Alumni of the Month, April 2023

The April 2023 edition of the HCAS Alumni Gallery features Andreas Bieler and Merja Polvinen
Andreas Bieler

I am a Professor of Political Economy in the School of Politics and International Relations at Nottingham University/UK. My main research focus is on labour movements, broadly defined, and their possibilities to represent the interests of their members and wider society in the resistance against capitalist exploitation in times of neo-liberal globalisation.

I had the good fortune of spending two separate periods at the Helsinki Collegium, first in 2009/2010, then in 2019/2020. Back in 2009/2010, I was working on small European states in the global political economy including a focus on Finland and its labour movement. In the more recent stint, my focus was on struggles against water privatisation in Europe. My monograph Fighting for Water: Resisting Privatization in Europe (Zed Books/Bloomsbury: 2021) is the result of this project.

Reflecting on my stays at the Collegium, what I appreciated most is the scholarly, collegial and supportive environment, allowing Fellows to concentrate fully on their research projects away from the daily pressures in our home institutions. The fact that my second stay coincided with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic implied that much closer friendships were formed with all of us suddenly being locked down in Helsinki. These fond memories will stay with me!

Merja Polvinen

I am a Senior University Lecturer at the Department of Languages here at the University of Helsinki. I work in English philology and specialize in cognitive literary studies. I was at HCAS as a Core Fellow 2013-2016, as well as an Erik Allardt Visiting Fellow at our neighbouring Swedish Collegium of Advanced Studies in Uppsala 2019-2020.

Interdisciplinary work on literature and the cognitive sciences is an active field, and one that includes as many varieties as there are theories of mind and consciousness, or of representation and language. My own interests are in examining artifice as a central quality in the experience of fiction – as something that makes the cognitive environment of fictions fundamentally different from our everyday sensory reality. This research led to a book titled Self-Reflective Fiction and 4E Cognition: An Enactive Approach to Literary Artifice, which came out with Routledge in January 2023.

My time at HCAS was indispensable for this work; I was able to concentrate on reading up on the latest research in a new field and writing the studies that eventually formed the core of my monograph. I have also always been a strong believer in cross-disciplinary talk, and the people I met at HCAS - many of whom have already been introduced in this alumni series - taught me so much about how to conduct it in a fruitful way!