Social and cultural anthropology

River delta in Sundarban, India. Photo: Juha Laitalainen

River delta in Sundarban, India. Photo: Juha Laitalainen 

Social and cultural anthropology examines differences among human cultures and societies through comparative ethnographic analysis. The discipline of anthropology at the University of Helsinki is Finland’s largest unit in the field and provides researchers with strong connections to anthropological departments at universities abroad. At present, the discipline studies topics that include: the politics of border areas; state formation, climate change, and migration; the development of social cognition in culturally different contexts; and religious movements, secularism and the ethical and moral questions connected to them.  

Social and Cultural Anthropology has always aimed to explore the diversity of human cultures and social formations through ethnographic research that takes a comparative approach towards creating knowledge. 

While this overall aim remains, both the means and the focus have changed in recent years, for the worlds that anthropologists study have changed radically, as have the relations between those worlds. The research conducted in our discipline focuses, for example, on topics such as: the politics of border areas; state formation, climate change, and migration; the development of social cognition in culturally different contexts; and religious movements, secularism and the ethical and moral questions connected to them.  

The fundamental goal of anthropological research is to examine micro-level social life as well as global-level phenomena from a comparative point of view, thereby continuously expanding the boundaries of the researcher’s previous competence. 

The teaching of anthropology at the University of Helsinki emphasizes the tradition of field research as a means to address central questions and issues regarding culture, society and human behaviour. Anthropological studies cover an extensive range of research traditions and engage the philosophical and theoretical questions which have defined the history of the discipline. The purpose of the programme is to ensure that every student becomes acquainted with the research fields of modern anthropology, its research methods and ethnographic studies across the globe. 

Anthropological studies prepare students to work in a wide range of fields and professional environments, and anthropological training helps students to excel at problem-solving in unpredictable situations.  In addition to careers in research, anthropologists are employed in international organizations, government administration and as cultural experts in the corporate world.  They have found niches in fields such as journalism and other communication media. Anthropologists are also required as teachers in universities and other educational institutions, and they are in particular demand in non-government organizations, museums, and welfare bodies. 

Research projects 

The current projects that are on-going within the discipline: 

You can search the on-going and finished projects on the researchportal.   

Newest doctoral theses from the discipline:  

Gribenberg, L. "THEY LOOK ME IN THE EYES AND I SMILE AND THEN WE KNOW" : The Interaction of Finnish Roma and East European Roma in Finland
Jyrkiäinen, S. Virtual and Urban Intimacies : Youth, Desires and Mediated Relationships in an Egyptian City
Rautio, S. The Jade Emperor’s Last Taste of Water : An ethnography on the making of a village in China
Tacey, I.  Animism and Interconnectivity : Batek and Manya’ Life on the Periphery of the Malaysian Rainforest
Tammisto, T. New Actors, Historic Landscapes : The making of a frontier place in Papua New Guinea

How do I get to study anthropology?  

Beginning from 2017, Social and Cultural Anthropology is taught within the Bachelor’s and Master’s programme of Society and Change, The Bachelor’s degree is designed to be completed in three years and the Master’s degree in two years of full-time study. Both programmes are taught in collaboration between four disciplines: Anthropology, Development Studies, Political History, and Social and Economic History. 

In the Bachelor’s programme, students can choose anthropology as their study track after two years of common studies (those who have begun their studies in 2020 or after, can do this after one year). The Master’s programme is fully anthropological, excluding elective studies and a single, interdisciplinary course. Social- and cultural anthropology belongs to the Social Sciences Doctoral Programme to which you can apply to do anthropologically focused graduate studies and to write a thesis in anthropology.  

Prospective students can apply to the Society and Change program at both the BA and MA level. The students accepted to the Bachelor’s program receive the right to continue their studies in the Master’s programme after completing their BA. The Master’s programme accepts additional students who have a suitable BA degree from some other university or faculty. International students can study anthropology at the Master’s level by enrolling in theinternational Master’s programme on Contemporary Societies.

What is studied in the anthropology track? 

We aim at providing a comprehensive anthropology training for students specializing in anthropology. Students are assigned a disciplinary major at the end of the second year of the Bachelor’s programme, and the third year is focused on learning about anthropological research traditions and methods. Courses taken at the Master’s level cover a diversity of anthropological research topics and theoretical and methodological perspectives. Both degrees also require the students to participate in a seminar that supports thesis work on a research topic of their own choice. The Master’s thesis in anthropology is typically based on material collected on an ethnographic field trip. 

You can explore previous theses in the Helda-service 

In addition to anthropological training the study programme provides a wide variety of social research methods and theory courses. Much of the Master’s level instruction in anthropology is given in English, which allows international and Finnish students to take part in the same discipline-specific seminars and courses. 

The blog of the Social & Cultural Anthropology at the University of Helsinki
The discipline’s own blog, where you can find, for example, Friday seminar series recordings (English).

Finnish Anthropological Society ( Twitter Facebook )

AntroBlogia Finnish, anthropology themed blog ( Twitter & Facebook ) (Finnish)

Allegra Laboratory

American Anthropological Association Blog 

Anthrodendum 

Antropologi.info 

Culture Matters 

Living Anthropologically

Sapiens

Lisää antropologia-aiheisia blogeja löydät Living Anthropologically - verkkosivustolta. 

You can find the contact details of our staff in our staff directory and more information on disciplines and researchers in the research portal. You can also check the blog site of Social and cultural anthropology for more information about the personnel.

Head of Discipline: professor Sirpa Tenhunen.  

