Research at the School of History, Culture and Arts Studies

Our multidisciplinary School is an active participant in international discussion and debate, and we study the questions related to Finnishness and local Finnish communities from various different perspectives. 

Our key research areas include environmental humanities, the beginning of the Middle Ages and the early modern period, multiculturality and the processes used in cultural interaction, the arts and popular culture, studies on experiences, stories and memory, as well as humanities-oriented research on digitalisation. The School also places a strong emphasis on gender studies-oriented research across its subjects, and the School is an international pioneer in posthumanist research.


Agents of Enlightenment: Changing the Minds in Eighteenth-Century Northern Europe

Agents of Enlightenment. Changing the Minds in Eighteenth-Century Northern Europe’ is a research team and an Academy of Finland research project (2017–2021) working on the reception of the Enlightenment in Scandinavia and the Baltic area between 1740 and 1810. Our research focuses on how scientific knowledge and radical philosophy affected identities, representations and practices at an individual and local level in the Baltic area in the second half of the eighteenth century. We are particularly attentive to individuals and practices behind intellectual change.

Project Website

Carving Out Transformations – Wood Use in North-Eastern Europe, 1100–1600

Wood was a ubiquitous material for premodern communities living in the subarctic region. The present project focuses on the use of wood in North-Eastern Europe from the 12th to the 17th century. We will take a long-term perspective on the significance of wood, embodied in both material and metaphorical movements of the substance from forest to households and markets, and from blocks of wood into ecclesiastical sculptures. The project shifts emphasis from such artefact groups as ceramics, metal objects, and individual works of art to this less inconspicuous but omnipresent substance.

Project Website

Centre of Excellence in Game Cultures

The CoE is funded by the Academy of Finland from the 2018–2025 program.

As defined by the Academy of Finland, “Centres of Excellence (CoE) are the flagships of Finnish research. They are at the very cutting edge of science in their fields, carving out new avenues for research, developing creative research environments, and training new talented researchers for the Finnish research system and Finnish business and industry.”

The Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies is a joint project between researchers from the Tampere University, University of Turku, and the University of Jyväskylä. Across these institutions, over 30 researchers from the humanities, social sciences and technical sciences are engaged in exploring topics related to the research themes of the centre.

Project Website

Comics and migration. belonging, narration, activism

s a three-year project funded by the Kone foundation. The project started in the beginning of year 2018. 

The project both studies the narrative means used in comics addressing migration and produces and brings forth comics with migration as the main theme. 

Both researchers and comics artists are represented in the project group. On the one hand, the analysis of comics and narration done by the researchers is illuminated by the artist’s view provided by the comics artists, and, on the other hand, the research on artistic practices informs the artists’ understanding of their work and, perhaps, brings out new forms of work and narrative practices.

Project Website

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

This project investigates industrialised animal exploitation since the late 19th century until the present and analyses how and why unsustainable practices, vis-a-vis animals in different sectors of social and commercial life, came into being and were established as norms. Empirically the project examines Finland in the wider context of the Global North. The project consists of three subthemes: knowledge, technology and political economy. Transversal themes present in all inquiries are the ethical dimension of human-animal relations and multi-specific perspective. The project refines methods for analyzing multispecies societies and opens up a new and historically and culturally-informed theorisation regarding sustainability and the Anthropocene.

Contact person: Taina Syrjämaa

Project Website

Developing Inclusive and Sustainable Creative Economies

The DISCE project, funded by the EU Horizon2020 programme of multi-European universities, is exploring and developing the accessibility and sustainability of creative sectors.


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Disappeared, Endangered and Newly Arrived Species: The Human Relationship with the Changing Biodiversity of the Baltic Sea (HumBio)
Humans and Ticks in the Anthropocene

The project examines the multi-faceted relationship between humans and ticks from the perspective of environmental history and environmental humanities.

Project Website

In Situ - Place-based innovation of cultural and creative industries in non-urban areas, 2022–2026. Horizon Europe.

The Landscape Studies and the Finland Futures Research Centre are participating in the multidisciplinary research project "In Situ - Place-based innovation of cultural and creative industries in non-urban areas" (2022-2026), funded by the EU Horizon Europe programme.
The Finnish Lab is coordinated by the Landscape studies at UTU and the research project is coordinated by the Centre of Social Studies at the University of Coimbra.

