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Tuula Juvonen + Pia Livia Hekanaho

Leaving a Glorious Future Behind? - Queer in the Finnish Academia

The present article discusses the history, current situation and the future of queer studies in Finland. We begin by tracing its path of institutionalisation from the early lesbian and gay studies to queer studies, hereby establishing an archive of the intertwinedness of women’s and queer studies in Finland. The thrust of this text is our growing concern regarding the present hostile atmosphere towards these disciplines both in the fields of research and teaching, and the possible effects thereof on their joint future.

Back in the 1990s, those scholars whose work was informed by lesbian, gay and queer studies were still able to receive public funding for their PhD theses. However, in recent years the funding bodies in Finland have grown more cautious and traditional in their decisions and prefer to fund larger projects representing “the traditional core” of respective mother disciplines only. This change has proven to be most problematic for individual queer scholars in their post-doctoral phase.

At the moment, not only we, the writers of this piece, find ourselves perplexed while witnessing the openly antifeminist and homophobic tenets in the popular media in this country. As studying these disciplines is made to appear less profitable and attractive, the current hostility might even make it more difficult to offer courses related to women’s and queer studies. If this leads to declining numbers of students, it could again be used as an argument for reducing and suppressing various women’s studies centres. This has become a genuine threat, since the Finnish university landscape is currently in the rapid process of profound restructuring.
 

From Lesbian and Gay to Queer Studies

The establishment of institutional structures for Queer Studies began in Finland in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the initiation of Gay and Lesbian Studies. Since the publication of Rakkauden monet kasvot [The many faces of love], the first scholarly anthology on the lives of lesbians and gays in 1984, there had been various attempts to establish collaboration among Finnish lesbian and gay scholars. An informal sexuality studies working group existed in Finland between 1987 and 1989, and in 1988 the student union of the University of Turku organised an international conference titled Visions of humanity – Changing conceptions of gender, with a spin-off anthology What’s that got to do with my gender? coming out in 1989. The first published monograph in lesbian studies was Ritva Hapuli’s Naisia rakastavat naiset [Women loving women] in 1989 which was based on her MA thesis. However, only the continuous activities of the national Lesbian Studies Network (LSN), founded in 1990 by Tuula Juvonen, gained momentum and proved to be long-lived enough to create a sufficiently large group of students and scholars to maintain some enduring academic presence and structures.

LSN was able to produce a quarterly newsletter, thanks to the copy and mailing facilities financed by a local branch of the national lesbian and gay organisation Seta. It kept providing the members with information and support in a time when Internet was not yet readily available. Later on, similar financial favour was granted for Gay Studies Network (1991–1993, founded by Jukka Lehtonen) with which LSN cooperated smoothly. Furthermore, the collaboration with The Feminist Association Unioni made it possible for LSN to organise two weekend seminars for those “curious about lesbian studies”. Before long, LSN felt up to offering its own workshops at the annual national Women’s Studies conferences (sporadically from 1993 and onwards). Also contacts abroad were established, in those times most notably to the Netherlands. Since LSN never received any external funding, it relied on unpaid voluntary work – something which eventually led to its self-abolition in 1995.

However, before that LSN succeeded to create some more stir. Local activists, led by Kati Mustola and Paula Kuosmanen, in affiliation with the newly founded Christina Institute of Women’s Studies, organised the first lecture series on lesbian studies at the University of Helsinki in 1991. It was followed by a second one in 1993 and a third one on gay studies in 1994. In 1995, the series was followed by a course on queer representation in film and media. The lecture series was succeeded by a groundbreaking anthology on Lesbian Studies Uusin silmin [Lesbian glances at arts and culture] (1996), which introduced the post-structuralist theoretical turn to Finnish-speaking readers, and Homo fennicus (1998), the first Finnish collection of texts about gay studies. The student activists also established a queer studies group which held its meetings from 1992 to 1997 at the University of Helsinki.

While students were writing their MA theses on lesbian and gay studies at several universities, the first licentiate thesis in lesbian studies by Marja Kaskisaari, Lesbokirja [A Lesbian Book, 1995], was defended at the University of Jyväskylä. Lesbian students in the arts and social sciences in Finland were active in the 1990s, but the first Finn to defend a PhD thesis on a homosexual topic was a charming man. In 1994, Jan Löfström defended his PhD thesis in sociology at the University of Essex, UK. His study concerns the construction of homosexuality in agrarian Finland at the turn of the 20th century, and was rewritten for publication for a Finnish audience as a monograph called Sukupuoliero agraarikulttuurissa [Sex and Gender Difference in Agrarian Culture, 1999]. Tuija Pulkkinen, a specialist in feminist political theory, also wrote her philosophical work abroad, at Berkeley, yet she defended her thesis The postmodern and political agency at the University of Helsinki in 1996.

