Alumni of the Month, March 2023

The March 2023 edition of the HCAS Alumni Gallery features Anssi Peräkylä and Małgorzata Rajtar
Anssi Peräkylä

Since 2019, I have worked as Academy Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki.  In 2022-2023, I am also a Senior Fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies. 

The time in HCAS (2009-2012) meant reorientation of research for me: after years of qualitative study of face-to-face social interaction, I expanded my scope to psychophysiological reactions during social interactions. With Helsinki colleagues from linguistics, we also prepared a successful application for a Center of Excellence, which started in the same year that my period at Collegium ended. I remember the Fellows' seminars – the talks by philosopher Sara Heinämaa, psychologist Raija-Leena Punamäki, theologist Jutta Jokiranta and many others, the sometimes burdensome efforts to understand, and the moments of finding connections to something that initially was so different from what I had ever done.

My main topic of research is now narcissistic personality in social interaction – trying to find connections between Goffman's sociology and clinical and personality psychological understandings of narcissism. It was during the time at HCAS that I first started to develop these ideas. I cannot say that Collegium in any explicit way prompted them, but it surely created the space and time where to read, think and listen to others, which gradually brewed thoughts in me. 

Małgorzata Rajtar

I am an associate professor and the Head of the Rare Disease Social Research Center in the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland. Since 2016, I have worked in the field of rare diseases. Specifically, I have conducted comparative ethnographic studies of the lived experiences of people with rare metabolic diseases and their families in Finland and Poland. Drawing from medical anthropology, food studies, and science and technology studies (STS), I have examined the emergence and practices of nutritional standards for this group of diseases; how people relate to and live with medical technologies (such as a gastrostomy tube), and the role of national health policies on rare diseases in shaping patients’ lives and their access to medical and social services in both countries. Some results of this research will be published in a volume that I am co-editing (with K. Król) entitled “Entanglements of Rare Diseases in the Baltic Sea Region” (under contract with Lexington Books). In my previous research I aimed to illuminate bioethical, socio-cultural, and experiential issues embedded in the refusal of blood transfusions by Jehovah’s Witnesses on the one hand and healthcare professionals in Germany on the other.

My EURIAS Senior Fellowship at the HCAS (2018-2019) allowed me to establish and develop long-lasting contacts within the STS community in Helsinki. It also consolidated my academic position. The enthusiastic and inspiring community at the Collegium stimulated my writing, expanded my scholarly horizons, and encouraged me to ask bolder and more interdisciplinary questions.