You may find here the list of our Current HCAS Fellows O-Z and short descriptions of their research projects. On the page Current HCAS Fellows A-N you can find information about the rest of the fellows.
Current HCAS Fellows, O-Z
- Philosophical psychology
- Medieval and renaissance studies
- Systematic theology
- Philosophy of religion
The Salutary Power of Negative Emotions in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
Dr. Palmén’s research project explores the accounts of the so called negative emotions in medieval and renaissance sources. The goal of the study is to move beyond the simple positive-negative polarity and explore the complexity of pleasant and painful emotions in the history of philosophical psychology. She will argue that medieval and renaissance theories of emotions recognize also positive dimensions of certain negative emotions and indicate their possible beneficial effects on person’s behavior and cognition. The study will focus to three different “negative” emotions, namely, fear, shame, and sorrow.
The research aims will be achieved by systematically investigating primary sources of medieval and renaissance writings (e.g., Thomas Aquinas, Dante Alighieri, Coluccio Salutati) and by exploring specific philosophical concepts and the implications of these from those texts. Although emotions have their undeniable biological and physiological bases, the research builds on the assumption that emotions are essentially connected to various historically and culturally grounded systems of shared meanings which may change according to different contexts. The resulting understanding of the cultural modelling of emotions and their changes will facilitate modern discussions of emotions by offering a more nuanced and historically informed view of the affective dimension of human reality.
- Causal Explanation
- Agency and Free Will
- Philosophy of Mind
- Philosophy of Science
- Philosophy of Physics
- Philosophy of Biology
- Philosophy of Medicine
- Philosophy of Neuroscience
- Philosophy of Psychology
Agency and Free Will in a Physical World
The ideas of human agency and free will seem to be in conflict with our physicalistic intuitions: if everything happens in accordance with the fundamental laws of physics, and if those laws are out of the reach of our influence, then our decisions and actions are equally out of the reach of our influence. In this study this issue is addressed in the context of a precisely defined notion of causation; the main research question can be formulated thus: supposing that physicalism holds, and causation is understood as counterfactual difference-making, what sort of view on agency and free will should we be committed to? More specifically, this research aims to clarify the roles of determinism and indeterminism in physical explanation, to analyse the relationship of fundamental physical symmetries and free will, and to show how the intuitions concerning the incompatibility of free will and physical determinism arise from interpreting causation in terms that go against the idea of causation as difference-making. Further, this research aims to show that, contrary to what is often assumed, the physical and agential levels of description are de facto linked, with the former constraining the latter: physical (e.g. neural) evidence affects the assessment of agential states. The issue of free will and nonreductive physicalism is therefore not of a mere abstract philosophical interest; it has tangible consequences to our moral judgements and jurisprudence.
Dr Pernu completed his PhD on the topic of causal explanation in naturalistic philosophy of mind, jointly representing the department of biosciences (neuroscience and physiology) and the department of philosophy (theoretical philosophy), at the University of Helsinki in 2013. He has since held research fellowships at the molecular and integrative biosciences research programme, University of Helsinki, and department of philosophy, Kings College London. Dr Pernu has research expertise in philosophy of mind, and philosophy of the natural sciences, physics, biology, and medicine, in particular.
- Communication context
- Consumer society
- Foucauldian discourse analysis
Racism without others: Everyday mediations in Poland
In my postdoctoral project I cross-fertilise communication studies with disciplines such as sociology, history and social geography to understand racism in Poland where the racialised others are physically absent but continuously present in everyday communication. Decentring a recent racist turn in political and public discourses, I turn to the mundane communication avenues as sites where globally circulated racist discourses are articulated through the local socio-cultural and/or politico-historical repositories. In Foucauldian spirit, I examine how these discourses construct the racialised others as objects of knowledge and, in doing so, contribute to the augmentation of racist subjectivities in the Polish society. I theorise that in Poland racism is discursively instrumentalised to uphold the self-congratulatory national self-definition. The project pursues this proposition in three case studies. The first study probes how orientalist discourses prefigure representations of the racialised people and destinations that circulate in the blogosphere. The second study looks at how the discourse of threat, spuriously associated with multiculturalism, plays out in the national legacy media. The third study scrutinises how the discourse of un/worthiness of the racialised others intersects with the marginalisation of ethnic minorities in the built urban environment.
