JMC Personnel

Dr. Benita Heiskanen
Professor of North American Studies, Director

Tel.  +358 (0) 29 450 2205
​Email: benita.heiskanen[at]utu.fi
Office: Publicum Building, Room 264

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JMC - Benita Heiskanen

Biography

Benita Heiskanen received her Ph.D. in American Studies from The University of Texas at Austin in 2004, and has since then worked in Ireland, Denmark, and Finland. Before joining the JMC, she was employed as Collegium Researcher at the Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS). Within the past decade, she has led three major research projects, funded by the Research Council of Finland and the Kone Foundation. She currently directs the project, “Reproduction Wars: Imaginaries and Mobilizations in the U.S.-Mexico Transborder Region” (Research Council of Finland, 2023–2027). Through a mixed methods approach combining archival and online research, team fieldwork, cultural analysis, and a quantitative survey, the project maps the respatialization of women’s bodily rights, contested within the U.S.-Mexico Transborder region. She is a member of the University of Turku Collegiate Council (2022–2025), a past-president of the American Studies Network (2021–2023), and currently serves as member of the Advisory Board of the European Journal of American Studies (2021–2029). She is the codirector, together with the Finnish American Studies Association, of the 28th Biennial Conference of the Nordic Association for American Studies (NAAS), taking place at the University of Turku on June 4–6, 2025.

Prof. Heiskanen’s research and teaching deal with U.S. history, politics, and culture, as well as Transnational American Studies. Based on her recently completed Research Council of Finland project, she coedited (with Albion M. Butters and Pekka M. Kolehmainen) an open access volume, Up in Arms: Gun Imaginaries in Texas (Brill, 2022) and the forum, “Perceiving Security and Insecurity: The Campus Carry Law in Texas,” for the Journal of American Studies. Her open access article, “Un/Seeing Campus Carry: Experiencing Gun Culture in Texas,” was published in the European Journal of American Studies in 2020. Her early-career work dealt with racial/ethnic, class, and gender relations in U.S. history, society, and culture, U.S. Latino/as, the U.S.-Mexico border region, popular culture, and sport. Methodologically, she specializes in transdisciplinary research practices, ethnography, oral history, and visual analysis. Theoretically, she is interested in the politics of visual culture; the geography of the body, space, and place; and race, class, and gender formations. Prof. Heiskanen is a frequent media commentator on U.S. politics, elections, and current events.

Dr. Niko Heikkilä
Postdoctoral Researcher

Email: njheik[at]utu.fi
Office: Publicum Building, Room 252

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 JMC - Niko Heikkilä
Biography

Niko Heikkilä works as a project researcher at the JMC in the Academy of Finland-funded “Reproduction Wars: Imaginaries and Mobilizations in the U.S.-Mexico Transborder Region” (REPRO) project. In the project, Heikkilä examines the policing of women’s reproduction in Texas, focusing on how anti-abortion organizations mobilize people to surveil abortion seekers and providers. He is interested in how such groups in Texas responded to the legislative shift both in terms of assisting in and going beyond conventional policing of abortions.

His previous research has focused on the contemporary history of social movements and social conflict in the U.S., as well as issues of social control and repression and the dynamics of social change and reaction. Heikkilä received his Ph.D. in Cultural History from the University of Turku in 2021. His dissertation, “Reactionary and Revolutionary Mobilizations: The Ku Klux Klan, the Black Panther Party, and FBI Counterintelligence, 1964–1971,” examined the meanings of social change, focusing on the contested interplay between the revolutionary Panthers, the reactionary Klan, and the repression of the FBI in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Heikkilä has previously worked as a research assistant at the JMC in the research project “U.S. Election Year 2016” in the spring of 2016. In 2019-2020, he was a Fulbright visiting researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Department of American Studies. Recently, he was a coeditor of an edited volume on the research methods of cultural history, titled Kulttuurihistorian tutkimus: Lähteistä, menetelmiin ja tulkintaan (2022), and he has published articles in journals such as the European Journal of American Studies and American Studies in Scandinavia.

