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Research Council for Culture and Society selected new Academy Research Fellows and Postdoctoral Researchers

(6th May 2011)

At its meeting on 6 May 2011, the Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Culture and Society selected 16 new Academy Research Fellows and 45 Postdoctoral Researchers. The appointees will start their term in September 2011. The Research Council allocated a total of some EUR 6.3 million for the salaries of the new Academy Research Fellows and EUR 12.3 million for the salaries of the new Postdoctoral Researchers.

The Research Council for Culture and Society received a total of 110 applications for research posts as Academy Research Fellow and 189 applications for research posts as Postdoctoral Researcher. Those who were granted research posts as Academy Research Fellow have completed their doctorate no more than 3–9 years ago. Postdoctoral Researchers are researchers who have just recently gained their doctorate. The Academy Research Fellow term is five years and the Postdoctoral Researcher term three years.

The funding for Academy Research Fellows covers the researcher’s salary and the appointees can also apply for funding for research costs from the Academy. The funding for Postdoctoral Researchers covers both salary costs and necessary research costs to carry out the set research plan.

The aim of Academy Research Fellow funding is to provide an opportunity for the most talented and advanced researchers to develop their skills in academic leadership and establish themselves as independent researchers. Postdoctoral Researcher funding is designed to advance the professional competence and independence of promising researchers.

The new Academy Research Fellows are researching e.g. the following topics:

Rani-Henrik Andersson (University of Helsinki) is researching the ghost dance phenomenon that spread among American Lakota Indians in the late 1880s. The research is based on material and documents written by Lakotas themselves. The different and conflicting views of the different groups and voices within the Lakota people will provide different perspectives for the research. Finally, a Great Story will be achieved by combining these different voices, not only illuminating tribal history but also contributing to American Indian studies and Indigenous studies in the broadest sense.

Jan Kuhanen (University of Eastern Finland) approaches HIV and AIDS in Africa, studying them as a socio-historical phenomenon in a postcolonial context. Unlike most studies on AIDS in Africa, the project questions the significance of expensive and donor-funded AIDS prevention and treatment programmes. The project argues that this state of affairs is a result of incomplete historicisation of AIDS epidemics, which has disregarded the local voices and views from planning and implementation of many major AIDS projects. The project studies the historicising of AIDS in Africa and the ways in which histories and narratives of AIDS are and have been used by different agents and groups to claim political, religious and intellectual power.

Lauri Nummenmaa (University of Turku) is researching which functional, chemical and structural changes in the brain result in elevated craving for foods and cause overeating and obesity. The brains of healthy lean individuals and morbidly obese patients are studied with positron emission tomography and functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging. This will reveal how specific neurotransmitters influence overeating and how the brains of the obese individuals encode the hedonic value of food, which may trigger overeating. The obese individuals involved in the study will subsequently undergo a bariatric weight loss surgery and their brains will be scanned after six months. This will reveal how obesity and dieting influence brain structure and function, which in turn will help in understanding the neural pathophysiology of overeating and developing more effective psychological and pharmacological treatments for obesity.

Kaius Tuori (University of Helsinki) studies the emergence of the legal authority of the Roman Emperor during the Principate from the first century BC to the third century AD as the defining instrument of Roman law. His aim is to analyse the creation of the imperial roles of judge, legislator and administrator as a comprehensive reformation of the Roman legal system. Instead of a purely constitutional process, he will suggest that the legal actions of the emperors involved the manipulation of established Roman traditions, such as patronage and gift exchange, not simply the use of unfettered power. The research is based on different imperial sources but also on the development of the ideas in historiography, fiction and imperial propaganda that sought to present what the emperor could or should do with regards to law.

The new Postdoctoral Researchers are researching e.g. the following topics:

Noora Ellonen (University of Tampere) studies under-school-aged children’s experiences of violence. The research will involve parents of the selected children reporting on their own violent behaviour towards their children in an anonymous survey. The data received will be compared with Swedish data. The project will also study preliminary criminal investigations carried out by police on suspected cases of violence against children. She will interview police officers who have worked as investigators on suspected cases of violence against children and analyse their practices of investigators with scientific methods. The aim of the project is to produce knowledge to promote the expertise of police officers to investigate violence against children.

Inari Mattsson (University of Helsinki) focuses on representations of national history and identity, collective emotions and current support for the far right. The research investigates the rhetoric of the two current far-right parties in Finland and Sweden and aims to elucidate the contents of their ideologies, with a particular focus on how national identity and national concerns are expressed by the parties. The aim is also to find out whether the contents of these ideologies have similarities with the past patriotic ideologies during the Second World War and to study the linkage between history representations, collective emotions and current support for the far right.

Howard Sklar (University of Helsinki) will investigate the ways in which fictional and autobiographical narratives represent the intellectually disabled and how these narratives contribute to the impressions and feelings of the non-disabled towards this disabled population. He hypothesises that literary authors often rely on stereotypical tropes for representing intellectually disabled individuals and that these tropes are frequently incompatible with the experiences of actual intellectually disabled individuals, as represented in autobiographies or life histories. The hypotheses will first be examined using narrative theoretical approaches to the texts in question. The hypotheses will then be tested empirically on 200 adolescents aged 16–18 living in the Helsinki metropolitan area. These tests will examine the adolescents’ pre-existing attitudes towards the intellectually disabled, as well as their feelings before and after reading the narratives.

More information:

  • Decisions on Academy Research Fellows
  • Decisions on Postdoctoral Researchers
  • Academy Research Fellows: Science Adviser Päivi Messo-Linden, Academy of Finland, tel. +358 9 7748 8224, paivi.messo-linden(at)aka.fi
  • Postdoctoral Researchers: Science Adviser Helena Vänskä, Academy of Finland, tel. +358 9 7748 8227, helena.vanska(at)aka.fi

Academy of Finland Communications
Vesa Varpula
Communications Specialist
tel. +358 9 7748 8458
vesa.varpula(at)aka.fi

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