Scholarship holders 2022

MT Tero Heinonen, Study of Religions, Åbo Akademi University (12 months)

Alternative spirituality emphasizes individualism and the inner self to construct individual visions of sacred reality through individual methods and rituals where symbols and practices from different cultural traditions are borrowed and combined to reflect individual life situations. Yet its musical practice has in recent years gained a place among a variety of collective holistic spiritual approaches in Finland. My research investigates the reasons for this development, what kirtan communicates about the beliefs of spiritual and religious practitioners today, and how it informs meaning-making. One hundred practitioners were interviewed. Results indicate that alternative spiritual music-making enables therapeutic processing of emotions in collectively created musical and ritual spaces. Based on the data, kirtan can be understood as expression of affect in both inner and external interaction ritual chains, and a form of collective prayer for facing what is perceived as both transcendent and immanent sacred. Participants come into contact with the symbolic universe that offers perceptual patterns for constructing and interpreting spiritual experiences and sustaining faith by concretizing the experience of dialogical role relations with the divine partner. The research project combines theoretical perspectives from sociology and psychology of religion to provide new knowledge on spirituality and new religions in Finland.

MT Natalie Lantz, Exegetics, Uppsala University (6 months)

In her doctoral project, Natalie Lantz explores immersive and interactive aspects in architectonical descriptions of the Jerusalem templein Hebrew literature of antiquity. Her thesis is that antique Jewish temple descriptions are verbal and imaginative constructions that take shape (or are “built”) in the minds of the immediate audiences through the act of engaging with the narratives within the fabric of lived religion. She argues that architectural descriptions simulated a templespace that could be experienced virtually, alike modern day computer simulations that temporarily disrupt the conditions of the physical reality. Lantz develops and implements a theory that combines critical spatial perspectives with the interpretative lens of virtual reality in order to reconstruct immersive and interactive features of the temple descriptions in their respective socio-historical contexts. Her study aims to contribute with a new theoretical view on how the symbolic system of the temple can be enacted on a synchronic as well as a diachronic level as the cosmic interpretations of the temple form the basis for the development of both Jewish and Christian mysticism and recent eschatological movements. In addition to her doctoral studies, Natalie Lantz also works as a translator of contemporary Hebrew fiction and a columnist and lecturer on Jewish culture and Hebrew literature throughout the millennia.

MA Arwen Meereboer, PHD candidate, Philosophy, Åbo Akademi (12 months)

Arwen Meereboer is a doctoral candidate at Åbo Akademi in philosophy. Her work focuses on exploration of a new materialist and post-human ethics through children’s literature. Her work, through engaging deeply with children’s literature and taking it seriously, hopes to engage the ways literature, and children’s literature in particular, is capable of getting access to the more emotional and irrational ways we as humans are in relationship to the world around us. In her thesis Meereboer will be focusing on the Moomin book series by Tove Jansson, and the Pettson and Findus series by Sven Nordqvist. This focus was chosen because both Jansson and Nordqvist show a deep love and attention to detail for their specific surroundings. Their works are very localised, and bound to their environments, Jansson’s to the Finnish archipelago and Nordqvist to the southern Swedish countryside. Due to this love and attention both Jansson and Nordqvist show forth the more-than-human-world in their work and their work becomes a valuable philosophical resource for the exploration of a post-human ethics. This deep attention means it is also a valuable resource for the formulation of a post-human ethics.

MA Pekka Pitkälä, Cultural History, University of Turku (12 months)

My research concerns the esoteric ideas of the Finnish artist and writer Sigurd Wettenhovi­-Aspa (Georg Sigurd Asp / Wetterhoff-Asp, 1870–1946). Wettenhovi-Aspa studied painting and sculpture in Paris in the 1890s, where Swedenborg’s ideas, theosophical ideas of the unity of divinities and mythological texts and the interests in Oriental and ancient Egyptian and Assyrian culture converged. On the other hand the culture of the Nordic countries was seen as pure and uncorrupted, and inspirational by both local artists and, for example, Swedish and Finnish artists as well. Wettenhovi-Aspa was also influenced by such contemporary writers as August Strindberg and Joséphin Péladan. From the 1910s onwards Wettenhovi-Aspa combined these elements in his literary works concerning languages and history, which were also very close to Theosophy in some aspects. Wettenhovi-Aspa wasn’t a committed theosophist himself, but he emphasized the nature of the Finnish language and the Kalevala as the source of a secret wisdom, which had been preserved in the Finnish forests. Wettenhovi-Aspa claimed that most languages had their origins in Finnish. In my research I will examine the ideas of Wettenhovi-Aspa within their contemporary and historical context. I will explore the cultural and intellectual history from the 1890s to the 1940s by analysing the esoteric, artistic, and intellectual currents in his artistic and literary works.

LLM Mudar Shakra, Psychology of Religion, Uppsala University (6 months)

Mudar Shakra’s doctoral project topic brings together the discipline of psychology of religion focused on the area of public mental health promotion and acculturation and the discipline of international family law focused on parental responsibilities and practices towards the child’s best interests. This public mental health promotion related research is to examine the bidirectional relationship and interplay between the parenting and mental health status of newly arrived Syrian migrants after arrival in Sweden in 2011. This aim also includes examining if religiosity, culture and law interact and/or influence this relationship to add protective factors in the risk context to the studied group’s mental health status and parenting quality in Sweden. Accordingly, the impacts of war exposures, forced displacement, migration distress and daily stressor in the pre and post-resettlement settings on the studied community’s mental health and parenting quality are also explored here.

Scholarships for research expenses

Alexandra Lebedeva, Uppsala University, for language editing of manuscript for doctoral thesis in ethics.

Mia Lövheim, Uppsala University, for collection of research material.

Tomas Stenbäck, Åbo Akademi University, for travel expenses.