"I was never questioned before coming to the University of Helsinki"

What are the ingredients of quality research? Hector Sanchez thought he knew. In his previous studies, the academic training was rigorous but it lacked Indigenous perspectives. Sanchez's research process was shaken up when he entered the University of Helsinki. With the help of Indigenous scholars, he began to scrutinise himself and his role in research.

When Hector Sanchez started in the Master’s Programme in Intercultural Encounters, he already had a clear idea for his thesis. In prior studies, he researched the relationship between music, ethnicity and culture. Sanchez wanted to expand this inquiry in an Indigenous context.

He was immediately drawn to one of the programme’s four thematic modules, Knowledge, Decolonisation and Change.

“I got interested because Indigenous scholars were influencing it"

“Unfortunately in Mexico, one of the inequalities that Indigenous peoples face is access to education. In Finland, Sámi scholars are actively engaged in education and in what is written and said about them. The module Knowledge, Decolonisation and Change is a good example of that engagement. I got interested because Indigenous scholars were influencing it. ”

Over the course of his graduate studies, Sanchez has been able to learn from Indigenous scholars and develop his research with their input. His thesis examines language revitalisation through hip hop and is centered on cultural institutions that Sámi people manage themselves.

“I focus on the case of a single singer from the Inari Sámi language group. In the study, I look at how they portray themselves in their work- sometimes as Indigenous and sometimes not. I also ask, who are the consumers of the music?"

Sanchez places his findings within the history of hip hop, born from Black culture and adopted by marginalised sectors around the world. He thinks that Sámi musicians shed light on Indigenous hip hop and the wider spectrum of the music genre. Sanchez plans to map these contributions in his Master's thesis.

"The teaching transformed my research practices"

In the development of his research plan, Sanchez interrogated issues that he had never considered in other educational institutions. When completing his previous degrees, Sanchez was trained from an anthropological perspective. He had not inspected the history of anthropology nor considered its negative impacts on Indigenous communities.

"I was never questioned before coming to the University of Helsinki.”

When attending a course on collaborative research and ethics, Sanchez’s outlook changed.

“I learned that, in Indigenous contexts around the world, research needs to be negotiated beforehand. It made me question myself and my role as a researcher. The teaching transformed my research practices."

During the course, Sanchez developed a critical and decolonial approach to academic study. He now considers it absolutely necessary to consult with insiders in marginalised contexts, adhering to their standards for substantial and ethical research.

"The programme gives you a wide panorama of knowledge"

While Sanchez’s thesis has a strong focus, his education has been enriched by diverse ways of thinking. He credits this to the interdisciplinary emphasis in the Master’s Programme of Intercultural Encounters.

“I like that you get to take courses from different disciplines and perspectives. The programme gives you a wide panorama of knowledge.”

Sanchez has completed a second thematic module about transnationalism and globalisation and has had plenty of time for courses outside his degree programme. Currently, he is enjoying a class on Nordic cultures and societies from another Master’s programme.

“We have been able to see the Nordic society and the Nordic region in different terms: from the religious perspective, from the decolonial perspective, from the gender perspective. Even though it is not part of my compulsory courses, it is a great addition to my degree.”

Amidst the demands of graduate studies, Sanchez makes the most of his academic freedom. In less than two years, he has taken ongoing Finnish classes and traveled to a short course in India. Despite challenges that international job-seekers face, Sanchez also completed a traineeship. He trained as an editorial assistant with the journal, Asian Ethnicity.

Sanchez says the University of Helsinki strikes a unique balance between the theoretical and the practical. Students are challenged to apply what they have learned in class to their daily lives.

“I have not only obtained knowledge, but experience”

Upon completion of his degree, Sanchez plans to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Helsinki. He feels that the Master's Programme in Intercultural Encounters has prepared him to do so.

“The programme's training has surpassed my expectations. I have not only obtained knowledge, but experience."

In an academic career, Sanchez wants to further develop the relationships he has built with Indigenous musicians and scholars. He is confident moving forward.

"This university has given me the tools to find my way after graduation.”
 

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