Contact person: Maunu Häyrynen

Project website

Instrumental Narratives: The Limits of Storytelling and New Story-Critical Narrative Theory

"Instrumental Narratives: The Limits of Storytelling and New Story-Critical Narrative Theory" develops ideas and analytical instruments that help researchers, professional groups and non-academic audiences navigate today’s social and textual environments that are dominated by storytelling. We put contemporary literary fiction in dialogue with manipulative stories that are spread on the internet, in order to reveal the dubious relationship that some narratives have with identity, truth, politics, and complex phenomena such as climate change. In order to confront these issues, we reveal the sophisticated story-critical ideas and techniques offered by works of contemporary fiction. The team in Turku brings into dialogue contemporary story-critical fiction and the broader uses of narrative in contemporary consumer culture in which narrative identity is often understood in narrow, limiting, and commercially motivated ways. It examines the relationship between narrative and identity from two interlaced perspectives: in relation to 1) metanarrativity and 2) the uses of narrative in promoting wellbeing.

Project Website

Intimacy in Data-Driven Culture

IDA critically examines datafication within the current digital economy, asking how it is experienced, made sense of, and resisted, and what socially sustainable solutions remain available. The consortium first analyses the impact of data-driven culture on people’s different social roles and relations, as well as the vulnerabilities that it gives rise to. Second, it inquires how intimacy functions as a contested resource in data-driven creative labour, public careers, and social connections. Third, IDA explores and develops democratic ways of managing, protecting, sharing, and using personal data.


Project Website

Learning from new religion and spirituality

The objective of the LeNeRe project is to produce new knowledge on contemporary religious and spiritual milieus as sites of learning and to identify and understand processes through which people integrate their religious or spiritual learning to other spheres of life. To approach this objective, we will conduct ethnographically informed research on adult individuals in Finland who have embarked on (for them) new religious and spiritual paths.

Project Website

Maps for Development: Finnish mapping practices in the postcolonial world

How and why have Finns participated in the mapping of the global south during the 20th century? How did the global networks of producing geographical and cartographic knowledge transform in the wake of decolonization?

DEVMAP answers these intertwined questions by analysing Finnish participation in the mapping of different parts of the world, for instance in Nepal, Namibia, Tanzania, Bangladesh, and Egypt, in the context of development cooperation between the 1970s and the 2000s.

By analysing the practices of mapping in these different geographical contexts, the project examines the mobilities of cartographic knowledge and cartographic expertise on different scales. It analyses the maps that were made as a result of development cooperation. The project critically examines the interests that different actors had in the making of the maps, the power relations that existed in making them and thereby seeks to illustrate the transnational practices of “development cartography”.

The project is funded by the Research Council of Finland (2023-2027) and it is led by Dr. Johanna Skurnik.


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Memories of Porpoises: The shared past of humans and porpoises in the Finnish sea area
Mission Finland. Cold War Cultural Diplomacy at the Crossroads of East and West

The Mission Finland project examines American, British and Soviet cultural operations in Finland during the Cold War period. We explore how foreign states attempted to have an impact on Finnish people and Finnish society by sending artistic tours to the country, organizing exhibitions and trying to influence media agendas. The project aims at creating a big picture of cultural Cold War in Finland, until now an internationally unknown dimension of a global phenomenon. The new interpretation and results provided by the project will widen public knowledge of the cultural Cold War and provide tools for understanding the legacies of Cold War cultural diplomacy and propaganda, and their ongoing influence on information warfare and soft power today. The project draws on historical qualitative methods and utilizes archival records, media materials, oral history interviews and visual materials.

Project Website

New Economies of Artistic Labour – from Entrepreneurship to Sustainable Collectives

The research project New Economies of Artistic Labour – from Entrepreneurship to Sustainable Collectives (funded by the Kone Foundation 2020–2024) maps and analyses the changing forms of artists’ work in contemporary Finland.

The project focuses on intra-actions between different fields of art, wider changes pertaining to labour markets and current forms of labour, as well as economic structures, ecologies and practices.