In Finland, the efforts to establish lesbian and gay studies in academia coincided with a paradigmatic shift towards queer studies. What may have started in the 1980s as work based on identitarian positioning has in the meanwhile transformed in the texts of various scholars into a more nuanced understanding of the various discursive practices informing the creation of genders and sexualities. This transition has been a more organic than antagonistic one, possibly also because in those early days nobody had academic positions to defend, and post-graduate studies were taken up out of passion and intellectual curiosity rather than due to a conscious career decision.

Since lesbian and gay studies never were, and still are not academic disciplines in Finland in their own right, the subsequent theses were also submitted within several disciplines. While a historical perspective remained strong in Finnish queer studies, the first dissertations were followed by works mostly, yet not solely, in the social sciences.[1] With some delay, works within literary theory and studies in visual culture started to emerge as well. Works in cultural theory and cultural studies now form a significant part of the corpus.[2] Lately, discussion on queer as a methodological concept has entered as a recurrent topic in academic works by many Finnish queer scholars

The first generation of lesbian and gay scholars was forced to apply a more or less improvised DIY approach to its academic pursuits. Also for the second one, following closely at the first’s heels, there was little to no teaching or competent supervision available in Finland. Therefore many left to study abroad, created study groups and relied on peer supervision.

“In Finland, the efforts to

Organising Teaching and Studying on MA and PhD Levels

While the University of Helsinki has continued to offer teaching informed by lesbian, gay and queer studies from the early 1990s onwards, the supply has not always been so constant at other universities. Since the Finnish university system does not have a tenure track system, even in a fortunate case the contracts for lecturers and even for assistant professors are limited to three to five years. Much shorter contracts are also common due to substituting staff members who are on a leave of absence when having received research funding elsewhere. This makes it virtually impossible to establish a continuous queer perspective in teaching.

The respective women’s studies professors at the Universities of Helsinki, Jyväskylä and Turku have, however, considered queer studies important enough to include them in the core curriculum. This has not necessarily translated into steady teaching positions for queer scholars in those universities, but larger women’s studies centres have been the most likely ones to offer positive backing for lesbian and queer studies by offering facilities for researchers and opportunities for part-time teachers.[3]

Nevertheless, Maarit Piipponen, currently a senior lecturer at the Department of English Philology at the University of Tampere, has been successful in offering courses and supervising theses informed by queer studies since 2000. While working on short assignments as a researcher at the University of Tampere, Tuula Juvonen was not in a position to provide that much teaching, but from 2007 onwards she has had a position as a senior lecturer in women’s studies at the University of Jyväskylä, with emphasis on lesbian and queer studies. Piipponen and Juvonen are currently the only lecturers in Finland who have both standing contracts and who are, at the same time, in a position to offer queer courses and to supervise theses.

In addition, senior lecturer Leena-Maija Rossi has been successful in establishing herself as a lecturer and a researcher at the University of Helsinki from 2003 to date. Her presence, assisted by a shifting group of other scholars with shorter teaching assignments, has guaranteed a continuous offer of queer courses at the Christina Institute of Women’s Studies. Lasse Kekki has been likewise successful in holding a number of subsequent positions both as a lecturer and a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Turku from the early nineties to 2006. At the same time, he has organised not only several queer courses in the School of Art Studies, but also a string of national conferences in queer studies that have become vital venues for students and scholars alike to present and exchange ideas. In his efforts, Kekki and other Turku-based scholars were able to build upon the work already started by Anu Koivunen in film, television and media studies. Moreover, Matti Savolainen, who earlier worked at the University of Oulu, has now provided support for students working on queer theory in English philology at the University of Tampere for almost 5 years.

Luckily, several more teachers willing and able to help out students in their queer work currently hold at least short-term teaching positions in various universities and disciplines.[4] In addition to this, all universities feature shorter or singular teaching assignments which present at least a queer supplement for the courses otherwise offered, even if the salary in such cases is not enough to cover the cost of living for the teachers.