Dr. Pekka Kolehmainen
Postdoctoral Fellow

Tel.  +358 (0) 50 47 085 72
Email: pmkole[at]utu.fi
Office: Publicum Building, Room 254

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JMC - Pekka Kolehmainen

Biography

Pekka M. Kolehmainen is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS) and the John Morton Center for North American Studies. His project, titled "The Conceptual Language of Antifeminism and Reactionary Realignment in the United States", studies antifeminism as a bridge between different reactionary movements in U.S. history. His research focuses on the conceptual dynamics of antifeminism, examining the co-optation and redefinition of concepts in antifeminist ideological language. Kolehmainen’s larger research trajectory centers on explicating the ideological, cultural, and rhetorical dynamics of the Culture Wars in recent U.S. history and the intersections between political ideology and popular culture. He holds a Ph.D. in Cultural History (2022) from the University of Turku, where his dissertation, "Rock, Freedom, and Ideologies of 'Americanness': U.S. Culture War Debates of the Late Twentieth Century", studied the use of rock as an ideological concept in U.S. political print media during the 1980s and 1990s, contextualized in the larger framework of the Culture Wars. Previously at the JMC, Kolehmainen was part of the Academy of Finland-funded Campus Carry project studying U.S. gun culture and its ideological rhetoric. On the subject, he coedited an open-access edited volume with Benita Heiskanen and Albion M. Butters, Up in Arms: Gun Imaginaries in Texas (Brill, 2022), where his research was published as the chapter “The Founding Fathers in the Temporal Imaginaries of Texas Gun Politics.” His teaching at the JMC includes the course, “Culture Wars in the United States,” and he has in the past taught the introductory course to North American Studies and a seminar on the study of popular culture. He also provides media commentary on U.S. politics and culture, with special expertise in conservatism and right-wing movements.  

Dr. Oscar Winberg
Postdoctoral Fellow

Email: ohbwin[at]utu.fi
Office: Publicum Building, Room 262

 

JMC - Oscar Winberg

Biography

Oscar Winberg is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS) and the John Morton Center for North American Studies (JMC). His current project “Breaking the News: How Congress Remade Television News” studies congressional pressure of television news in the United States, circa 1968–1974. He received his Ph.D. from the History Department at Åbo Akademi University in Turku, Finland, in 2021. His dissertation, “Archie Bunker for President: Television Entertainment and the Transformation of American Politics in the 1970s,” is a political history of television entertainment and politics. He is the coeditor (with Outi Hakola, Janne Salminen, and Juho Turpeinen) of the edited collection The Culture and Politics of Populist Masculinities (Lexington 2021). His work has also appeared in the European Journal of American Studies, PS: Political Science & Politics, Finsk Tidskrift, and Lähikuva.

Winberg’s research interests include media and politics, political history, television studies, Hollywood in political life, and political journalism. His teaching focuses on modern and contemporary U.S. history, mass media, and political history. In 2018, he was a visiting researcher at the American Political History Institute at Boston University. He has also worked in different research projects at the University of Helsinki, University of Turku, Åbo Akademi University, and University of Eastern Finland. Since 2017, he has served as board member of the New Foreign Policy Society in Finland.

He is a frequent commentator in Finnish and Swedish media on United States politics, history, and culture, including as a columnist for Hufvudstadsbladet 2022-2023. His work has also appeared in the Washington Post. In 2015, he created the podcast Campaign Context, which featured some of the most prominent historians and political scientists in the United States as guests, for the JMC. Together with Anna Bäck of Yle, he created the award-winning radio series Trump och USA – valet 2020 for Yle in 2020.

Jaakko Dickman
Project Researcher

Email: jaakko.k.dickman[at]utu.fi
Office: Publicum Building, Room 261

 

JMC_Jaakko Dickman

Biography

At the JMC, Jaakko Dickman is part of the CUBAFLUX project, funded by the KONE Foundation. In the project, Dickman works with visual materials collected from fieldwork periods. He has created the project’s website, and curated its visual archive, which will be used in teaching and for the benefit of the broad public and media. In addition, he has written a popular article and participated in conference presentations. At the JMC, he has prepared funding applications as well as participated in various visual design projects promoting the JMC’s scholars’ activities and events. He served as a TA in the “JMCT0006 Introduction to North American Studies” course in fall 2022 and he coordinated courses “Organizing Osmo” and “Film Pass” in spring 2023. He first came to the JMC as an intern in March 2020.

Jaakko specializes in online community and visual culture research. He has a Master of Arts degree from the Department of Media Studies at the University of Turku. His master’s thesis “Breitbart as an Affective Community: The Case of the Capitol Hill Riots,” analyzes the role of emotions in the processes of interpretation and community building in right-wing online news comment sections in the United States. He was accepted to conduct his Ph.D. dissertation at the Doctoral Programme of Social and Behavioural Sciences at the University of Turku in 2023. The dissertation examines visual politics of post-left communities in the context of the United States. In 2024, Dickman received a four-year full-time grant for his research from the Finnish Cultural Foundation. 