Professors
Sarah
Green
Professor
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology

Research on the anthropology of borders, space, place and location, particularly in the Mediterranean and Balkan regions; teaching on the anthropology of Europe, concepts of the person, border dynamics, gender and sexuality and doctoral research.

Timo
Kaartinen
Professor
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology
Sirpa
Tenhunen
Professor
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology

My research interests include the anthropological study of climate change, technology, development, politics, economy, gender and kinship. I have carried out ethnographic fieldwork both in rural and urban India. My latest book “Mobile technology, mediation and social change in rural India” was published by Oxford University Press in 2018. I currently lead a Finnish Academy funded research project “Sustainable Livelihoods and Politics at the Margins: Environmental Displacement in South Asia”.
Publications
https://researchportal.helsinki.fi/en/persons/sirpa-tenhunen/publications/

Assistant Professors and Associate Professors
Anni
Kajanus
Assistant Professor
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology

University lecturers
AG
Andrew
Graan
University Lecturer
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology
Toomas
Gross
University Lecturer
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology

University Lecturer (Social and Cultural Anthropology)

TP
Tuulikki
Pietilä
University Lecturer
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology

Academy Research Fellows
Elina
Hartikainen
Academy Research Fellow
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology

Elina I. Hartikainen is an Academy Research Fellow at Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki (2019-2014). Her research examines the intersection of religion, politics, law, and race in Brazil through a focus on Afro-Brazilian religions. In her past and current research, she has explored this conjuncture through the analysis of the Candomblé religion’s practitioners’ activist engagements with Brazilian state projects of participatory democracy and multiculturalism in Salvador, Brazil. Her Academy of Finland funded research project “Secularism at the Intersection of Race and Religion: Afro-Brazilian Religions and the Prosecution of Religious Intolerance in 21st Century Brazil” examines how the wide-spread adoption of “multicultural legal instruments” in Brazil has influenced efforts to prosecute acts of religious intolerance against Afro-Brazilian religions in the city of Rio de Janeiro in order to develop an anthropological understanding of the intersectional construction of religion and race in secular governance and law. Theoretically and methodologically, her research draws on a combination of socio-cultural and linguistic anthropological approaches to political and legal processes.

She holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, and MAs in Anthropology from the University of Helsinki and Social Sciences and Anthropology from the University of Chicago. Previously, she was a Core Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (2016-2019), and Earl S. Johnson Instructor in Anthropology in the University of Chicago’s Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences (2013-2016).

She is the coordinator of the University of Helsinki Linguistic Anthropology Workshop, and an editor at Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society.

KU
Katja
Uusihakala
Academy Research Fellow
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology

University Researchers
DR
Dayabati
Roy
University Researcher
Social and Cultural Anthropology
LS
Laia
Soto Bermant
University Researcher
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology

Postdoctoral Researchers
PD
Patricia
Daniel Scalco
Postdoctoral researcher
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology
FD
Faidra
Douzina-Bakalaki
Postdoctoral researcher
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Other social sciences
Matti
Eräsaari
Postdoctoral researcher
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology
LM
Lalli
Metsola
Postdoctoral researcher
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Development Studies, Social anthropology
Igor
Mikeshin
Postdoctoral researcher
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology

Postdoctoral researcher

SR
Suvi
Rautio
Postdoctoral researcher
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology
CR
Carl
Rommel
Postdoctoral researcher
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology
JS
Jelena
Salmi
Postdoctoral researcher
Social and Cultural Anthropology
JV
Joseph
Viscomi
Postdoctoral researcher
Social and Cultural Anthropology

Doctoral students
Saana
Hansen
Doctoral Student
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology

I work as a Doctoral Student in the Faculty of Social Sciences. My anthropological Doctoral research I use the return migration of Zimbabweans from South Africa as a lens to examine how returnees seek belonging in their social and structural surroundings. A central concern is to understand what crisis-driven displacement has done to the economies of care in Zimbabwe. I have recently conducted ethnographic fieldwork primarily in the city of Bulawayo, and I am currently in the process of writing. My research works analytically at the intersection of the anthropological discussions of state-making and family-making, and I am trying to develop empirically grounded understandings of how these processes are mutually co-constituted and contested within actual everyday interactions and relationships between different actors. The study is part of a research project ”Postliberal governance and popular claim-making in Southern Africa” that is funded by the Academy of Finland. It is supervised by Professor Jeremy Gould (University of Helsinki) and Professor Amanda Hammar (University of Copenhagen).
I hold a MA from the University of Sussex and a BA from the University of Tampere. Before joining the faculty at the University of Helsinki, I have worked on issues related to displacement and migration in the public and NGO sectors.

Key words: Displacement, Documents, Economies of Care, Family and Kinship, Migration, Southern Africa, State-making, Uncertainty, Zimbabwe.

Katri Anita
Hirvonen-Nurmi
Doctoral Student
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology
Annastiina
Kallius
Doctoral Student
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology

PhD student in Social and Cultural Anthropology

VK
Viljami
Kankaanpää-Kukkonen
Doctoral Student
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology
AK
Anna
Klimova
Doctoral Student
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology
Samuli
Lähteenaho
Doctoral Student
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology
JS
Jenni
Savonen
Doctoral Student
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social psychology
BS
Bjørn
Sjødin
Doctoral Student
Social and Cultural Anthropology
AT
Aleksis
Toro
Doctoral Student
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology
MV
Mari
Valdur
Doctoral Student
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology
Sanna
Vellava
Doctoral Student
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Field of science Social anthropology