Kinga Polynczuk-Alenius is a media and communication researcher interested in the role of communication and its contexts in addressing, or not, ethical challenges that face an increasingly globalised world. To study this issue, she promiscuously branches out into various adjacent disciplines, such as sociology, social and cultural anthropology, social geography, and literary studies. She defended her doctoral dissertation, titled Ethical trade communication as moral education, at the University of Helsinki in 2018. Her articles have been published in academic journals such as 'Globalizations', 'International Journal of Cultural Studies', and 'Media and Communication'.
- Philosophy of science
Virtual Ecology, Artificial Data
Virtual ecology is emerging as a new computer-assisted method for producing easily reproducible and high-quality data. The aim of virtual ecology is to have data sets at disposal which are accurately and comprehensively known by ecologists. Virtual ecology not only provides us with data sets, but also and importantly generates new, albeit artificial, virtual data sets (by computer simulations models) to be utilized by ecologists in various research contexts. Virtual data is systematically and accurately reproducible and controllable for confounding factors and errors, in contrast to natural data. Virtual data can potentially be used as an evidential substitute data for the unreliable, insufficient, and inaccurate natural data. The data produced by virtual ecological simulations is used in evaluating and testing models, methods, and instruments. The project has four objectives. 1) To analyze philosophical topics related virtual ecology. Virtual ecology involves methodological, epistemological, and evidential issues, which are analyzable through the resources of philosophy of science. 2) To produce virtual data, partly in collaboration with scientists. 3) To analyze methodological and epistemic strength and weaknesses of individual-based models (IBMs). Many virtual ecological simulations are based on IBMs. 4) To have an impact on how virtual ecology is practiced and how its methods develop.
A regular philosopher of science who is trying to understand the ways science works.
- Digital media
- Networked culture
- Speculative fiction
Convergent Worlds in the Digital Age. New Forms of Participation and Sharing in Transmedial Environments
The rapid growth of digital media has transformed the ways we approach art and entertainment. Both forms of media and audiences are converging. As a result, not only is content transferred across media platforms, but the new, transmedial environments focus on the sharing of information and affective experiences between users. We urgently need multidisciplinary methodology to explore the effect of a more participatory, networked culture on the ways art and entertainment are authored and used today. This project, which combines narratology with research on games, digital media, and fan cultures, provides an innovative way to analyse both the poetics and the collaborative aspects of new creative practices. This project asks: What exactly is being communicated or shared across multiple forms or media? How does the sharing of information and experiences between users affect the work of designers? What is the role of narrative in art after the digital turn?
I am a researcher interested in all things speculative in art and entertainment. My expertise lies in the thorough understanding of contemporary narrative theory, game and digital media studies, and research on modern fan cultures. So far, my work has engaged with the role of narrative in complex environments that integrate more than one medium, narrative’s relationship to other forms of meaning-making, and the ways in which users engage with art and entertainment. From the autumn 2018 onwards, I also participate in the “Instrumental Narratives: The Limits of Storytelling and New Story-Critical Narrative Theory” consortium funded by Academy of Finland.
- Research Ethics
- Philosophy of Science and Social Science
- Social Epistemology
The Epistemic Power of Diversity
My research project contributes to the multidisciplinary study of diversity by examining the role of diversity in the production of knowledge. My goal is to understand the potential epistemic benefits and costs stemming from greater diversity. I approach diversity from the perspective of philosophy of science, and especially social epistemology understood as a normative study of the social dimensions of scientific knowledge and practice. An epistemic assessment of diversity is needed to understand the roles that diversity can play in the social practices whereby knowledge is justified and evaluated epistemically, the nature of the epistemic advantages that can accrue to diverse scientific communities, and the background conditions under which diversity can be expected to have epistemically valuable consequences. The project is interdisciplinary in terms of its methods. A philosophical analysis of concepts (e.g., social and cognitive diversity, epistemic benefits and costs) is combined with a case study approach drawn from the social sciences.