Nadia Nava Contreras
Project Researcher

Email: nadia.navacontreras[at]utu.fi
Office: Publicum Building, Room 261

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JMC - Nadia Nava Contreras

Biography

Nadia Nava works as a researcher in the CUBAFLUX project, funded by the Kone Foundation. Her research revolves around the effects of Cuba's recent, state-led digital revolution in people's lives, focusing on the transnational public sphere and the emergence of new digital economies. She is particularly interested in 1) urban imaginaries in social media, 2) youth internet cultures and the appearance of Cuban influencers, and 3) digital diaspora experiences. This Fall, she will be the instructor in charge of the Current Issues Seminar "Cuba-U.S. Relations in Flux."

Nava holds a master's degree in History of the Americas from Universidad Michoacana (Mexico). She is currently completing a doctoral degree in political history at the University of Helsinki. Her work has been guided by a broad interest in Interamerican relations and Mexico's historical ties with Europe. In her doctoral dissertation on Mexican-Finnish relations during the 20th Century, she explores the construction of mutual imaginaries with an emphasis on printed culture. She has taught Mexican history at the undergraduate level, including a course at the University of Helsinki, and commented on current Mexican and Cuban issues in the media.  

Mila Seppälä
Doctoral Researcher

Email: mila.t.seppala[at]utu.fi
Office: Publicum Building, Room 261

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JMC_Mila Seppälä

Biography

Mila Seppälä is working on her Ph.D. dissertation at the John Morton Center for North American Studies as a doctoral researcher fully funded by the Doctoral Program of Social and Behavioural Sciences Her research focuses on youth activism and the development of political imagination in the gun violence prevention movement in the United States. She has worked on multiple publications together with the Campus Carry project including the co-written essay on student testimonials on Campus Carry in the Journal of American Studies (2021) and a book chapter in the open access volume Up in Arms: Gun Imaginaries in Texas (Brill, 2022). She has previously taught a seminar course on social movements in the United States in the North American Studies (NAMS) program as well given guest lectures on U.S. elections, youth political participation and African American hair. She also worked as a TA for Professor Benita Heiskanen on her “Race, Class, and Gender in U.S. History and Culture” course.

Seppälä spent the academic year 2021–2022 at The University of Texas at Austin as a Fulbright grantee conducting fieldwork for her dissertation and studying in the American Studies program. Previously at the JMC, she worked as project researcher for the “Tragediauutisoinnin haasteet – median mahdollisuudet käsitellä kouluampumisia” project, which focused on the challenges media faced while reporting on the Parkland, Florida school shooting in 2018. She finished her master’s degree in 2018 in the Department of English at the University of Turku, specializing in discourse studies and legal language. She has written about topics such as gun politics, youth activism, TikTok and the 2020 presidential elections for Turun Sanomat and the SAM Magazine.

Julia Niinistö
Intern

Email: julia.niinisto[at]utu.fi 
Office: Publicum Building, Room 262

 
Biography

Julia Niinistö is Contemporary History major at the University of Turku currently working on her master’s degree. The topics present in her thesis work are political memes and how politicians are portrayed in them. In 2023, Niinistö graduated with a Bachelor of Social Sciences, with the thesis titled "Poliittisissa meemeissä esitetyt johtajuuskuvat Yhdysvaltain presidentinvaaleissa 2016" [Portrayals of Leadership in Political Memes during the 2016 US Presidential Election]. Through her research, she is looking to discover how memes can facilitate political participation and how political spaces URL are affecting political climate and discussions IRL.

Niinistö is especially interested in discovering the potential variables which can affect the portrayal of politicians in memes: be it gender, socio-economic background, race etc. The intersections of what kind of attributes are highlighted in the memes are of interest, since this can broaden our understanding of how politicians are viewed in online political spaces. Continuing to develop her research skills, Niinistö is looking to bring her expertise and enthusiasm on online political spaces and visual forms of online political communication to the JMC.

Dr. Sinikka Grant
Visiting Scholar

Email: sinikka.grant[at]utu.fi
Office: Publicum Building, Room 262

 
Biography

Dr. Sinikka Grant is a Visiting Scholar working on her sabbatical project, which examines the nexus of increasing multiculturality and the rise of nativism/nationalism in the USA and the Nordic countries, and how contemporary literature in these countries grapples with these two divergent cultural and political trends.