Despite the occasionally unsatisfactory situation in the course supply, a steady flow of students with MA theses informed by queer theory persists, wishing to carry on the work on similar lines towards their PhD theses. However, finding financing for such work can be difficult. Academy of Finland has provided scholarships for some, and in the early 1990s both Jan Löfström and Tuija Pulkkinen were able get grants for their respective PhD studies abroad. In 1995, an arrangement of national Graduate Schools for PhD candidates was established, with a continuous funding of three to four years for those few accepted. Some queer scholars have been able to benefit from this institution, among the first ones Tuula Juvonen, and currently Eva-Mikaela Kinnari at the University of Åbo. Yet most aspiring scholars have to rely on shorter funds from private foundations, if they are not fortunate enough to gain a position in a well-funded research group. Nevertheless, there are currently several exciting doctoral theses in progress at various universities in Finland. The range of topics varies from bisexuality to lesbian mothers and the disciplines from legal studies to Lutheran theology.[5]

 

Post-Doctoral Funding and Other Career Impasses

Since the departments at the universities get a significant part of their funding based on the amount of completed PhD theses they have been supervising, universities in turn have a certain interest in supporting PhD candidates in getting funded. The funding landscape turns remarkably rougher, however, when it comes to financing post-doctoral research from which universities benefit less.[6] Consequently, there are no well-functioning established channels for pursuing a post-doctoral academic career in Finland, but everyone is left to her or his own device and academic connections. In this competition, expertise in queer studies seems to be an asset only to a certain extent.

Harri Kalha og Annamari Vänskä: Pornoakatemia

 

Harri Kalha og Annamari Vänskä:

The Academy of Finland currently offers opportunities for two to three years’ post-doctoral funding. Such financing has previously benefited the careers of at least Tuula Juvonen, Lasse Kekki and Jan Wickman. However, after 2005 no queer researcher has received such funding. Academy of Finland also provides funding for larger research projects. Harri Kalha from the University of Helsinki, together with his research group (among them the queer scholars Livia Hekanaho, Jenny Kangasvuo, Antu Sorainen and Annamari Vänskä), was able to gather such funds for his project Porno Academy (2005–2007). The project published a collection of academic articles, organised an international conference and contributed actively to academic and civic discussion on desire, gender and pornography. Tuija Pulkkinen for her part was in 2005 successful in receiving Academy of Finland funding for her Centre of Excellence research group which offered some intellectual and financial backing for the work of Antu Sorainen (on decency) and Tuula Juvonen (on queer politics). Since the watershed year 2005, the funding and positions offered by the Academy of Finland have been unattainable for queer scholars. The only exception is Jan Wickman, who has been able to get a one-year grant for taking up a position as a visiting scholar abroad.

In addition to the Academy of Finland, there are a few major foundations which are funding mostly post-graduate students. On the rare occasions when post-doctoral research has been funded, queer scholars have not been the favoured beneficiaries. At the moment, only one scholar applying queer theory, musicologist Susanna Välimäki (University of Helsinki), has a two-year post-doc funding from a Finnish foundation. The funding system of major foundations is currently in a process of reformulation, and it is likely that in the future the stipends will be higher and the social benefits improved. The drawback, however, will be that at the same time there will be less beneficiaries.

Some universities, such as Helsinki and Tampere, have established Centres for Advanced Studies which offer positions for distinguished scholars over a period of one to three years. So far Harri Kalha has been the only scholar doing queer work to receive such a position. During his three-year appointment (2002–2005) he finished Tapaus Magnus Enckell [A Case: Magnus Enckell], a historiography of closeting readings of this Swedish-speaking Finnish painter’s work. In addition to this, he published another monograph and several refereed articles each year. After Kalha, no appointments in those centres have been given to scholars working with queer theory.

International research collaboration could be one way to solicit EU funding. Jukka Lehtonen and Kati Mustola succeeded in gaining funding for their seminal ESF-funded research project Sexual and Gender minorities at Work (2002–2005). Since such funding remains dependent on annually shifting funding priorities, it offers little security for scholars without back-up positions either in academia or in other research institutes.

To make the job market even harsher, there are so far no research institutes or centres in Finland which would consider lesbian, gay or queer-themed issues as their turf, thus making positions as senior researchers unavailable for those PhDs looking for a way to make use of their academic education. Recently, however, the social research centre Stakes has been giving out smaller research projects on queer families to Juha Jämsä and Paula Kuosmanen.

“there are so far no

Universities Signing up for SCUM

While queer studies in the US have been criticized for being dominated by (white) male, middle-class gay theorists, a peculiar feature in the Finnish academic culture is the total disappearance of male scholars from queer studies soon after they have defended their PhD theses. We have chosen to call this worrisome feature the “queer SCUM phenomenon”, thus cheekily referring to Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto (Society for Cutting Up Men). This multifaceted queer SCUM phenomenon has been apparent for many years now, and it seems to be facilitated by a persistent homophobia. Most alarmingly, the problems for queer male scholars do not seem to be on the decline, but rather becoming ever more aggravated.

