The Mind and the Other -project is conducted by an interdisciplinary research team hosted by the University of Turku. Please visit each researcher’s own page to learn more about their aims and interests in the current research project.
Professor, Principal researcher, person of charge of the research project
In her ethnographic research on illness, pain and death Marja-Liisa Honkasalo has been interested in the social and cultural conditions of suffering and in the persons’ own experiences. In her earlier studies, her theoretical frame has been social and lived suffering. In her recent work in the projects ‘Vulnerable Agency’ and ‘Mind and the Other’ she has a theoretical focus on agency as bounded by and embedded both in social institutions and technologies. She has carried out ethnography in West African villages (2011-2012; 2014) with a focus on illness and healing in ritual contexts. Her work in the present project is about cultural negotiability of the boundaries between life and death, as it is mediated by ancestral presence in everyday life, by material objects and possession.
Kirsi Kanerva is a cultural historian. She has studied the history of mind, body and emotions in medieval western Scandinavia. She defended her Ph.D. thesis ‘Porous Minds’ in January 2015. In this project, Kanerva’s sources consist of medieval (ca. 1200–1400) Icelandic vernacular saga literature. The sources are studied from cultural historical and semiotic perspective. Kanerva studies how the relationship and interaction between the extra-bodily supernatural beings and the human mind was represented in medieval western Scandinavian literature and examines through intertextual analysis what kind of meanings were given to the otherworldly agents and their interaction with the humans. At this point of her study Kanerva suggests that emotions were considered ‘movements of the mind’ in medieval Iceland. In many contexts, the mind was situated in the heart and, consequently, the emotions were considered physical in nature and expressed through somatic changes. Moreover, the human body and therefore also the human mind was considered porous: if the mind of the person was not strong enough, supernatural agents and forces could penetrate the boundaries of his/her body as winds or sharp projectiles. Correspondingly, minds of strong-willed people could penetrate the minds of others (with the idea that thoughts could be ‘winds’). As a result, illness and emotions could upspring (and people did not always distinguish between emotions and physical illnesses). Especially fear, grief and emotions of moral responsibility (e.g. guilt) made people vulnerable to the supernatural influence. In literature, for instance, guilt could be represented as eye pain that was inflicted upon the sufferer by a supernatural agent in a dream. Consequently, supernatural forces and beings were considered part of the upspring of emotions, but also part of the representation of emotions in literature: They caused the emotion but their presence also represented the emotional turmoil in the communities that the supernatural agents harassed; emotions that had followed from norm transgressions, betrayal and other forms of social disequilibrium. Medieval readers and listeners of the sagas were used to interpreting such different layers of meaning in texts.
Jyrki Korkeila is a professor of psychiatry. He has done previously research among other things on psychoses. In this project Korkeila will compare 1) volunteers, who do not meet the criteria of any psychiatric diagnosis and do not report hearing voices, 2) patients, who suffer from schizophrenia and have chronic auditory hallucinations and 3) persons, who may be defined as highly sensitive/have auditory sensitivity. The subjects will be interviewed using Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IVTR (SCID I & II). Additionally, the hallucinations will be assessed using valid and reliable instruments.
Kaarina Koski is a folklorist specializing in narrative traditions and their meanings. Her studies have concerned chiefly Finnish folk legends and popular views about the dead, graveyards, and churches. Recently, she has started focusing on contemporary materials. Koski is interested in communication and its culturally established genres and discourses that guide and shape the representation and interpretation of lived experiences. She has applied conceptual analysis based on cognitive linguistics, narrative analysis, analyses on genre, register and word semantics, as well as contextual, intertextual and comparative approaches. In this project, she studies discourses and interpretations concerning the uncanny and spiritual. In addition, she explores the contemporary Finns’ thoughts of and relations to their deceased and dying loved ones.
Susanne Ådahl is a medical anthropologist who has previously been working with social suffering, illness interpretations of cancer and recipient experiences of organ transplantation. Her current research deals with the felt, bodily and lived experience of voice hearers in Finland. The research project ponders how the hearing of voices is explained and given meaning by those suffering from this phenomenon; and, how they interact with the voices and negotiate the agency that exists between them and the voices. The methodological approach is ethnographic with to date 18 in-depth, qualitative interviews collected and participant observation notes of peer therapy groups for voice hearers as well as of other events organised by an association of voice hearers. Theoretical interests that frame her research are phenomenology of the body and agency.
Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen has a doctoral degree and habilitation in Latin American studies at the University of Helsinki, the Department of World Cultures. Her research has dealt with Amazonian indigenous ontologies, epistemologies, mobility, shamanism, adolescence, indigenous politics, as well as ethno-history. Her research material produced in collaboration with several indigenous communities in Brazil offers crucial opportunities for larger comparisons in the project. Virtanen has also been a visiting scholar at the University of São Paulo and the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and is affiliated to the Centre EREA, Université Paris Ouest, Nanterre La Défense. Her publications several journal articles, edited books, as well as the monograph Indigenous Youth in Brazilian Amazonia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). Virtanen is also leading a project Transforming the Future in Brazil: Ritual and Indigenous Agencies at the University of Helsinki.
Other members of the project
Ella Vihervuori, coordinator of the project
Juuso Järvenpää, student of history of ideas (internship 2014)
Eero Karhu, student of comparative religion (internship 2015)
Aatu Poutanen, student of comparative religion (internship 2015)