Kristina Rolin is University Lecturer in Research Ethics at the University of Tampere and a member of the TINT Centre in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki. Her main research area is philosophy of science with an emphasis on research ethics, social epistemology and feminist epistemology. She has published 20 articles in international peer-reviewed scientific journals, 7 book chapters in international peer-reviewed scientific edited volumes, and many other scientific papers.
- Cognitive neuroscience
- Mind wandering
- Cognitive flexibility
When attention wanders: Neurocognitive basis of fluctuations in attention
No matter how hard individuals try to concentrate on a task, their internal state of attention fluctuates between task-related and task-unrelated focus. The dynamic nature of conscious experience is illustrated by mind wandering, in which attention switches from an external task to self-generated thoughts and feelings. Mind wandering involves a balance of costs and benefits: It can lead to errors on external tasks such as reading a book or driving a car, but it also associated with creativity and well-being. Although, mind wandering comprises approximately half of the waking state, theories of attention typically assume that attention is mainly driven by external stimuli. Different lines of research indicate that attentional fluctuations are ubiquitous in mental life, yet the mechanisms that cause attention to fluctuate are poorly understood. This project examines the neural and cognitive basis as well as the behavioral significance of attentional fluctuations.
Jaana Simola's research concerns performance and brain dynamics during different attention tasks.She is interested in cognitive flexibility and how attentional fluctuations can inform us about the episodes when attention decouples from external environment to self-generated states such as mind wandering. She also has a strong interest in fluctuations in spontaneous brain dynamics, pupil size and blinking. Her research also concerns active vision, i.e., how we sample our environment with eye movements and how we process emotional stimuli and task-irrelevant information. Jaana uses a wide range of methods including MEG, EEG, eye tracking and psychophysics.
- Sociology of science and technology
- Utilisation of genomic knowledge and health data
- Healthy citizenship
- Policy analysis
Moral (de)contextualisation of health data use
The research stems from the government plans to create a Finnish health data economy that is the most competitive in the world. Great emphasis is put on large data collections to generate economic growth, to enhance medical research, and to boost peoples health in new ways. New data driven practices create vast amount of data about individuals and enable data use across organisational and geographic boundaries. Problems related to uses of health data have often been analysed as questions of privacy. This research alters the focus from the individualistic notion of protection of privacy to acceptance, benefits and moral justifications of health data use. Elaborating on literature in sociology, science and technology studies, philosophy, law and communication studies, I develop theory on moral contextualisation of health data use. It refers to the moral judgements, values and norms that are specific to each context doctors appointment, medical research, welfare benefit decisions, personalised drug marketing. The contexts are not stable, but ambiguous and challenged, and different actors can have varying understandings of the moral contexts. I compare citizen and policy perspectives to health data use.
My research areas is sociology of science and technology. During the last decade I have done research on social aspects on biobanks, genomic knowledge and health data use. I have analysed public opinion, health and innovation policies, utilisation of genome data in health care, and governance and establishment of biobanks and health data infrastructures in Finland. I am interested in how new technologies and data analysis transform health care and the relationship between the state and its citizens.
- Folklore Studies
- Linguistic Anthropology
The Creation of Continuing Bonds by Karelian Immigrants and Their Descendants in Finland
This project investigates the practices, behaviours and beliefs of Karelian immigrants and their descendants in Finland that create bonds with their lost homeland, culture and kin. It sets out to develop an understanding of immigrants losses and their responses to them. Karelians present an exceptionally rich case because it is possible to examine three major waves of immigration to Finland under different historical circumstances across the past century. The arriving population of each wave or their descendants also appear to employ different major strategies for creating and maintaining continuing bonds with their heritage and families. This project will make a vital contribution to the increasingly volatile discussion about immigration that is ongoing in Finland and in the Western world more generally. The central aim of this study is to provide knowledge about the tensions and identities of immigrants and the social strategies that they use to establish and maintain connections to the past, to places, and to their ancestors.
