Research at the Department of Study of Religion

Study of Religion approaches religion as traditions, institutions and lived vernacular religiosities. Non-religious worldviews, values and identities can also be researched from the perspectives of Study of Religion. 

Our research is focused on areas, such as:

  • lived religion
  • western esotericism
  • civil religion
  • cultural diversity of Christianity 
  • religion-like microcultures in economy
  • vernacular spirituality and nature-related activities and knowledge production 

Centres and networks

Centre for the Study of Christian Cultures (CSCC)

Centre for the Study of Christian Cultures (CSCC) is a multi- and interdisciplinary research centre focusing on humanistic and social scientific study of diverse forms of Christianity in different parts of the world. The Centre is based at the School of History, Culture and Arts Studies at the University of Turku, Finland. It aims to support and develop research on Christian cultures at the University of Turku and in Finland at large, and to foster international research collaboration in its specific field. More information: Minna Opas.

More information: Minna Opas

> CSCC website

> CSCC in Facebook

Research Center for Culture and Health

The research and teaching activities of the Research Center for Culture and Health are based on what is internationally defined as ’medical humanities’. In this context, medical humanities signify an approach to health, illness, cure and medical knowledge from a cultural viewpoint.

More information: Tiina Mahlamäki

> Reseach Center's website

Turku Network for Research on Multiculturalism and Societal Interaction (Turku McNet) 

Turku McNet is a platform for research, education and developmental activities on multiculturalism carried out in the University of Turku and the Turku region at large. The platform collects and distributes information on expertise, education, research projects, events and seminars, thus offering networking opportunities for researchers, students, experts, decision makers and other users of knowledge about multiculturalism. The network is co-ordinated by the Department of Comparative Religion.

More information: Jaana Kouri

> Turku McNet's website

> Turku McNet in Facebook

Research projects

Seekers of the New: Esotericism and the transformation of religiosity in Finland during the era of modernisation, 1880–1940

The aim of this multidisciplinary project is to offer new perspectives on the historical representation of Finland by drawing attention to people and phenomena previously left outside the canon, as well as by examining well-known figures in the light of new source material and new interpretational frameworks that have emerged in recent scholarship. Through an examination of personal material, such as letters and diaries, as well as public resources like newspapers, journals, and works of art and literature, the researchers seek to expose the wide scope and longevity of the interest in esotericism that gained in popularity towards the end of the 19th century. At the same time, the purpose is to reveal a network of individual actors that has never been under scholarly investigation before. Esotericism has brought together different groups within Finnish cultural elites and facilitated international contacts. Our approach makes it possible to analyse the meanings of Finnish esotericism on a broad scale, not only from the viewpoint of modern religiosity and the formation of national identities, but also as part of the transformations of modern art, science, and subjectivity that took place during this period.

The project has received funding from the Kone Foundation for the period 2018–2021. 

More information: Tiina Mahlamäki

> Project's website

Learning from New Religion and Spirituality (LeNeRe)

The value of life-long learning has expanded beyond the contexts of formal education, increasingly informing various spheres of culture. In contemporary pluralistic and individualistic societies, even religious learning is no longer confined to homes, schools, and the transmission of tradition. More and more individuals choose to independently acquaint themselves with previously unfamiliar religious and spiritual traditions. Our ethnographically oriented research project investigates the learning trajectories of adult residents of Finland who engage in a new religious or spiritual practice. We are particularly interested in how these people evaluate the transferable potential of the skills and notions adopted, and the resulting significance of their learning in their lives, outside the religious or spiritual context in question. The project produces new knowledge on religions as sites of learning and traces dynamics between the “religious” and “secular” domains of contemporary culture. 

More information: Terhi Utriainen

Wisdom, Time and Life Course: Systems Thinking and Spirituality (TIMEWISE)

Our ideas of good life, work life and wisdom are intimately tied to our conceptualisations of time. Temporality figures not only in the mental models of past, present and future, but also in how we understand our life course and our place in the cosmos at large. Hence, wisdom and spirituality overlap where fundamental questions related to human life are addressed. Our empirical cases are nature-related activities and life course wisdom. In this project, we use time as a key concept in analysing different constructions (scientific and folk models) of wisdom and spirituality. The project is carried out in collaboration with the University of Jyväskylä. We also study the work of Ken Wilber – how systems thinking and spirituality intertwine in his integral worldview. See the special issue of Approaching Religion titled “Systems thinking, spirituality and wisdom: perspectives on Ken Wilber”. 

More information: Matti Kamppinen

Indigenous Peoples at the Confluence of Worlds:  Voluntary Isolation and Processes of Contact in Peru, INCON (2016–2019)

The aim of the project is to study the current process of “contact” concerning the indigenous people living in voluntary isolation in the Peruvian Amazonia in order to produce knowledge on the different factors influencing such processes and, based on this knowledge, to find ways to protect these peoples’ right for self-determination. The project is international and interdisciplinary and is conducted in co-operation with the Peruvian Ministry of Culture and local indigenous organisations.

The project is funded by the Kone Foundation.

More information: Minna Opas

Vernacular Christianity and Mass Migration in the Baltic Sea Region

The mass immigration that began in Europe in 2015 has challenged European people’s and bureaucracies’ views on the human condition, which in many countries are still largely based on a Christian ethos. This ethnographic research project scrutinises the thus far little studied role of lay Christianities in shaping western social realities, with a special focus on the views on what it means to be human in today’s world, and the activism informed by and generating these views. The project focuses on two societies in the Baltic Sea region, Finland and Poland, which differ in terms of the countries’ dominant form of Christianity (Evangelical-Lutheran and Roman Catholic, respectively). 

More information: Minna Opas


Living with the Baltic Sea in a Changing Climate: Environmental Heritage and the Circulation of Knowledge

This transdisciplinary research project focuses on environmental experience, knowledge and skills – ‘environmental heritage’ – that is constructed by living and acting in the Finnish coastal area and archipelago of the Baltic Sea. The underlying idea of our research is that environmental heritage regarding e.g. changes in weather conditions, ice coverage, and the flora and fauna typical for coastal areas is useful in the search of ways to adapt to climate change. The understanding of (major) environmental changes greatly benefits from studying the experience of people in their surroundings: how people have lived their lives during great environmental changes, how they have perceived and explained these changes and, most importantly, what kind of possibilities for adaptation they have found.

The project is a part of the Wave Riders – The Marine Research Laboratory for Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University, specialising in the study of maritime and other water systems. It is funded by the Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation (2018–2020) and the Academy of Finland (2018–2022).

More information: Jaana Kouri

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