all current students would be to follow their passion and to never stop at the first hurdle.”

Are you interested in Scandinavian Studies at Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is the only university in Scotland, and one of only two in the UK, to offer undergraduate honours programmes in Scandinavian Studies. You will learn modern Danish, Swedish or Norwegian in the context of Scandinavian culture, past and present. Postgraduate students can take an MSc by Research or PhD in aspects of Nordic languages, literatures, history, culture or society.

Find out more about Scandinavian Studies

Related links

Put Your Thinking Cap On Exhibition showcased at the Museum of Edinburgh [external site]

Read our interview with Scandinavian Studies graduates Ian Giles and Chris Cooijmans

Read our interview with Scandinavian Studies graduate Becky Waterton