Olli Stålström, one of the gay pioneers and a co-author of the first Finnish scholarly book on lesbians and gays in 1984, defended his thesis on the history of the medicalisation of homosexuality at the University of Kuopio in 1997. The publication of his thesis was soon followed by a taxing libel charge by an offended psychiatric.[7] Although Stålström’s defence lawyer, a prestigious human rights activist, straightforwardly refuted the charges and the court found Stålström to be not guilty and consequently dismissed all charges and claims against him, the prolonged pressure caused by the court case took a heavy toll on the scholar. Although Stålström has remained a keen gay activist publishing, among other things, the FinnQueer website, he has found it impossible to continue with his professional research career ever since.

Löfström: Scandinavian Homosexualiti es

 

Jan Löfström defended his dissertation on antinormative sexualities in agricultural Finland at the University of Essex in 1994, edited the Journal of Homosexuality volume on Scandinavian homosexualities (1998) and received an honorary position as a docent in historical anthropology. However, he soon took the consequences of the desolate job market situation for queer scholars and left the field. Over ten years now, Löfström is the only queer male scholar with a tenured position, but his lectureship in History Education at the Department of Education at the University of Helsinki is not related to his former interest in queer studies.

After his thesis defence in 1999, Kari Huotari continued for some time to work on a project on men who have sex with men, but after receiving a temporary professorship at the Department of Social Policy he has moved on to doing evaluation work and to studying the services provided for drug users and game addicts. Hence his work is no longer associated with queer scholarship.

Whereas Löfström did return to Finland after his dissertation, Mikko Tuhkanen, a specialist in African-American literature, decided to go abroad after the occasion. He defended his first PhD at the University of Tampere in 2000, but soon exiled through the Netherlands to the United States where he wrote his second PhD thesis in 2006. He currently works in the States as an assistant professor in English, with warm but only sporadic contact to Finnish queer scholars.

Jan Wickman, a sociologist, has studied and made his career in the Swedish-language Åbo Akademi University. Two years after his PhD on trans communities in Finland in 2001, Wickman got a three-year post-doc funding from the Academy of Finland. After the post-doc term, however, also his career has been marked by alternating short-term funding for research focusing on minorities and periods of unemployment. At the moment, he is working as a visiting scholar at Lund University, Sweden, from where he continues to the University of Oslo, Norway, on one-year funding by the Academy of Finland. It can only be hoped that he, too, is not about to leave Finland for good.

The art historian and scholar in visual culture studies Harri Kalha defended his highly acclaimed dissertation on Finnish design and applied art in 1997. He is a prolific author who has published extensively both nationally and internationally on various themes on art history and visual culture studies. In the past few years, he has published abundantly on queer theory and gay and queer historiography. Nevertheless, out of the twelve years after his PhD he has been unemployed for six years in total. Kalha held his last teaching position in 2006 and is now seriously contemplating leaving both queer studies and even academia on the whole – something that would be yet another remarkable loss for the community of queer scholars.

The community is still trying to recover from the loss of the literary scholar Lasse Kekki who left the field in the most concrete sense. His unsolved disappearance in November 2006 on a conference journey in Cairo, Egypt, is a tragic loss hard to endure for the queer scholarly community, both personally and professionally. His disappearance also painfully shows how fragile the presence of queer scholarship is at a department relying on the activity of a single person only.

Of all the Finnish male scholars who have defended their theses in gay or queer studies since 1994, Jukka Lehtonen, a sociologist, is the only one who is still living in Finland and both working in the field and being (at least for the moment) employed by the academia. Lehtonen organised his first conference on sexuality and gender studies as a student already in 1988. Before and after his thesis defence in 2003, he has found support in a feminist research group and has been remarkably successful in receiving project-based work as a researcher, gaining research funding and soliciting larger research projects. However, also in his case the short-term funding has repeatedly alternated with periods of unemployment. Lately, Lehtonen has worked at the Department of Education at the University of Helsinki as a post-doctoral fellow.

Problems with post-doctoral funding and the lack of tenured positions are recurrent in Finnish academic life, but these well-known problems seem to amass in the group of openly gay or queer male researchers. When looking at their impressive CVs it is evident that their difficulties in establishing a career as queer academics and getting any tenured or long-time positions while working within gender or queer studies cannot be explained with laziness or poor quality of work. Consequently, the reasons must be of a more structural nature.

