"I needed to live among the people, hear them talk
about themselves in Artas, make records while they
spoke of their life, customs and ways of looking at
things. For that reason I decided to remain in
Hilma Granqvist 1931, introduction to
Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village
Hilma Granqvist can be counted among the pioneers of Finnish anthropology
and sociology together with the internationally renowned Edvard Westermarck
and his disciples Gunnar Landtman and Rafael Karsten. Granqvist's studies
on Palestine have become internationally recognised classics. Her research
can be placed in the school of "new anthropology" that evolved in Britain
in the 1920's and 30's. This school of thought emphasised field work and
first-hand observation as central instruments of research and aimed at
understanding foreign cultures on their own terms.
Hilma Granqvist's international reputation is based on five extensive
ethnographic works that focus on a Palestinian village in the 1920's.
Granqvist was also an innovative photographer. During her research she
took about 1000 photographs that greatly contribute to visual anthropology.
Granqvist broke the prevailing research tradition of perceiving of foreign
peoples as mere proof of the versatility of the human race and the subjects
of research as anonymous objects. Granqvist documented people in their
activities - in their every chores or going through the rituals related
to different phases of life.
Hilma Granqvist's desire to understand the status of religion in the
modern world inspired her to pursue a career in research. She started
writing her Licentiate thesis on women in the Old Testament under the
supervision of Gunnar Landtman in the early 1920's. To collect material
for the thesis Granqvist left for Germany, where she also studied
ethnology and history of oriental religions. An archaeology course
organised in Palestine for German theologians was a turning point for
Granqvist's career. She decided to return to Palestine to study the
"true life of concrete people". The former Old Testament scholar became
an expert in ethnology and especially the Muslim-Arab cultures of Palestine.
Granqvist completed her doctorate in 1932, but despite her scholarly
qualifications she was never granted the docentship she applied for at
the University of Helsinki. With the help of a small inheritance, she
was able to continue her research. Feminist research in the 1980's
rediscovered her life's work and took a critical viewpoint on the way
Granqvist was treated by the academic community of her time.
1 Hilma Granqvist after her matriculation examination.
Photo: Atelier Nyblin / NBA
2 Women students 1920-luvulla. Hilma Granqvist second from the left.
3 Photo: Åbo Akademi picture archive.
4 Hilma Granqvist in Palestine in village of Artes in the 1920s
or in the beginning of 1930s.
5 Hilma Granqvist.
Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village I. 1932
Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village II. 1935
Birth and Childhood in an Arab Village. 1947
Child Problems Among the Arabs. 1950
Muslim Death and Burial. 1965
"Edward Westermarck and Hilma Granqvist in the field of Orientalist discourse in Finland".