Helsinki University Humanities Programme

The Faculty of Arts has launched the Helsinki University Humanities Programme (2017–2020) for visiting international professors and postdoctoral researchers.


  • To establish collaboration with the world’s leading researchers;
  • To expanding research cooperation networks;
  • To create new research openings; and
  • To produce co-authored articles for top-level journals.

The programme will bolster the international dimension of the University’s research environment.

The Faculty has invited seven high quality postdoctoral researchers for the chosen themes, Indigenous Cultures and Languages and Environmental Humanities, and five visiting professors and three postdoctoral researchers associated with visiting professors' research areas.

Dr. Justin Begley is an intellectual historian of the early modern period. Having studied philosophy and literature at the University of Toronto, he recently completed a DPhil on the seventeenth-century poet, playwright and natural philosopher, Margaret Cavendish, at the University of Oxford. Out of this work evolved his current research on the ways in which Aristotelian and Galenic thought were stretched and synthesised with other intellectual systems during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, particularly in England. His research at the Humanities Division of the University of Helsinki will be centrally concerned with how these traditions shaped outlooks on animal life in early modern natural and moral philosophy. Whereas scholarly discussions of animals during this period have often swung between the poles of Montaigne’s championing of animal consciousness and the Cartesian bête machine, Justin’s work will establish that the more traditional and learned canons remained the chief sites of debate for the threateningly porous boundary between animal and human forms into the eighteenth century.


Within the energy transition context, substantial problems of affirming the human rights of indigenous peoples appear at the national level. On the one hand, indigenous communities in the North suffer from a lack of clean and reliable energy, which undermines their sustainable development. On the other hand, the development and use of renewable energy requires significant infrastructures that have their own environmental and social impacts.

In this regard, the purpose of the present analysis is to investigate how the development of renewable energy can benefit the wellbeing of indigenous peoples. More particularly, this study seeks to map out the human rights challenges faced by indigenous peoples living in the Arctic and provides some recommendations for the way forward to ensure that renewable energy can contribute to achieving sustainable development for all, including indigenous peoples.


Katariina Harjunpää is a linguist specialised in the study of social interaction with the methods of conversation analysis and interactional linguistics. Her general research interests include multiparty and multilingual interaction, multimodality of language use, and grammar in interaction. Currently (2016–2017) she works as a postdoctoral researcher in the project Multimodality: Reconsidering language and action through embodiment, funded by the Finland Distinguished Professor Programme. The project explores the embodied, linguistic and material dimensions of social interaction in the context of shop encounters.

In her PhD study (2017) on multilingual interactions between speakers of Finnish and Brazilian Portuguese, she investigated how bilingual speakers spontaneously translate the conversation for their co-participants. The study identifies a number of translatory practices in spoken interaction and demonstrates how the participants negotiate, by verbal and embodied means, the situated relevance of language mediation as social action.

In the HUH Programme Harjunpää will collaborate with visiting professor Arnulf Deppermann to investigate the interactional constitution of meaning through multimodal resources in various settings, focusing on the participants’ explicit descriptions of meaning.

(Jan 1, 2018 onwards)

TUHAT profile

Dr. Maria Khachaturyan’s main descriptive focus is the Mano ethnic group and their language (400,000 speakers in Guinea and Liberia). She has being doing fieldwork among the Mano people since 2009. In 2015, she published a grammar of Mano. She is interested in linguistic documentation, (historical) syntax, typology and the study of deictic categories, specifically temporal and spatial/cognitive deixis, in the interactional context. In her current project in linguistic anthropology, she is studying the linguistic performance of the Mano Catholic community, including spontaneous Bible translation and the role that a common ground plays in the linguistic practices of a religious community in the broader context of religious conversion. She is also working on a comparative project focusing on language change fuelled by the Christianisation and translation of ecclesiastic texts. The latter project is supported by a grant from the Fyssen Foundation in France.

She earned her PhD in Linguistics, summa cum laude, from INaLCO, Paris, France in 2014, her M1 in Sociology from Collège Universitaire Français, Moscow, Russia in 2011, and her MA and BA in Linguistics from Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia in 2010. From 2015 to 2017 she was a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley.


Dr. C. Parker Krieg received his doctorate from the University of Oregon, where he researched contemporary American literature and the environment. His dissertation, “Nature Industries: US Environmental Literature after Fordism, 1971–2011”, traced transformations in ecological narratives in light of post-Fordist transformations in political economy. Krieg’s current work bridges cultural memory studies and the environmental humanities to explore the production and transmission of environmental memory. Focusing on African-American literature and the blues tradition, this research considers the importance of cultural memory as a response to the anthropogenic disasters and environmental dislocations of the 21st century.

TUHAT profile

In her doctoral studies, Dr Siragusa was able to demonstrate the benefits and tensions of specific language ideologies which consider literacy a step further in the hierarchy of a language. Her dissertation was entitled “Vepsian Language: Speaking and Writing Heritage Language in Villages and Cities”.

