Scholarship holders 2024

MA Marika Kivinen, General History, Åbo Akademi University (6 months)

Marika Kivinen is a historian, gender studies scholar and mezzo-soprano and is currently working on her PhD in General History at Åbo Akademi University entitled “Tracing exoticism and colonialism in Finnish Art Songs 1914–1939.” Through three case-studies she is studying how exoticism and colonialism were expressed in Finnish concert music in the early decades of the 20th century. The work considers ideas, affects and social practices. Exoticism and colonialism in music can be linked to esoterism and German orientalism, French exoticism, and to racializing discourse related to music and musicians. The dissertation includes three concerts that highlight these phenomena in music and poetry. The research shows how racializing takes place in and through music and considers how artistic work can challenge societal norms. Marika’s previous academic work includes analyses of whiteness and racialisation in Finnish travel literature and feminist magazines. She is principal investigator of the project Untold Stories (Kone Foundation 2021–2024). She collaborates with MA Maren Jonasson in the project which combines music and creative writing with archival research and historical scholarship to tell forgotten stories of the relationship between Finland and colonialism. She is a member of the research association Suoni, which advances activist music research. She also works as a singing teacher at the Turku University of Applied Sciences.

MT Hasib Nasiri, Systematic Theology, Uppsala University (6 months)

Hasib Nasiri is a doctoral student in Systematic Theology at the Department of Theology, Uppsala University. His research revolves around the critique of religion with special attention given to the critique of religion within Islamic thought. The aim of the thesis is to conduct a metatheoretical examination of the critique of religion as a universal tendency within European and Islamic philosophical-theological thought, with the purpose of considering whether, and if so how, Muslims have conceptualized the critique of religion. Put differently, the thesis examines how Muslims have critiqued different varieties of religiosity, i.e. Islamic religious conduct, and why such kinds of critique deserve to be classed as a form of critique of religion. The thesis specifically focuses on how the category of ”religion” as a global phenomenon came into existence as a result of European encounters with foreign cultures (the discovery of ‘The New World’), encounters which had a crucial impact on the development of the critique of religion from the 1700s onwards. This focus on the historicity of the critique of religion (including atheism) paves the road for reconceptualizing the Islamic critique of religion anew. The thesis furthermore presents a new methodology, termed ‘fasadology’, which is meant to facilitate our conceptualization of the Islamic critique of religion. Nasiri’s thesis examines the critique of religion in a cross-disciplinary manner, which can help us to comprehend the nature of critique in larger and more inclusive contexts. With his research, Nasiri hopes to contribute to a greater awareness of the relevance, place, and actuality of critique within the historical as well as contemporary life of the Islamic community.

MA Tomas Stenbäck, Study of Religions, Åbo Akademi University (12 months)

Studies focusing on place, the meaning of place, and cultural and religious notions related to position, locality, and territory capture my attention. My main research interest is the relationship between politics and religion, and especially the functioning of religion within various forms of nationalism and populism. Currently I concentrate on the relationship between cultural nationalism, right-wing populism, and religion as culture, cultural heritage, and cultural identity in contemporary Europe. My ongoing PhD project investigates the discourses of political actors in the EU assembly, the European Parliament. Within this context, written submissions by nationally inclined actors, are studied. My focus is on how the argumentation relates to presentations of nation, people, inherent culture, and domestic religion in the political propositions. The study aims to identify the main elements of the nationalist discourse and to examine the development of the discourse.

MA Karin Ström Lehander, Art History, Åbo Akademi University (12 months)

I am writing my PhD-thesis on the Swedish Artist Tyra Kleen (1874–1951). She was a seeker and a constant traveller and fluent in several European languages. She came from a noble family from the Swedish upper class. Kleen was educated at art schools in Germany and Paris and lived for many years in Rome before she moved to Stockholm. She made several long trips, on her own, to countries in the Orient. In between 1919–1921 Kleen lived in Java and Bali in Indonesia, where she made depictions of temple dancers and of the holy hand gestures of Balinese priests, so called mudras. Apart from the dance depictions, she is also known for her lithographs of theosophic and symbolist motifs. In my research I study the collection of letters, diaries and books by Kleen, together with her artwork, to find out more of her artistry, her network of artist colleagues and the strategical choices she made in her life. I am doing my PhD-studies at Åbo Akademi University. I hold a Master of Arts degree from Uppsala University, and a Legal Lawyer Major from Stockholm University. I live in Stockholm, and work as a university teacher in Art History at Linköping University, but I am now off duty to do my PhD-studies.

MA Tora Wall, Nordic Folkloristics, Åbo Akademi University (12 months)

In her PhD project Tora Wall studies how ideas about the forest and supernatural beings of Swedish folk believes are expressed, and interwoven with each other, in the experience-based tourist attraction The Enchanted Forest (Trolska skogen) in Hälsingland, Sweden. The aim of the research is to examine how the forest and the supernatural beings are portrayed in The Enchanted Forest and how folklore is used to give form and content to the place. The project also aims to study how a contemporary existential search for spirituality and enchantment is mirrored in The Enchanted Forest. The project is conducted using folkloristic methods, which means an ethnographic approach with field work. In these participant observation and interviews are central. The dissertation’s material is complex and contains different dimensions, which cannot be analyzed with the help of a single theoretical input. The theoretical framework is therefore based on an eclectic approach where inspiration is drawn from several subject areas, above all from folkloristics/ethnology, the study of religion and literary studies. This project is part of several current discussions in folkloristics, the study of religion and related subjects: the forest as an existential place, notions of a utopian past, tourism as an arena for the use of folklore and how contemporary beliefs about an animated nature are formed in the interaction between popular culture, folklore and religion.

Scholarships for research expenses

John Björkman, Åbo Akademi University, for equipment for field research related to doctoral studies

Ada Elgabsi, Åbo Akademi University, for field research related to doctoral studies.

Anna Holmqvist, Uppsala University, for field research in Great Britain related to doctoral studies.