- Old Norse Language & Literature
- Old English Language & Literature
- Comparative & Historical Linguistics
- Germanic Philology
The Birth of Poetic Language. Syntax & Meter through the Ages and between Cultures in Medieval Scandinavia and England: a New Digital Humanities Research Tool
Dr Sverdlov studies the survival of a key corpus of Old Norse texts, skaldic poetry, flourishing in Medieval North ca.900-1400, from linguistic, social, and poetic points of view. Skaldic poetry is a unique oral tradition that revels in linguistic acrobatics; more surprisingly, it survives as quotes in prose texts: family and kings' sagas. Dr Sverdlov's research is in the contrast of speech registers and syntaxes between skaldic poetry and saga prose. The former is seen as so complex, only professional poets, skalds, had the skills to compose and understand it. If so, it should have become garbled after centuries of transmission by untrained native speakers inside simple saga prose; yet skaldic texts remain uncorrupted.
This means that Old Norse speech registers were transparent and that non-skalds could parse skaldic syntax. Dr Sverdlov aims to uncover the nature of these parsing skills, and then to apply the Old Norse results to Old & Middle English alliterative poetries, skaldic poetry's contemporaries that feature lines that uncannily resemble those of skaldic metre dróttkvætt in order to determine the comparative history of these literary traditions and further contribute to typological & historical syntax of languages of Baltic/North Sea region.
- American literature
- Gift theory
- Economic criticism
- Nineteenth-century literature and culture
Gifts, Gift Economies, and Nineteenth-Century American Literature in Anthropological Perspective
The project aims at exploring the function and the role of gift-giving in modern societies, using nineteenth-century American literature and culture as a case study. It intends to refine, question, and deepen our understanding of the interface between market and non-market economies in modern history. Does personal gift exchange challenge or complement more impersonal, market-driven relations? How do notions of pure, perfect, and gratuitous gift determine/shape contemporary gift-giving practices and rituals? If gifts are believed to be/promoted as ideal alternatives to commodities, why is there so much anxiety and controversy concerning gift-giving as revealed in the images of toxic, poisonous, onerous, and violent gifts in contemporary intellectual debates, literature, and art? Covering a wide range of literary works and incorporating varied cultural material such as journals, gift books, correspondence, the study seeks to elicit dynamic interconnection among aesthetic, social, and anthropological aspects of the nineteenth-century American literary culture as well as to examine the points of convergence between literary studies and anthropology. Methodologically, the project relies on gift theory, especially on the works that study gift economy under the conditions of capitalism; it also draws on economic criticism and widely borrows from material culture history, gender studies, Afro-American studies, and book history.
Alexandra Urakova holds a PhD in American literature (Moscow State University). She is a Senior Researcher at the A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences. She taught at the Russian State University for the Humanities and at the National Research University Higher School of Economics. She held a number of international research positions including Fulbright scholar (University of Virginia), Eccles Fellow in North American Studies (British Library) and Senior Research Fellow at IAS CEU in Budapest. She is the author of a monograph, editor/co-editor of four collections, and the author of numerous essays in American literature.
- Classical and Hellenic logic
- Linguistics and science (esp. Medicine)
- Pauline pneumatology and biblical mss
- Patristic Philosophy of the 3rd - 14th centuries
Physiology of the Human Cognition in the Scientific, Theological and Monastic Contexts of Late Antiquity
My project is devoted to the investigation of a fascinating treatise On the Nature of Man, written by a certain Nemesius of Emesa. Recognized by the scholars as the first composition about Christian anthropology this work exemplifies a curious synthesis of Galenic medicine, Hellenic philosophy, and Christian theology. Although the treatise encompasses the famous doctrine of the unconfused union of the divine and human natures of Christ, which featured in the Christological debate of the 5th-6th centuries, presently, conventional scholarly date of the treatise was at the end of the fourth century, although other dating hypotheses have been also proposed. This status quo reflects the tendency to associate Nemesius' philosophy with the teaching of Cyril of Alexandria. So far the studies of On the Nature of Man were chiefly dominated by the doxographical interests, while Nemesius' doctrine per se has not been comprehensively studied. Consequently, neither the investigation of the provenance nor of the date and contextualization of the treatise has not yet been systematically attempted. The aim of my project is to solve the problem of the treatise's dating and provenance. I shall compare Nemesius' concepts to the ideas of the famous Antiocene teachers (Theodore of Mopsuestia and Theodoret of Cyrus) and demonstrate the influence of the Mesopotamian schools on the formation of Nemesius' scientific interests and philosophical approach.
