The Institute’s researchers

Dr. Ruth Illman, docent of the study of religions
Dr. Ruth Illman, docent of the study of religionsDirector

My main research interests concern questions pertaining to cultural encounters and interreligious dialogue, ethnographic research methodology with cultural studies as well as contemporary Judaism. I am especially interested in the relationship between the arts (particularly music) and religion. Currently, I work predominantly with contemporary religion, combining ethnographic research methods with content analysis and approaches deriving from the philosophy of religion.

Ruth’s CV

Research desks

Dr. Tore Ahlbäck, docent of comparative religon
Dr. Tore Ahlbäck, docent of comparative religonFormer director

Previously my research interests have primarily been “new” religious movements, above all the Theosophical Society and movements that have been inspired by it. Among these the Anthroposophical Society has been the most important one. My research interests today are the same; however, with a stronger focus on the  historical contexts of these movements and on the present extent of the research into these contexts.

Rev. Miika Ahola, Th.M.
Rev. Miika Ahola, Th.M.Doctoral candidate in theology, University of Helsinki

My main interests are ecumenics and ecclesiology. My study focuses on the dialogue document The Church: Towards a Common Vision by the Faith and Order Commission in The World Council of Churches. The Church document gathers the ecclesiological discussion in the ecumenical movement from the last hundred years. Its aim is to address the nature of the Church and provide a convergence text that expresses the achieved consensus and inspires further dialogue. The document is founded on ecclesiology of communion (koinonia in Greek), a conviction that the Church is created in ontological participation with the Triune God through Jesus Christ. In my dissertation, I am analysing the elements of this communion in the document.

Robin Isomaa, MA
Robin Isomaa, MADoctoral candidate in comparative religion, Åbo Akademi University

I am a PhD student in the study of religions at Åbo Akademi University. My doctoral research concerns atheism on YouTube. I follow over sixty atheistic content creators, who produce videos about everything from religion and science to politics and popular culture. The focus of my research is the constructions of and negotiations around atheist identities and communities. How should an atheist be? Who is welcome inside atheist communities? How are conflicts between atheists handled? How does YouTube function as a platform for atheist content? Furthermore, I address theoretical and methodological issues around research on YouTube. Outside the work with my dissertation, I am interested in religion in media and online, and I have a weakness for religion in film and other forms of popular culture.

Johnny Långstedt, MA
Johnny Långstedt, MADoctoral candidate in comparative religion, Åbo Akademi University

My main study interest is in businesses from a humanistic perspective. Currently this means that I study corporate discourses and human values within companies in relation to various contextual factors. I have four main threads of research: the psychologisation of cross-cultural research; managing projects in complex environments; institutional boundaries in collaborative arrangements; and human values in the local food, health-science, and production industries. My investigation of the psychologisation of cross-cultural studies shows that culture has a determinist character in management studies and practice. This questions our free will and has tangible impacts on problem-solving and decision-making. I argue that basic human values form a more relevant perspective on international, and domestic, collaboration and that a richer understanding of stakeholders is achieved by studying the relationship between context and human values.

Ville Mantere, Th.M.
Ville Mantere, Th.M. Doctoral candidate in archaeology, University of Turku

In my doctoral thesis, I study the significance of the Eurasian elk (Alces alces) in northern Europe during the Stone Age and the Early Bronze Age (approximately the period c. 11,500–1100 BC). The research material consists primarily of elk representations in art (rock art and portable art), as well as of other prehistoric remains related to the elk (e.g. pitfall traps and bone remains) within the study region. The tangible material is analysed in the light of ethnohistorical sources with reference to the elk’s role amongst circumpolar peoples. I am especially interested in the religious and ideological connotations of the elk in the past. Specific research questions in my research are, for instance, the sacral nature of prehistoric elk hunting; the relationship between the elk and the bear; the extraordinary percentage of elks depicted without antlers in the art, and the function of the elk-headed staffs and boats.

Do you want to become a visiting research fellow?

International researchers within the field of religious and cultural studies, who are interested in visiting the institute for a shorter or longer time e.g. as part of a sabbatical, are welcome to approach the institute with a freely formulated application. The Donner institute can offer visiting research fellows a tranquil and inspiring research environment. Furthermore, the extensive library collections are at the disposal of the visiting research fellows during their times as visitors at the institute. The institute can unfortunately not provide visitors with housing during their stay and no grants for covering travel and living expenses are available.