The Donner Institute for Research in Religion and Culture aims to be a meeting place for researchers in religious and cultural studies. The Institute’s Director, Dr Ruth Illman, sees the institute as the spider in the web that can gather threads from different directions to form an extensive network.

– We are a private research institute, which enables us to collaborate widely with both Åbo Akademi University and the University of Turku, but also throughout the Nordic countries and the rest of the world.

The institute also disseminates these discussions to a wider public.

The Donner Institute aims to be a dynamic hub

– We want to be a dynamic hub that organises seminars, symposia and conferences where different actors can meet. We also want to offer prospects for the future in order to be innovative and think creatively, Ruth Illman says.

Since the time of the donors, Uno and Olly Donner, in the 1950s, the Institute stands on two legs: research and library activities. The library, which with its 90,000 volumes is the largest specialist library on religion in the Nordic countries, is open to the public.

Religion in the broad sense

– At the Donner Institute we engage in research on religion in a broad sense and cross boundaries. Our conferences deal with themes that can be approached historically but are also relevant to the present. We focus on phenomena that relate to more than just one particular religion.

It may, for example, be religion and the body, religion and food, or digitalisation and religion.

Scholarly publications are important

The Institute issues three scholarly publications. Both the publication series Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis and the journal Approaching Religion are published electronically. Ruth Illman is also the editor of the journal Nordisk judaistik / Scandinavian Jewish Studies.

The Donner Institute, which is part of Åbo Akademi University Foundation, is located in the Humanisticum building, in the heart of ÅAU’s campus in Turku.

Ruth Illman describes everyday life at the research institute as a fantastic mix.

– I get to do research and immerse myself in my investigations, but the work is also social and connective as we gather people for interesting discussions and publications. I am fortunate to have the privilege to work here.