Research at the Department of European Ethnology

European ethnology research is characterised by its wide-ranging understanding of culture and comprehensive humanities-oriented research approach. The field’s research targets vary from local everyday phenomena to the characteristics of current global and especially European transitions and turning points.

European Ethnology research focuses on local cultures and everyday phenomena, but it also takes note of and demonstrates chronological changes and turning points. European Ethnology research projects typically utilise multidisciplinary perspectives and are strongly connected to societal dialogue. 

Researchers in the field typically collect their materials by utilising various types of field work methods, and they also make extensive use of museum collections and material archives. Participation and application form a key part of European Ethnology research. The field materials collected by European Ethnology researchers are stored in the University of Turku’s Archives of History, Culture and Arts Studies.

At the Department of European Ethnology, research and teaching are integrated with one another. The Department also has established international partners. 

The typical research themes that are studied at the Department include the following:

  • multi-location and multi-temporal everyday life
  • space and place; concepts and changes
  • multicultural processes and ethnicity 
  • material and immaterial cultural heritage
  • urban city culture and industrial cultural heritage
  • rural transformation and heritage 
  • changes and turning points: e.g. the environment and technology
  • the forms of and changes in travel 
  • margins and subcultures
  • animal agency 
  • childhood and youth, family and gender
  • the activities and collections of cultural memory organisations
  • NUOPERI: Preserving the Tradition of Youth Work

Examples of our research projects

Untsho 2.0. How Does the Everyday Life of the Mari People Look Like 15 Years after field work?

The research takes us back out to the field. The objective is to study the everyday life of Mari women in the village of Untsho in the Mari El Republic, where field studies were conducted 15 years ago. The research topics and questions include the following: Changes that the village of Untsho and the villagers have gone through in the time that has passed. What happens to the village when the researchers have left to turn the collected material into articles, theses, and books? The research also explores the significance that being a field work site has had for Untsho and its villagers, and how they have been possibly able to utilise this experience. The research is carried out through ethnographic fieldwork and belongs under European Ethnology. Research material is produced through interaction with the field work site. The research partner is Master Larisa Kalasnikova from Joshkar-Ola. The research project will be carried out in 2019–2020, and funding has been received from the Albert Hämäläinen Fund.

More information: Helena Ruotsala

Nomads and Peasants

The project is carried out in co-operation with researchers from the University of Szeged in Hungary. The project explores the operating strategies of Hungarian cultural heritage sites. It is also aimed at determining the significance of historical symbolism and finding out what people in the 2010s are looking for in heritage destinations. The project is ended with a multidisciplinary seminar on the symbolic presentation of being Hungarian, both historically and now.

Financier: Kone Foundation (2017–2019)

Contact: Hanneleena Hieta


IT 100: Hundred Years from the Birth of Ilmar Talve

The Department of European Ethnology organises an international seminar “The Legacies of Professor Ilmar Talve” on 6–7 September 2019. A research project is also carried out in connection with the seminar, in which the significance and career in Ethnology of Professor Ilmar Talve are studied from three perspectives: 1) the pre-Talve phase in Turku (MA Hanneleena Hieta), 2) the impact of the urban experience and discourse on the target individual (L.Phil Timo J. Virtanen), and 3) the role of Talve as a university administrator representing the humanities and as the holder of a university chair (MA Maija Mäki). The goal is to provide the research for the online publication and exhibition launched in 2019, and for the supporting course work. The project has been funded by the Seurasaari Foundation.

Seminar website: The Legacies of Professor Ilmar Talve

More information: Timo J. Virtanen


Animal Agency in Human Society: Finnish Perspectives1890–2040

This research project focused on the relationship between man and animal in the Finnish society during the industrial and post-industrial era in 1890–2040. The research examined empirical case studies focusing on urban pets, the meaning of assistance animals in the future, the agency of Finnish iconic wild animals, and the interaction between wolves, dogs, and reindeer. The research project represents the study of human-animal relations. The purpose of the project has been to create ways for studying the animal agency despite the anthropocentric nature of the material sources.

The project was funded by the Academy of Finland and carried out by the Department of European Ethnology and the Department of European and World History at the University of Turku.

Project website

More information: Helena Ruotsala

Living on the Border: An Ethnological Study of Transnational Everyday Life and Identity Construction in the Twin City of Tornio-Haaparanta

The research project, funded by the Academy of Finland, studied the transnational everyday life of people, cultural practices, and the relations and significance of place and border. The research project was carried out in 2009–2014. The project involved international partners from Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, and Northern Ireland.

More information: Helena Ruotsala

Recent publications