Hey, I'm Anna Usacheva, PhD in classical philology (2011, Moscow State University). From the time of my doctoral studies and onwards I've been working on the issues concerning classical and Hellenic philosophy (Plato, Isocrates) and Christian literature of the third and fourth centuries AD. Three years after the defence I spent teaching courses in Patristics and ancient languages at Moscow Universities. In 2015 as a Marie-Curie fellow I moved to Denmark and joined an excellent team of scholars at Aarhus University. My research project resulted in a monograph "Knowledge, Language and Intellection from Origen to Gregory Nazianzen. A Selective Survey", published by Peter Lang in 2017. Then due to a scholarship of Queen Ingrid of Denmark, I had an amazing opportunity to work on the manuscripts of the commentators of Gregory Nazianzen in the Vatican Library.
- Ancient Judaism
- Early biblical interpretation
- Wisdom, virtue and character formation
- Cultural interaction in Mediterranean antiquity
Ancestral Virtue in Early Jewish Literature
This project analyses conceptions of virtue i.e. human activity regarded as morally valuable and thus desirable in early Jewish literature from the Hellenistic and early Roman periods (ca. 300 BCE - 100 CE). It specifically examines how Jewish authors constructed moral models in their contemporary settings through attributing virtues and vices retrospectively to (anti-)exemplary biblical figures. The variety of early Jewish thought is analysed beyond later canonical boundaries, and the selected sources deconstruct boundaries between sub-areas of research as they include both Judaean and diaspora texts written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. More broadly, this project shakes the stereotypical scholarly view that the world from which virtue originates is non-Jewish. Scholars working on virtue ethics in the context of Mediterranean antiquity have typically focused on Greek philosophical sources before moving on to the Christian thinkers of late antiquity and beyond. Ancient Jewish writings must be included in the analysis, however, if the cultural and intellectual pluriformity of Mediterranean virtue discourses is taken seriously. Due to its cross-disciplinary nature, the project has connections to religious studies concerned with human morality, Graeco-Roman studies, and early Christian studies.
Dr. Elisa Uusimäki is a scholar of ancient Jewish literature and holds the title of docent at the University of Helsinki, currently serving as the PI of the research project "Conceptions of Virtue in Early Judaism" (2018-2020). Uusimäki has published on wisdom and torah, ancient scriptural interpretation, the figure of the sage, and exemplarity. Apart from Helsinki, she has worked at the University of Manchester, Yale University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.
- Motor processes
Grounding of prosody on motor processes
The theories of embodied cognition assume that decoding phonetic and prosodic features of speech should be engaged to motor processes. Indeed, it has been shown that motor processes contribute to decoding phonetic features of speech. Although, it has been shown that, for example, the intonation peak co-occurs in synchrony with gestural hand, head and eyebrow movements, the role of motor processes in decoding prosodic features of speech is a topic that is mostly unexplored. Moreover, it is known that linguistic prosody consists of structures that include melodic variations in pitch, loudness and timing leading to, for example, specific intonation emphasizing whether someone is asking a question (rising pitch). In contrast, emotional prosody is used to communicate the emotional state of the speaker (e.g., anger). The present project explores whether motor processes related to, for example, head, eyebrow and hand movements are involved in processing emotional and/or linguistic prosodic features of heard speech. The studies use, for example, electromyography and different behavioral techniques (e.g., grip force) in order to investigate whether heard prosodic cues systematically modulate motor activation related to specific face, neck and hand muscles.
Lari Vainio has worked as a lecturer of cognitive psychology in University of Helsinki since 2010. In addition, he has investigated perceptual, motor and cognitive processes in domestic and international research environments for many years.