The project combines in new ways theories and methods from the study of arts, social sciences and artistic research.


Project Website

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.

Project Website

Sexuality and Play in Media Culture

The project explores both the pleasurable and hurtful edges of play and playfulness in personal and collective sexual lives that unfold in increasingly media saturated and networked environments. SaP offers novel ways for understanding the captivating and gruelling attractions of sexuality and contemporary media, as well as their connections with gendered and racialised identities.

Project Website

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

Talking Machines is a research and artistic project in which the devices imitating and assisting human speech are set into their cultural and historical context. The project aims at interdisciplinary synthesis on the ideas, evolution and cultural significance of talking and listening machines and applications.

The main idea of the study is a critical examination of speech technology as a cultural metaphor and as a textual trope: the authors study devices and services as a part of technological imagination and the experience of technology in the current century and the latter half of the 20th century. Envisioning and adopting the machines and techniques that imitate interpersonal human communication create a phenomenon, which cannot be understood only from the point of view of the technical development.

Project Website

Transimperial mobility in the Grand Duchy of Finland, Kone Foundation, 2024-2026

The project examines the Grand Duchy of Finland as a space of imperial and trans-imperial mobility in the decades between the end of the Crimean War and the First World War. At that time, Finland's position as part of the Russian Empire changed significantly, and the Russian Empire and its global position were in transition. The industrializing, bureaucratizing and colonizing empire mobilized people, objects and ideas in an unprecedented manner, thus connecting the Finnish region to transimperial networks. In this project we analyse the production of mobility and space in the Grand Duchy of Finland as part of transimperial and cross-border networks that mobilized people, things and information. The project is funded by the Kone Foundation (2024-2026) and it is undertaken at the University of Turku and the University of Helsinki. The project is led by Johanna Skurnik.

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Centres and Networks

Centre for the Study of Christian Cultures (CSCC)

The multidisciplinary Center for the Study of Christian Cultures brings together research and researchers focusing on the study of Christianity and Christian cultures from different perspectives such as those of humanities and social sciences. The research center examines the ideological, political, cultural and artistic, economic and everyday dimensions of Christianity, both in history and in the present. The foundation of the centre’s activities is its monthly seminar series. In addition, the center organizes various scientific seminars, gives teaching and produces publications on Christian cultures. In addition to research, the center's researchers participate in fulfilling the so-called third task of universities – societal participation – inter alia by acting as media commentators, maintaining a blog and organising public events.

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International Institute for Popular Culture (IIPC)
a new materialist network
Research Center for Culture and Health
SELMA: Centre for the Study of Storytelling, Experientiality and Memory

The multidisciplinary research centre SELMA is focused on the connections between storytelling, experientiality, and cultural memory from various theoretical and historical perspectives. The centre produces research on, for example, life-writing, trauma narratives, and digital storytelling. It approaches the relationship between experience, story, and memory utilising different research traditions and at the same time, produces interdisciplinary dialogue. The centre’s operation involves several faculties, and as a nationally leading centre for research in cultural memory, it compiles research related to the University’s thematic collaboration in cultural memory and societal change. SELMA collaborates internationally with various networks that conduct research on storytelling and memory. In addition, it organises research events on both theoretical and societally topical issues. The centre aims to promote dialogue between the arts and sciences and to function as a community that brings together researchers, artists, and people outside academia.

> Website

Turku Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (TUCEMEMS)
Turku Human–Animal Studies Network (TYKE)

The Human–Animal Studies Network in Turku brings together research on animals and human–animal relations. The Network operates at the University of Turku, in the Faculty of Humanities, but it also involves researchers from the wider Turku area. The studies focus on, for instance, encounters and boundaries between humans and other animals, their shared history and interaction, as well as animal representations and agency. The Network regularly organises research seminars and various other events such as guest lectures.

> More information: Nora Schuurman

Wave Riders (AHA): The Marine Research Laboratory for Humanistic and Social Sciences

Recent publications at the School of History, Culture and Arts Studies

Sjón (2024)

The Literary Encyclopedia
Mendoza Brynjarr Þór (Julian)
(Article or data-article in scientific journal (B1))