Alumni of the Month, June 2022: Risto Saarinen and Florencia Quesada Avendaño

As part of its 20th Anniversary celebrations, HCAS has launched an Alumni Gallery featuring two alumni every month. This month's HCAS alumni are Florencia Quesada Avendaño and Risto Saarinen
Florencia Quesada Avendaño

I am Associate Professor in Latin American Studies in the Department of Cultures at the University of Helsinki. Historian by training, over the past years I have been interested in urban Latin America both in historical and contemporary terms. My main research interests have ranged from urban and architectural history, sustainable tourism, and spatial justice.

During my three years in the Collegium, I was able to pursue two different projects about Guatemala City. The first one, an analysis of the spatial production of injustice through the multiple manifestations of violence, environmental hazards and vulnerabilities in marginal spaces, funded by the Academy of Finland. The second project was a monograph about the urban cultural history of the capital from 1880 to 1930 and the construction of a new public space of power.

My years in the Collegium were important for my career development; it was an exceptional time that eventually helped me secure my current position. Being able to concentrate solely on my research projects, assisted by the best resources and a supportive and friendly staff, was a luxury. The interdisciplinary nature of Collegium, combining academics and artists, inspired my work. Some of those colleagues became also good friends.

Risto Saarinen

I work as Professor of Ecumenics at the University of Helsinki. From 2014 to 2019, I was leading the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence “Reason and Religious Recognition”. The CoE brought together theologians, philosophers, and historians investigating various themes of societal recognition. This venture is still continuing to some extent, especially with themes like theology of hope and the rise of religious populism. My Finnish textbook on hope came out just before the covid pandemic in 2020, and now I am part of a bigger European project network that does research on hope in political, psychological and philosophical contexts.

I was a Fellow of HCAS for two years in 2006-2008. This time was crucially important for my career in two ways. First, I was able to write an ambitious historical monograph that was then published by Oxford University Press. This book created opportunities to work with the leading scholars and publishers in my field. Second, I met international scholars who introduced me to various new topics, for instance, societal recognition, which have been in the center of my later research.