Dr. Grant received her Ph.D. from University at Buffalo in 2006. Her dissertation, Haunted Heritage: History, Memory, and Violence in the Drama of August Wilson and Suzan-Lori Parks (2006), examines the manifestation of trans-generational trauma in African American drama, and more specifically in the works of the two Pulitzer-prize-winning African American playwrights, August Wilson and Suzan-Lori Parks. Dr. Grant has taught in several colleges and universities in the USA; she is currently Professor of English at State University of New York (SUNY) College at Cobleskill. Dr. Grant’s areas of specialization are African American Literature, American Literature, American Drama, Multicultural Literature, and American Studies. In recent years her research as well as teaching interests have become increasingly interdisciplinary, with a focus on multiculturality.

Dr. Grant is a strong advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). She is particularly proud of her work as the chair of the SUNY Faculty Senate’s Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Committee, which has allowed her to work towards more equitable teaching and learning environments and increased inclusion of DEI content across the disciplines throughout the SUNY system. In Fall 2023, she co-chaired the first SUNY Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice in the Curriculum Conference at University at Albany.

Dr. Tuula Kolehmainen
Affiliate Researcher


​Email: tuula.kolehmainen[at]utu.fi

 

JMC - Tuula Kolehmainen

Biography

Dr. Tuula Kolehmainen won the 2023 Rob Kroes award for her Ph.D. dissertation, “Like Men They Stood”: Black Male Vulnerability as Resistance to Stereotypes in Fiction Written by African American Women (2022). Her dissertation, which is to be published via Brill, focuses on fiction written by African American female authors from the late 1960s to the late 1990s. In addition, she has published an essay on Jhumpa Lahiri’s short fiction in the Keltaiset esseet collection (2016), an article on Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby in the journal American Studies in Scandinavia (2018), and her chapter on Toni Cade Bambara’s short fiction was published in the anthology Mediating Vulnerability: Comparative Approaches and Questions of Genre (2021) by UCL Press.

At the JMC, Kolehmainen develops her postdoctoral project, “Playing with Power and Vulnerability in African American Stand-up,” thus turning her focus on self-representation of Black male vulnerability. While her Ph.D. project largely rests on Black feminist and intersectional theories (in addition to Black male studies and literary studies), her current research incorporates Black male studies and humor studies to produce new knowledge of Black male vulnerability and its connection to humor. Kolehmainen is experienced in stand-up comedy herself, with over 400 performances including the Finnish Channel 4 show Nelosen Stand up!

Currently working as a University Instructor of English at Tampere University, Kolehmainen has previously taught the courses “Short Fiction by African American Women in Context” and “African American Cultural Expression” for the North American Studies program at the JMC. Kolehmainen is also a member of board and communications officer of The Finnish American Studies Association (FASA).

Advisory Board & Council 2024-2028

JMC Advisory Board 2024-2028

To be confirmed

JMC Council 2024-2027

Chair

 

Vice Chair

 

Ambassador of Finland
Mikko Hautala 
Embassy of Finland, Washington D.C.

 To be confirmed
    

Members

   
 
To be confirmed
 
  
    
 
 
  
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
   
 
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    

 

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Advisory Board & Council 2019–2023

JMC Advisory Board 2019–2023

Benita Heiskanen, Professor of North American Studies, University of Turku

Nina Tynkkynen, Professor, Political Science Unit, Åbo Akademi University

Hannu Salmi, Professor, Cultural History, University of Turku

Henri Vogt, Professor of Political Science, University of Turku

 

JMC Council 2019–2022

Chair

 

Vice Chair

 
Eero Hokkanen

Senior Specialist
Eero Hokkanen
Ministry of Transport and Communications

Minna RuckensteinAssociate Professor
Minna Ruckenstein
Center for Consumer Society Research, University of Helsinki
Helsinki Center for Digital Humanities
    

Members

   
Minna AilaSVP, Sustainability and
Corporate Affairs
Minna Aila
Neste
Mika AkkanenManager of International Affairs
Mika Akkanen
City of Turku
    
Ulla BergströmDirector
Ulla Bergström
Stoa Cultural Centre
 
Seija-Liisa EskolaCreative Director and Head of Scripted
Seija-Liisa Eskola
Warner Bros. Finland
    
Lena GrenatExecutive Director
Lena Grenat
SAM
Markku HenrikssonProfessor Emeritus
Markku Henriksson
University of Helsinki
    
Taina IduozeeStrategic Content Coordination Specialist
Taina Iduozee
Embassy of the United States
Juha ItkonenAuthor
Juha Itkonen
 
    
Soili KangaskorpiDirector, Unit for North America
Soili Kangaskorpi
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Ulla KoskiPresident
Ulla Koski
Helsingin Sanomat Foundation
    
