TURNS – Paradigm Shifts in Human Sciences

Why “TURNS”?

Thomas Kuhn’s ideas of scientific revolutions and paradigm shifts made visible the historical and social nature of scientific theories. Although the notion of paradigm later became widely criticized and replaced by the notion of and discourse on turns, it is a widely accepted idea that science and academic scholarship develop in cycles in which periods of normal science and shifts in theoretical approaches considered mainstream or dominant alternate.

There are turns in all disciplines and fields of study. In the 20th century, the most notable ones in human sciences include the cultural, interpretive, narrative, and postmodern turns, and in the 21st century the pace at which new turns appear just seems to accelerate. Currently, researchers cannot confine to a single approach but need to position themselves simultaneously in relation to a variety of older and more recent turns such as spatial, linguistic, discursive, performative, historic, material, affective, ontological, posthumanist and mobility turns, just to name a few.

Talking about turns has become common currency, but how do they really affect our research? What kind of challenges do we confront in adopting the ontological and epistemological implications of a given turn, or multiple turns? And what does all this have to do with the intellectual identity of a researcher?

The aim of this unconference is to explicate and examine the meaning and consequences of these turns in human sciences at large and for the participants' own research, to provide grounds for writing theoretical papers, articles and dissertation sections, and to encourage the participants to interact across disciplines and career stages.


The Unconference Format

The event follows the principles of a so-called unconference, aiming to support active participation and offer a platform for lively, cross-disciplinary discussions. Thus, after each introductory keynote speech, the participants attend roundtable sessions and discuss one of three principal topics:

  • TURNS and knowledge. What role have turns played in the history of science? What role do they play in the developing of science and knowledge today? What disciplinary differences are there in relation to turns and how do these affect inter-disciplinary research?

  • TURNS and methodology. Turns are often spoken about in terms of theory. But what is the role of methods and methodology in ‘theoretical’ turns? Do turns always also involve changes in research methods? Can new theoretical approaches be adopted without it affecting the methods and epistemological underpinnings of doing research?

  • TURNS and the researcher. What is the relation between turns and researcher’s career and research identity like? How does one participate in new turns without having to view one’s previous work as outdated? How should one deal with new turns that emerge during a research process? How are viable research methodologies formed in the midst of the continuous introduction of new turns?

Please see the unconference schedule for more detailed information.

The keynote speakers are Mikko Lehtonen (University of Tampere), Diane Reay (Cambridge University), and Milla Tiainen (University of Helsinki).

No abstracts or presentations are required from the participants. As preparation for the unconference, the participants are simply asked to think about the following questions:

  • What are the turns that you have participated in during your studies/career?

  • What are the most important turns in your field of study?

  • Has any turn affected your choice of research methods? If yes, how?

  • What kinds of problems you have encountered in your work in relation to turns?


Please registrate before 6 May at:


During registration, the participant will be asked to indicate the roundtable sessions she/he wishes to attend. The unconference is free of charge. Coffee, snacks and Thursday’s evening buffet will be offered to the participants.


Study Credits for Doctoral Candidates

Doctoral candidates may receive 2 study credits from the University of Turku Graduate School for their participation. Requirements for getting a certificate for participation and obtaining the credits are (a) attendance at all keynote lectures, (b) participation in all three thematic sessions organised, and (c) active participation in discussions in the unconference.


Organizing committee


Sari Irni, TIAS and Dept. of Gender Studies, University of Turku

Johanna Kallo, TIAS and Dept. of Education, University of Turku

Anne Kumpula, TIAS, Director, University of Turku

Silja Laine, TIAS, Coordinator, University of Turku

Minna Opas, TIAS and Dept. of Comparative Religion, University of Turku

Marjaana Puurtinen, TIAS and Dept. of Teacher Education, University of Turku

Jukka Sarjala, TIAS and Dept. of Cultural History, University of Turku

Koen Veermans, TIAS and Dept. of Teacher Education, University of Turku


20014 Turun yliopisto, Finland
Tel. +358 29 450 5000

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