The present article about queer in the Finnish academia was suggestively titled “Leaving a Glorious Future Behind?” Even though we have depicted a situation where a queer theoretical approach seems to be a problem both for the universities and the funding authorities, we would like to answer the question with a vigorous “Not quite yet”. Since the beginning of the millennium, queer scholars in Finland have united their efforts in creating several new self-organised bodies in order to establish some security nets in the shifting teaching and research landscape.
In 2002, a national e-mail list for queer scholars, Uniqueer, was established next to the pioneering Finnish Sapfo-list. Uniqueer-list is currently hosted by Jenny Kangasvuo, and it functions as a lifeline among those scholars and students alike who are interested in queer topics.
In the spring of 2004, the Society of Queer Studies in Finland (SQS) was founded, with Antu Sorainen as its first chairperson. As a scientific society SQS has been active ever since in organising e.g. Queer Dialogue discussions, the annual Yöpervonen [Night Perv] events and various national and international seminars and conferences together with a range of partners, such as the Association of Women’s Studies in Finland, The Finnish Society for Critical Studies on Men, Network of Cultural Studies or various university departments. For example, the international Queer Eurovision seminar in 2007 was jointly organised by SQS and the Christina Institute at the University of Helsinki.
On the initiative of Paula Kuosmanen, the society has also maintained an online referee journal called SQS since 2006. SQS, Sanna Karkulehto and Jenny Kangasvuo as its chief editors, comes out as an open-access journal twice a year and is listed by European Reference Index for Humanities as an important European scientific journal in its field. Trilingual SQS offers an important venue for Finnish and international scholars alike to get their scholarly work published. Now in its third year, SQS has remained the only referee journal in queer studies published in the Nordic countries.
The existence of SQS, both as a society and a journal, has, however, been complicated because of permanent lack of funding. The moderate membership fees are not quite enough to keep up with the ambitious programme the queer society would like to follow. As a scientific society SQS has been well received by its peers, yet for more conservative bodies, like the Academy of Finland, SQS still remains suspect. Thus far, SQS is not considered old and established enough to receive funding for its scientific publication from The Federation of Finnish Learned Societies, and other funding bodies find it similarly difficult to support an open-access online journal with no subscription fees or print costs traditionally used as basis figures for allocating funding. As board members of SQS we hope that it will soon be possible to stabilise the financial situation of the Society in one way or another, so that the continuity of SQS can be secured.
Despite the uncurbed turmoil to hit the university landscape by the year 2010, it remains crucial not to lose the queer powers of one’s inventiveness and wits; as we have already come this far, giving up is no longer an option. Instead of calling out that starting a career in queer studies has to be a professional suicide in Finland, we would like to remind our readers that the stamina and skill required to produce scholarly work in this field is likely to generate quality that exceeds the average. This is the message we need to place against the rampant homophobia and queer bashing – and also get it across to those who are making the crucial decisions about the livelihood of individual scholars or, as the case may be, the death of whole disciplines.
As we have sought to show throughout the text, the role of women’s studies has been crucial for establishing and supporting teaching and academic supervision in queer studies. For queer studies to survive it is therefore vital also to strengthen the position of women’s studies in the universities through collaborative efforts. Organising not only teaching, but also public discussions and joint actions can be interpreted as collaborative production of critical knowledge – something that universities and society at large are in need of now more than ever. And we should not forget that educating students to think critically and politically is what queer academics do best.