Elina Vuola has been a pioneer in introducing two new research
areas in the Faculty of Theology: women s studies and the
Latin American liberation theology. Liberation theology is
based on the idea that theology and the Church must give first
priority to the needs of the poor and oppressed, and that
Christian faith demands that their rights are actively
Vuola s involvement in these questions was at first very
unacademic. In the beginning, her interest in the Third World
and the issue of poverty led her to the Finnish development
movement and then to Latin America, where she was involved in
non-governmental organisations, travelled the continent with a
backpack and worked as a free lance journalist. This is how
she came into contact with liberation theology.
Before resuming her studies, Vuola worked in Finnish civic
organisations, which has deeply affected her research work.
She says she finds it hard to motivate herself in research
topics with no social relevance. Research must at least
stimulate discussion. This conviction Vuola has been able to
test as a columnist for the magazine Suomen Kuvalehti.
In 1997 Elina Vuola completed her doctoral dissertation on the
similarities and differences between liberation theology and
feminist theology. Currently she is a researcher at the
Institute of Development Studies of the University of Helsinki
and studies the relationship between the universality of human
rights and religion. Vuola focusses on the impact of religion
on perceptions of women s sexual self-determination,
especially in impoverished countries where religion has strong
1 Feminist theologist Elina Vuola 1991. Photo: Paula Kukkonen.
2 Elina Vuola picking coffee in Nicaragua, December 1987.
Photo: Jussi Pakkasvirta.
3 Picking coffee is a straining activity. Elina Vuola in Nicaragua, 1989.
Photo: Kristiina Mannermaa.
4 Elina Vuola at the World Conference of Women's Studies in Costa Rica,
Photo: Elina Vuola.
5 Elina Vuola as the chairwoman of a panel of feminist theologians
at the World Conference of Women's Studies in Costa Rica,
February 1993. From left: Gladys Parenselli, Venezuela and Mary John Mananzan,
Philippines. Photo: Elina Vuola.