Research at the Department of the European and World History

Our research approach is international and transnational by nature, and our strengths lie in a multi-perspective understanding of the processes of globalisation and of the interaction of Europe with the wider world. Furthermore, Finnish connections and activities abroad are also in the focus of our research.

Through our three research profiles, we

•    study international mobility and cultural interaction and emphasise the transnational character of phenomena, ideas, and institutions. Examples of studied phenomena include immigration, exploration, travel, and tourism. Multiculturalism is a topical example of transnational issues with long historical roots.

•    investigate the history of producing knowledge and perceiving, explaining, and interpreting the world. Research has been conducted, for example, on the interaction and processes related to forming knowledge between Europe and the wider world. We study the practices of acquiring, producing, and presenting knowledge in the context of literary culture, history of science and technology, museums and exhibitions, and popular culture.

•    examine the history of humannature relationship, with a special emphasis on the animal history and history of the marine environment. We construe that all history is interspecific and consists of constant interaction between humans and non-human animals, flora, and material environments. We study, for example, the shared history of humans and pets in the modern and contemporary society.

 

Master's theses
Doctoral dissertations

 

Research Projects

Colonialist Discourse at the Northern Periphery: Circulation of British Imperialist Children’s Literature in Finland and Its Impact on Finnish Children’s Literature, 1880-1970

This project examines the circulation of British imperialist discourse in and its influence on children’s literature in Finnish. This includes both the translations made from English into Finnish and the children’s literature written originally in Finnish. The project produces new information about the history of Finnish colonialism, especially the processes of mediating colonial thinking to and in

Finland. It challenges the ideas of Finnish exceptionalism and imperialist innocence and sets the Finnish case in the global context of European colonialism. The project also examines how British imperialist children’s literature influenced children’s literature written originally in Finnish, thus producing local versions of imperialist, colonialist and racist discourses. The project aims to explain how, and for what purposes, these discourses were used in Finnish children’s literature, e.g. in Finnish nation building.

Funded by the Academy of Finland. PI: Docent Raita Merivirta.

Culture of Unsustainability. Animal Industries and the Exploitation of Animals in Finland since the Late Nineteenth Century

This project, funded by the Academy of Finland (2019-2023), investigates the history and evolution of the culture of unsustainability by focusing on the use of animals in the industrial production of meat, milk, fish, leather, and furs. Animal lives have been viewed merely as a commodified matter in all of these activities.

Consequently, industrial production has had a devastating impact on the environment and has caused the death of billions of sentient beings. Our research centers on Finland in the wider context of the Global North. The project brings a fresh perspective into the research field on the Anthropocene vis-à-vis the everyday practices and common beliefs that ordinary people have and perform in their relationship with the natural world.

Our overarching goal is to analyze the development of animal exploitation since the late 19th century until the present. This will be achieved by focusing on two time periods or developmental stages in regard to the ways animals were used, through which the ruptures and continuities in the unsustainable human-animal relations will be scrutinized.

This project builds upon our earlier research in the field of animal history and human-animal studies, especially on the project “Animal Agency in Human Socity (funded by the Academy of Finland, 2014-2018), for more information see https://animalagency.utu.fi/en/

For more information, contact Taina Syrjämaa

Web Page

Landscapes of Interspecies Care: Working the Human–Animal Boundary in Care Practices

This project focuses on human–animal care in 21st-century Finland, and more specifically on the everyday practices of care as well as the relationships between humans and animals. The perspective is spatial, and the sites include, for example, the places for keeping police dogs and horses, riding schools, and child welfare institutions with animals on site. Companion animal care and transnational animal rescue practices are also studied. The research questions include: what is good care, who takes care of animals, and what is their knowledge of the individual animals? The analysis focuses on the role of different spaces and multispecies relational networks in the forming of animal care practices, as well as on the ways in which the human–animal boundary is interpreted in these practices. There are also cases of mutual human–animal care included, where animals are expected to care for humans, either because of their specific role or because of their own spontaneous action. The data used consist of interviews and various online materials such as blogs.

The project is funded by the Academy of Finland (years 2018–2023) as an Academy Research Fellow project. More information from the PI, Dr Nora Schuurman (nora.schuurman@utu.fi).

Landscapes of Interspecies Care web page

 

Mission Finland: Cold War Cultural Diplomacy at the Crossroads of East and West

The Mission Finland project (2020–2024) studies foreign cultural diplomacy in Finland during the Cold War. It examines a range of cultural activities promoted by the US, the UK, the Soviet Union and their allies in Finland, such as cultural events, art exhibitions and the distribution of media content. The project also pays attention to the domestic and international cultural organizations and the individuals who turned the political objectives defined by the governments into everyday experiences for ordinary Finns.