Teemu LeinonenAssociate Professor of New Media Design and Learning
Teemu Leinonen
Aalto University
Juan Carlos Moya
Juan Carlos Moya
Business Investment Solutions
JCM Consulting
    
Mary McDonald-RissanenResearcher, Writer, Lecturer
Mary McDonald-Rissanen
 
Terhi MölsäChief Executive Officer
Terhi Mölsä
Fulbright Finland Foundation
    
Mette NordströmJournalist
Mette Nordström
YLE
Alexandra Pasternak-JacksonChief Executive Officer
Alexandra Pasternak-Jackson
Amcham Finland
    
Jussi RopoChief Financial Officer
Jussi Ropo
Barona
Sampo RuoppilaResearch Director
Sampo Ruoppila
University of Turku
    
Laura SaarikoskiManaging Editor
Laura Saarikoski
Helsingin Sanomat
Leena SvinhuvudEducational Curator,
Board Member
Leena Svinhufvud
Design Museum, Jenny and
Antti Wihuri Foundation
    
Elina Talonen-LintunenExecutive Director, Fundraising
Elina Talonen-Lintunen
Youth for Understanding Finland
Juha VuoriProfessor
Juha Vuori
Tampere University
    
David YokenSenior Lecturer
David Yoken
Turku University of Applied Sciences
  

 

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Board & Council 2017–2018

JMC Board 2017–2018

Chair

 

Vice Chair

 
Juha Vuori Professor
Juha Vuori
University of Tampere
Sampo Ruoppila Research Director
Sampo Ruoppila
University of Turku
       

Members

     
Taina Iduozee ARC Director
Taina Iduozee
Embassy of the
United States
Elina Mainela-Arnold Professor
Elina Mainela-Arnold
University of Turku
       
Terhi Mölsä Chief Executive Officer
Terhi Mölsä
Fulbright Finland
Foundation sr
Lauri Rapeli Director of Research
Lauri Rapeli
Åbo Akademi University
       
Minna Ruckenstein Senior Researcher
Minna Ruckenstein
Consumer Society
Research Centre,
University of Helsinki
Hannu Salmi Professor
Hannu Salmi
University of Turku

 

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JMC Council 2017–2018

Chair

 

Vice Chair

 
Arja Suominen

SVP, Communications
and CR
Arja Suominen
Finnair

Marjatta Hietala Professor Emerita
Marjatta Hietala
University of Tampere
       

Members

     
Minna Aila EVP, Marketing and
Corporate Affairs
Minna Aila
Konecranes
Jari Ala-Ruona Founder
Jari Ala-Ruona
Aion Sigma
       
Seija-Liisa Eskola
Head of Productions
and Scripted
Seija-Liisa Eskola
Warner Bros. Finland
Kjell Forsen CEO
Kjell Forsén
Vaisala
       
Lena Grenat Executive Director
Lena (Hartikainen) Grenat
SAM
Veera Heinonen Director, Communications and
Public Affairs
Veera Heinonen
Sitra
       
Markku Henriksson Professor Emeritus
Markku Henriksson
University of Helsinki
Eero Hokkanen Communications Manager
Eero Hokkanen
Arctia
       
Kari Huhta Journalist
Kari Huhta
Helsingin Sanomat
Jenni Isola Director, Membership Services
Jenni Isola
Amcham Finland
       
Kristina Kaihari Counsellor of Education
Kristina Kaihari
Finnish National Agency
for Education
Elina Kalkku Under-Secretary of State
Elina Kalkku
Ministry of Foreign
Affairs of Finland
       
Saara Kankaanrinta CEO and Co-Founder
Saara Kankaanrinta
Soilfood
Ulla Koski President
Ulla Koski
Helsingin Sanomat Foundation
       
Tanja Kotro Director of Strategy
Tanja Kotro
Viima Solutions
Jarno Limnell Professor
Jarno Limnéll
Aalto University
       
Tuomo Lähdesmäki Chairman,
Board of Directors
Tuomo Lähdesmäki
Turku University Foundation
Mette Nordström Journalist
Mette Nordström
YLE
       
Minna Nurminen Board Member
Minna Nurminen
Kone Foundation
Leena Svinhuvud Educational Curator,
Board Member
Leena Svinhufvud
Design Museum, Jenny and
Antti Wihuri Foundation
       
Elina Talonen-Lintunen Executive Director, Fundraising
Elina Talonen-Lintunen
Youth for Understanding Finland
Jussi Valtonen Author
Jussi Valtonen
       
Keijo Virtanen Professor Emeritus
Keijo Virtanen
University of Turku
   

 

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