The Institute’s researchers

Dr. Ruth Illman, docent of comparative religion
Dr. Ruth Illman, docent of comparative religion Director
ruth.illman@abo.fi

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
Malin Fredriksson, MA
Malin Fredriksson, MADoctoral candidate in comparative religion, Åbo Akademi University
malin.fredriksson@abo.fi

The theme of my research is racist hate crimes in Finland. The focus of my research is on how racist hate crimes are managed, interpreted and negotiated in the criminal justice system in Finland, within the police authority, the prosecuting authority and the judiciary. The juridical framework provides a limited space for how hate crimes are interpreted, but simultaneously variations occur owing to various factors. My research questions concern how the law enforcement agencies identify hate motives, what kinds of ethical values, views of human nature, and understandings of culture, religion and ethnicity occur within the criminal justice system, and how these understandings may have consequences for how the criminal cases proceed. The aim of this project is to provide new insights into how to understand the boundaries of hate crime, how racism and xenophobia can be identified in criminal cases, and to what extent the authorities are capable of identifying racism and discrimination. The research project is conducted in connection with the Åbo Akademi Doctoral Training Network for Minority Research and in cooperation with the Police University College in Tampere.

Malin’s CV

Research desks

Dr. Tore Ahlbäck, docent of comparative religon
Dr. Tore Ahlbäck, docent of comparative religonFormer director
tore.ahlback@abo.fi

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
miika.ahola@helsinki.fi

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.

Johnny Långstedt, MA
Johnny Långstedt, MADoctoral candidate in comparative religion, Åbo Akademi University
johnny.langstedt@abo.fi

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
ville.mantere@abo.fi

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.

Dr. Kaj Sandberg
Dr. Kaj SandbergResearcher, Åbo Akademi
kaj.sandberg@abo.fi

Much of my research has been devoted to legislation, the popular assemblies and the consulship in republican Rome. The project Evolution and Revolution, which I initiated as director of the Finnish Institute in Rome (2006–2009), is concerned with the development of the political institutions before the reforms of Sulla. I have also studied the augural topography of Rome, the so-called division of the Roman Empire in 395 CE and the influence of financial interests on Roman foreign policies in the Late Republic. My main project since 2014, Living with a Living Past in Late Republican and Early Imperial Rome, focuses on Roman historiography and its relationship to documents, monuments and social memory. I have, together with a British colleague, organised two international conferences in Rome on this theme (2009, 2013) and recently published the volume K. Sandberg, C. Smith (eds.), Omnium Annalium Monumenta: Historical Writing and Historical Evidence in Republican Rome (Brill: 2017).

Laura Wickström, MA, M.Soc.Sc.
Laura Wickström, MA, M.Soc.Sc.Doctoral candidate in comparative religion, Åbo Akademi University
laura.wickstrom@abo.fi

My research focuses on the connection between Islam and ecology. The purpose is to present Islamic perspectives on ecology. What currents of environmental thinking can be found within Islam today and what within Islam can support environmental friendly thinking? Questions which are the central actors and how they engage in environmentalism are discussed as well. Furthermore, I take an interest in how Islamic eco-theology has developed and how the social structure influences environmentally friendly practices. The essential theoretical framework falls within sociology of religion with a focus on how the law has developed, urbanisation and global change. The four main themes in the research are transnationalism, social movements, ecology and religion, and the religious and the secular, and the material consists primarily of literature studies and of fieldwork conducted mainly in Turkey and Lebanon. In Turkey I interviewed representatives of civil society, of the ruling political party and religious leaders. I worked as the research-coordinator at the Finnish Institute in the Middle East (FIME) in Beirut, Lebanon, for a year. FIME is a research institute operating across the Middle East cooperating with both Finnish and local universities, which gave me the opportunity to deepen my insights and to network in the region.

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.