Director of the Visiting Fellows Programme
Anna Korhonen
Head of International Affairs
tel. +358-(0)50-563 63 07

Eeva Korteniemi
tel. +358-(0)50-4150 571

aleksanteri-fellows [at]

Aleksanteri Institute
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FI-00014 University of Helsinki

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Location & Connections


Visiting Fellows 2015-2016

Kristen Ghodsee, Bowdoin College, USA  

“Women in Red: Communist Mass Women’s Organizations and International Feminism during the Cold War”
(May - mid-July 2016)

Kristen Ghodsee has her Ph D from the University of California-Berkeley and is a Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at Bowdoin College. She is the author five books, including The Red Riviera: Gender, Tourism and Postsocialism on the Black Sea (Duke University Press, 2005); Muslim Lives in Eastern Europe: Gender, Ethnicity and the Transformation of Islam in Postsocialist Bulgaria (Princeton University Press, 2009); Lost In Transition: Ethnographies of Everyday Life After Socialism (Duke University Press, 2011); and The Left Side of History: World War II and the Unfulfilled Promise of Communism in Eastern Europe (Duke University Press 2015).
 Ghodsee is the recipient of fellowships from the National Science Foundation, Fulbright, NCEEER, IREX and ACLS and has been awarded internationally competitive residential research fellowships at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC; the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey; the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Study (FRIAS) in Germany.  In 2012, she was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Anthropology and Cultural Studies.  She is currently the President-elect of the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. 


Short description of ongoing research:
The book I will be writing at the Aleksanteri Institute argues that ideological competition between capitalism and communism catalyzed the unprecedented pace of change in women’s status during the 20th century.  Across the globe, women benefitted from a dramatic expansion of social, political, and economic opportunities.  The legal equality of the sexes has become a standard article in almost all democratic constitutions, and the majority of the world’s governments ensure access to education and formal employment outside of the home.  By 2012 only Saudi Arabia and the Vatican City forbade women a voice at the polls.  Certainly, barriers remain, but no one denies the radical transformation of women’s lives that characterized the period between 1900 and 2000.  Although demands for women’s emancipation appeared as early as the 18th century, The Women’s Cold War posits that the rapid global progress of the 20th Century required the intense East-West rivalry of superpowers trying to prove the preeminence of their economic and political world views.

Methodologically rooted at the intersection of anthropology, history, and gender studies, a decade’s worth of interdisciplinary research on three continents substantiates the claims made in The Women’s Cold War.   Based on extensive ethnographic interviewing and archival investigations in the United States, The Netherlands, Bulgaria, and Zambia, the book presents a wide variety of evidence to show that women’s rights became a political tool for both the United States and the Soviet Union.  Specifically, Eastern Bloc success at organizing women in the emerging postcolonial world – and the undeniable gains made by women in countries pursuing a socialist path to economic development – spurred the U.S. government to begin committing resources to programs for women in the global south.  U.S. efforts to convince Asian, African, and Latin American women that democracy and free markets promised true emancipation inspired Eastern Bloc countries to further expand and intensify their own work among women in the developing world.  This competition took the world stage during International Women’s Year (1975) and throughout the subsequent United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985).  Superpower grandstanding about which system could provide true sexual equality, forced male political elites to take women’s rights seriously, committing new resources to women’s literacy, education, professional training, and opportunities for women’s employment.  Thus, Cold War tensions ultimately benefited all of the world’s women, whether they lived in the capitalist, communist, or developing worlds.

Email: kghodsee [at]

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Sari Autio-Sarasmo and Freek van der Vet