The Cost of Bearing Witness


30 October 2018, University of Turku (Kaivokatu 12, Minerva, Janus)

Organized by Turku Institute of Advanced Studies and Selma, Centre for the Study of Storytelling, Experientiality and Memory

The workshop addresses the emotional and psychological impact that conducting field research in contexts that go "under the skin" of a researcher, because they come so very close to one's own difficult experiences, or they involve severely traumatized participants. Recording and analyzing such evidence may be traumatizing and have adverse effects upon the mental health of researchers in social research. As opposed to clinicians (psychotherapists, social workers) and personnel professionally trained in coping with trauma, field researchers in social/anthropological research are rather poorly equipped to cope with the overwhelming traumatic narratives from their research group.

This workshop brings together various experts, scholars and practitioners with the background in social and anthropological research to share first-hand experiences from the field and to brainstorm and collect ideas, and suggestions to develop techniques to assist in preventing or minimizing the trauma transfer.


9.00-9.15 (Janus) Opening & Welcome

9.15-10.00 (Janus) Leaving the pain behind: Field work research in sensitive settings /key address by prof. Helena Ranta/

10.15.-11.15 (E123 & E323) Navigating professional & personal: Secondary trauma & preventive measures /workshop/

11.15-12.00 Light lunch

12.00-13.00 (Janus) Surviving field research: Dangers, risks, challenges /round table with Satu Lidman, Elise Feron & Panu Pihkala; moderated by Nena Močnik/

13.00-14.00 (E121 & E323) Self-care & coping with secondary trauma /workshop/

14.00-15.00 Concluding remarks & sparkling wine and cakes (hall in front of Janus)

HELENA RANTA is a forensic dentist and distinguished for her work to solve the Balkan war crimes. Her expertise has been successfully used in the investigation of genocide also in Asia and Africa. In total she has contributed to several international forensic investigations of conflict situations. Professor Ranta won the first international Prix Lysistrata award on peace mediation last year.

ÉLISE FÉRON is a Docent and a university researcher at the Tampere Peace Research Institute (Finland). Her main research interests include gender and peace negotiations, sexual violence in conflict settings, as well as conflict-generated diaspora politics. Her publications include: Wartime Sexual Violence Against Men. Power and Masculinities in Conflict Zones (Lanham, Rowman and Littlefield, forthcoming 2018); “Wartime Sexual Violence Against Men: Why so Oblivious?”, European Review of International Studies, 2017, 4(1): 60-74; “Gender and Peace Negotiations: Why Gendering Peace Negotiations Multiplies Opportunities for Reconciliation”, in Mark Anstey and Valérie Rosoux (eds.), Negotiating Reconciliation in Peacemaking: Quandaries of Relationship Building, New York, Springer, 2017: 93-109.

SATU LIDMAN, violence researcher and historian, holds the title of Docent in History of Criminal Justice at the University of Turku Faculty of Law. In her research, she has focused on gender-based violence, violence against children, penal systems and shame both in historical and present-day contexts. Satu’s book on the legacy of the culture of violence was nominated as a candidate for the Academic Book of the Year in Finland in 2015. In 2017, Satu co-edited a compilation book on ethics of historical research. Her new book Gender, Violence and Attitudes (Routledge, 2018) explores the history of gender-based violence in early modern Europe, particularly intimate-partner violence and sexual violence.
PANU PIHKALA is a postdoctoral researcher in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Helsinki. He is currently working on the psychological and spiritual dimensions related to environmental issues and especially climate change. Pihkala’s book on “eco-anxiety” was published in Finnish in October 2017 (“Päin helvettiä? Ympäristöahdistus ja toivo”).

>> The link to the video recording of the keynote speech by Helena Ranta and roundtable discussion by Satu Lidman, Elise Feron and Panu Pihkala

For the further inquiry about the workshop, contact the coordinator, dr. Nena Močnik,