- Maritime archaeology
- Nautical technology
- Nautical ethnography
- Behavioral ecology
- Evolutionary biology
- Fishing communities
- Fluvial communities
- Human-environment interactions
Human-environment interactions: nomadic fishing communities and state development in the Lower Mekong Basin
Since the discovery of the Angkor civilization on the shorelines of the Tonle Sap Lake, it has been assumed that rivers played an important role in the establishment of this polity. However, rivers have largely been ignored in previous academic research, which has seen stronger focus on land remains. This has resulted in a biased interpretation of the data, favouring approaches that recognise Angkor as an agrarian state. While the role of agriculture is certainly of great importance, novel research conducted during my doctoral studies suggests that the presence of nomadic fishing communities played a key role in the establishment of Angkor. These communities provided the necessary man-power to capture fish during the short fishing season, which coincided with the rice harvest. These fishing communities had to travel hundreds of kilometres annually to the Tonle Sap Lake following fish migration patterns, while at the same time land-based communities travelled to the lake to obtain the fish needed to produce prahok, a fermented fish paste that is at the heart of Khmer cuisine. This gathering provided opportunities for human interaction and likely acted as a conduit for culture dispersal and knowledge transfer. In this context of cooperation determined by ecological pressure, the only way to understand the complex relationship that emerged from it is by studying how the functional aspects of the environment influenced the cosmological, economic, and political world of Angkor.
I am a maritime archaeologist interested in the development of maritime cultures in inland waters. I studied History at the University of Alcala before pursuing a master's degree in maritime archaeology at UCL and a DPhil at the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology. My current research is focused on human-environment interactions in fluvial settings. I am also interested in engaging with popular audiences and have written articles and books for National Geographic.
- Prosody (French and Finnish)
- Gaze behavior
- Misunderstanding situations
- Speech disfluencies
Interaction of Preadolescents with Autism - Focus on Speech Prosody, Gaze Behavior and Misunderstanding Situations
Persons afflicted with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often have prominent prosodic features in their speech. By creating an impression of oddness, these features can constitute a significant obstacle to the social acceptance of the individual. They also affect ASD speakers ratings of social and communicative competence. The crucial role of eye contact in fluent interaction has long been acknowledged.
One of the key features of normal gaze behavior is that listeners look at speakers. ASD subjects are deficient in this gaze response. Gaze constituting such an important interactional resource, ASD persons tendency to avoid eye contact may affect the fluidity of conversations and cause misunderstandings. For this reason, it is important to know the precise ways in which the gaze avoidance is done, and the ways in which it affects the interaction.
This project aims at discovering prosodic features and gaze behavior that characterize people afflicted with ASD independently of the mother tongue and the cultural environment of the person. In addition, the project aims at discovering the role of the prosodic features and the direction of gaze in misunderstanding situations occurring in ASD peoples interaction. Methodologically, two different viewpoints will be adopted. One of these is qualitative (conversation analysis) and the other one is quantitative (experimental and instrumental phonetics).
Mari Wiklund (née Lehtinen) works as a university researcher at the HCAS since 2015. She received her PhD in French Philology from the University of Helsinki in 2009, and the title of docent in 2015. She holds the position of a university lecturer of French Philology in the University of Helsinki since 2018. Her current research interests include for example: 1) interaction of autistic preadolescents (prosody of speech, gaze behavior and understanding problems); 2) disfluencies (autistic vs. neurotypical preadolescents); 3) audio description (prosodic features); 4) asylum seekers’ speech (understanding problems, repairs); and 5) expatriate Finns’ speech (prosody of code-switchings).
- Greco-Roman biography (Plutarch)
- Ancient intellectuals under the Roman empire
- Classical reception in nineteenth century Russia
The Uses of Antiquity in Imperial Russia, 1801-1837
The project investigates the role of Greco-Roman antiquity within the discursive repertoire of the educated Russian elite in the first third of the nineteenth century. Intertextual dialogue with classical Greece and Rome was important to the cultural and political stakeholders of imperial Russia, who during this period witnessed and commented on the military confrontation with Napoleon and were involved in the debates on Russias national identity, literary language and sociopolitical trajectories. The project is primarily text-centred and aims to produce a detailed and dynamic thick description of the writerly and readerly uses of antiquity in Russia from the ascension of Alexander I in 1801 to 1837, when commemorative coverage of the struggle against Napoleon escalated for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Patriotic War of 1812.
Alexei Zadorojnyi studied Classics at Moscow Lomonosov University. Having graduated in 1996, he proceeded to doctoral research at the University of Exeter, United Kingdom. His PhD (1999) was about Plutarch's use of poetic material. Since 1999 Alexei has been teaching Classics at the University of Liverpool. He was fellow of Centre for Hellenic Studies, Washington DC in 2007/2008.