Dr. Siragusa's project will expand on her previous work and focuses on language and responsibility, enchantments and spells, and aims to reinforce the role of linguistic anthropology in a European context.

TUHAT profile

Dr. Stef Spronck is a Dutch linguist with a particular interest in the Indigenous languages of Australia. Since 2008 he has been working with the Ngarinyin people of the western Kimberley region to document and describe their language, which, like most Australian Aboriginal languages, is severely endangered. He is currently also studying other languages of the Worrorran language family.

Stef's research focuses on the relation between sociality and grammar, dealing with questions about how addressivity shapes grammatical categories, what structural means languages have available to express perspective, and how they (do not) use them, and the semiotic diversity of language structure. Grammatical topics at the nexus of these interests are reported speech, modality/evidentiality and discourse reference.

After completing his PhD at the Australian National University, Stef was previously a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leuven.


The project is focused on studying the concept of ”nuclear energy” within eco-narratives in the aspect of distinguishing local/global dimensions of shaping ecological identity while stressing its implementation in “Human–Society–Nature” relations in the aspect of “provincializing” ecocritical studies in European/American societies in particular. This vision involves finding out the ways of ecocritical vision on concepts ”nuclear energy” and ”nuclear catastrophe” and even more – studying the techniques of developing ”nuclear narration” forms under the global/national/regional social needs in the traumatic societies. The phenomenon of stereotypes about ”nuclear energy” in North American / European writing practices and ecological policies in the context of studying the relation between human beings’ activity and the natural world within the contemporary ecological memory and ecological consciousness is under study here with stressing the national features of “nuclear literature”  against the background of ecocritical approach to ”nuclear disaster” in the context of studying apocalyptic fiction. The transformations of “nuclear disaster” perception (the Chernobyl, the Fucusima, Three Mile Island, “nuclear test sites” etc) are under discussion within the ecocritical approach to studying “nuclear narration”.


Dr. Max Wahlström is a linguist with a background in South-Slavic philology. His research deals with a range of topics within diachronic nominal morphosyntax and information structure in South-Slavic languages, the languages of the Balkans, and across the languages of the world. His main topic is the interplay of argument marking and information structure from dialectological, historical, contact linguistic and typological perspectives. He conducts field work in Eastern Serbia with the speakers of South-Slavic Torlak dialects, listed as vulnerable by UNESCO. The crosslinguistic component of the research seeks to understand the variation and areal spread of these phenomena. Max Wahlström’s main international partners are affiliated with the University of Zurich, the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the Russian Academy of Sciences. In addition, his academic interests include the development of literary languages, historical and contemporary socio-linguistics of the Balkan languages, and armed conflicts in Southeastern Europe.

TUHAT profile


Maiju Wuokko is a Finnish political business historian. Her research focuses on the business–politics links and the political activity of Finnish business in post-World War II Finland. In her current research project, she examines Finnish business's core goals in labour market policy and the long-term development of employer policies during the era of incomes policy (c. 1960s–1990s).

TUHAT profile

Dr. Susanna Fellman, Professor of Business History at the School of Business Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg, will work on her research project(s), including topics such as cartels, competition policy, links between companies and the welfare state, and business–government relations.


Dr Phil. Deppermann, Professor of German Linguistics at the University of Mannheim, will work on his research project(s), including topics such as interactional constitution of meaning, multimodal interaction from a linguistic point of view as well as the comparison of the Finnish, Swedish and German languages to lay bare the linguistic structures and constraints of meaning constitution and to identify facets of meaning.


Dr Phil Volker Heyd, Professor in Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Bristol, will work on his research project the ages of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, Neolithic pottery hunter-gather-ers, early farmers and pastoralists as well as early metal users (6th-2nd mill. BC) in Finland and north-eastern Europe. In the project, prehistoric archaeology will closely collaborate with the disci-plines of contemporary and palaeo-genetics, physical and evolutionary anthropology, computa-tional and comparative linguistics, stable and radio isotope as well as biomolecular geochemistry, and further environmental sciences such as palaeo-Ecology and Climatology.

Dr. Nichols, Professor emerita in Slavic languages at the University of California, Berkeley, will work on the research project Historical linguistic geography of Northern Eurasia.


Professor of Assyriology Niek Veldhuis, UC Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Berkeley Institute of Data Science, will work on his research project analyzing and annotating the corpus of Babylonian and Assyrian royal inscriptions for syntactical dependencies and creating a substantial tree bank for Akkadian texts. Professor Veldhuis’s project connects with the Centre of Excellence in “Ancient Near Eastern Empires” (ANEE 2018-2025), directed by Dr Saana Svärd.

Prof. Mikko Saikku is the Director of the Helsinki University Humanities Program (HUH). He is the McDonnell Douglas Professor of American Studies and current Vice Dean at the Faculty of Arts. His research and teaching interests include American and Canadian Studies; environmental humanities, especially environmental history; and history and culture of the southern United States. He is happy to provide additional information on the HUH program and its aims at