We aim at creating a big picture of how the cultural Cold War was fought in Finland and through Finland. Moreover, we seek to contribute to the discussions on contemporary soft power and information war by producing knowledge of the past uses of culture and arts in influencing foreign audiences.

The project draws on historical qualitative methods and utilizes the archival records of the national and state archives of the US, the UK, the Russian federation and Finland, contemporary media materials, oral history interviews conducted by the project researchers as well as visual materials, such as art works, exhibition catalogues and photographs.

Leader of the Project: Pia Koivunen, Phd, Senior lecturer

Mission Finland Web Page

 

The Politics of Hosting Mega-Events. A Study on Soviet Cultural Diplomacy, 1960s-1980s

This postdoctoral project examines Russian cultural diplomacy and mega-events from the late imperial era to post-Cold War Russia. The project has two aims. First, by taking a broad historical look at the ways in which the Russian political and cultural elites have used mega-events, it analyses the continuities and changes in promoting and managing the image of Russia. Secondly, the project aims at conceptual reassessment. By introducing some lesser studied Russian entanglements in mega-events to the scientific discussion, it re-evaluates the concept of mega-event and the scope thereof. Russian history in major cultural events, such as the World’s Fairs and the Olympic Games, as well as its soft power methods provide us with information on Russian influence on the global public culture and on the country’s relationship with the outside world, especially with the “Western world” and its cultural heritage.

The project is funded by the Academy of Finland (period: 2017–2020). More information from the PI, Dr Pia Koivunen, pia.koivunen@utu.fi

 

Research Seminar on the History of Science and Knowledge
SCISMA: The papal curia and ecclesiastical institutions of Rome in the Great Western Schism (1378-1417)

SCISMA studies how Rome survived the greatest crisis of the late medieval church. Roman popes of the Great Western Schism (1378–1417) are counted into the official continuum of the papacy, but this retrospective view blurs the fact that the Roman party was in a deep crisis. Most of the competent administration joined the French Pope Clement VII in Avignon, and Urban VI was left in Rome with a skeleton staff. A comparable blow hit the religious orders that operated directly under the pope: the influential French provinces and the University of Paris backed up Clement VII.

At the same time, the crisis opened new opportunities. Rome was open for new ideas and loyal men could advance in ecclesiastical career. SCISMA focuses on 1) how the Roman curia rebuilt its administration and practices, 2) how religious orders and churches in Rome defended their authority and sought political alliances, 3) what strategies new groups and individuals used in the crisis to raise their status within the church.

Strategies of survival: The papal curia and ecclesiastical institutions of Rome in the Great Western Schism (1378–1417) (SCISMA) is four years’ research project (2019–2023) funded by the Academy of Finland and based at the University of Turku.

Contact: Prof. Kirsi Salonen, PI

Web Page: https://sites.utu.fi/scisma/

Talking Machines. Electronic voice and the interpretation of emotions and self-understanding in human–machine communication 1960–2020.

The Talking Machines project explores human-machine interaction and its history in the context of human voice and sound-based communication. The researchers explore how cultural concepts and visions of talking and intelligent machines have changed along with the development of human-machine communication since the 1960s. The main research topic is how talking machines, including listening and singing machines, have challenged our ideas of humanity, communication, and the relation of the human and the machine. The focus is placed on cultural and social implications of electronic voice and speaking technology in the realm of emotions, identities, and self-image. The Talking Machines project team utilises multidisciplinary concepts and methods used in media and information studies, historical research, and studies on popular culture and the arts.

The team members are: Docent and Senior Lecturer Pertti Grönholm (PI), Prof. Tanja Sihvonen, Docent Kimi Kärki, Dr Tiina Männistö-Funk, and Dr Petri Kuljuntausta. The Project is funded by the Kone Foundation (2018–2022). Contact person: Pertti Grönholm [pergro(at)utu.fi].
Talking Machines web page.

The University of Turku History of Colonialism Research Group

The University of Turku History of Colonialism Research Group explores the history of colonialism in different temporal and geographical contexts. In particular, we explore the history of colonialism in the context of nineteenth and twentieth century Finland. We study, for example, Finnish missionary work in the colonies, colonial collecting and exhibition practices and colonial and postcolonial literature. We are interested in historical processes such as intercultural encounters, the formation of conceptions of race, and more generally, the formation of knowledge of non-European regions and cultures and its implications in different contexts.


Contact persons: Leila Koivunen, Raita Merivirta

Web page

Recent Publications: European and World History and Cultural History