The fields of research in contemporary societies at the University of Helsinki include Social and Cultural Anthropology, Social Psychology, Sociology, Social and Public Policy and Development Studies
Social and Cultural Anthropology involves the study of human relations and differences, with a particular focus on comparison: understanding peoples around the world by understanding how they are similar to, or different from, others. Every aspect of human life, thought and activity is studied by anthropologists, ranging from the most obscure and small scale to the most newsworthy and topical: if it involves people and their interactions with each other and the world, anthropologists study it.
Anthropology is particularly known for the meticulous, slow and in-depth research methodology it developed: ethnographic research. This involves long-term periods of participant observation and rigorous attention to detail. Ethnographic methodologies generate quite different kinds of social and cultural data and knowledge than more quantitative research methods.
Currently, anthropologists at Helsinki are studying a variety of topics in the following regions: Indonesia, Turkey, Morocco, Lebanon, Greece, Madagascar, Cuba, the UK, Ghana, South Africa, Egypt, the USA, Chile, Cameroon, Mongolia, the Russian Federation, Finland, India, China, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea.
Social psychology investigates human relations, inter- and intra-group relations, and the impact individuals have on their environment and vice versa. The discipline of social psychology at the University of Helsinki carries out research that has a strong international profile.
The research concentrates on relations between ethnic minorities and the majority population as well as multicultural societies, the shared everyday theories of groups and the processes leading to the formation of such theories, the psychological issues associated with entrepreneurship, social relations and interaction, occupational wellbeing and justice, and the social-psychological reasons for health inequalities as well as health interventions.
Sociology is a fundamental social science discipline that studies social structures and their changes as well as social activities, values and attitudes. The focus points range from globalisation and entire societies to intimate social relationships. The topics considered in sociology depend on the societies studied: current research topics include migration, urban life, the use of media and technologies, financial inequality and the emergence of financial crises. Other important topics include social movements and participation; inequality in health care and other sectors; dependencies; childhood and adolescence; institutions, organisations and communities such as families, cities and the welfare state; as well as social interaction, speech patterns and social networks.
Social policy is an applied social science that explores the structure and functioning of welfare states from the perspective of social risks, such as unemployment, illness, disability, the birth of children or old age. Social policy delves into issues of welfare distribution and social inequality. Research in social policy focuses, among other things, on poverty, sustainable welfare, unemployment and obstacles to employment, health inequalities, and ageing.
The discipline of development studies examines development, poverty, inequality as well as social, political, environmental and cultural changes and continuities in the Global South from a multidisciplinary perspective. At the University of Helsinki, research in development studies concentrates on global political economics, globalisation and development, institutions and development policy, environmental management, natural resources policy, urban issues, justice and cultural diversity, religion and development, and alternative forms of development in the Global South.
Development studies has expanded at the University of Helsinki from being strictly centred on the developing countries to include diverse South-North relations in our globalising world.