 

Queer male scholars and male homosexuality as an area of study seem to be highly vulnerable to hidden and open academic and non-academic discrimination and exclusion. Not even Jukka Hankamäki, an openly gay philosopher working in the tradition of phenomenology, and vocally opposing feminist and queer theorisation, has gained funding. Those men who have established some name in gay or queer studies have mostly tried (and failed) to maintain a position in their own disciplines. Hence the traditional disciplines seem to be rather prone to signing up for queer SCUM. While the same fate threats queer women, several of them, when facing insurmountable difficulties in their initial disciplines, have been able to move on to work within women’s studies instead. In a sense, the centres of women’s studies have turned into vital intellectual refuges for undesirables. For men, such an option has apparently been available to a lesser extent.

We are concerned that these problems faced by individual queer scholars will have devastating consequences for a discipline as a whole as they turn into an overall pattern. When a small field is just about to establish itself, it is simply unbearable for it to lose over and over again the accumulated disciplinary knowledge necessary for offering decent supervision for graduate and post-graduate students, the strategic and managerial understanding required for putting forward larger research projects or the vital personal links to international scholarly networks.

“Queer male scholars and male

Queer Communication

Despite aforementioned structural difficulties in providing continuous teaching and reliable funding for scholars, queer studies have also gained some public recognition. One admittedly somewhat problematic indicator of the relative public visibility of queer studies is the amount of homophobic hostility it encounters. Since 2007, there has been an increasing wave of public attacks on queer studies, often paired with vituperations aimed at women’s studies.

The attacks focus on recurring themes, the first of them being the fact that in Finnish parlance gender studies is still called women’s studies. The question of naming has been turned against the discipline itself, as many of the conservative “pro-male activists” interpret the name in a literal fashion. According to them, in the departments of women’s studies only women’s lives, problems and femininities are permissible to study. Due to this gross misconception, the function of Finnish women’s studies centres as umbrella organisations for gender, queer, lesbian, critical masculinity studies and critical studies on heterosexuality, for example, has been totally missed.

In addition to this, women’s studies are eagerly depicted in these debates as ideologically undermined by feminism, and hence a prime example of those scientifically allegedly illegitimate and incredible intellectual and academic traditions which flourish outside of the natural sciences. Among them are listed humanist studies, qualitative methods and constructivist or poststructuralist theoretical stances in any field of study. For example, in the spring 2008, Helsingin Sanomat, the major newspaper in Finland, has repeatedly published antifeminist rants in the science section of the paper, while every contribution by leading professionals in women’s studies has been relegated to the more humble Letters section. Such antifeminist attacks can even get a homophobic twist, like when a Finnish professor publicly – in his column in Helsingin Sanomat – depicted women’s studies in Finland as held hostage by sexual minorities working on queer studies. Similarly hostile discussions against feminist and queer scholars are familiar to us from both Sweden and Germany.[8]

We interpret the biased debate as part of a larger ideological discussion going on in both Europe and in the US against “too political” scholarship. Such debates against women’s and queer studies in the Finnish media also function as perfect examples of the dangerously effective power of stupidity discussed by Judith Halberstam in Trikster #1.[9] It is significant how such debates in Finland have been orchestrated by turns either by fundamental science believers or by conservative advocates of men’s studies. Both have successfully used their omnipresent populism in the media to antagonise the present cultural atmosphere and to make it hostile and distrustful of women’s studies. This results in such bizarre situations as the one encountered by a colleague at the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of Tampere, who was invited to attend a public broadcasting program to discuss whether women’s studies even qualify as a scientific academic approach. The massive anti-feminist rant of the men’s studies advocates succeeded as a mode of domination as it led, in addition, to disabling the national women’s studies mailing list, an open forum thus far known for its animated but civilised discussion.

Such developments make it painfully apparent that while women’s and even queer studies have established their relative visibility in the academia, at the same time most conservative notions of gender and sexuality have prevailed in popular media and even among many scholars working in other fields of study. The gap in communication remains wide, since queer and feminist studies in Finland have been seen as distinctively scholarly work done by academics from the beginning. In the demanding process of establishing these within the Finnish universities, the most prominent publishing venues for the scholars have been referee journals and academic publications. Hence the everyday activism in popularising research has played a second fiddle. In the future, it is vital for engaged scholars to be able to communicate more understandably and more widely their theoretical and practical challenges to naturalised notions of gender and sexuality.

“In the future, it is

University Landscape in Turmoil

As we have seen, the ideologically antifeminist and homophobic public sentiments push women’s and queer studies into a dangerously singularised and marginal position. It is most unfortunate that this coincides with the largest restructuring experienced by the Finnish university landscape of its entire history. In 2010, there is to be a new law about the governance of the universities. This creates a situation in which the so far public universities are separated from the state both in terms of direction and financial backing. Universities no longer follow a public responsibility, but are turned into independent streamlined business corporations instead.

 

This development has been on its way already in the so-called Bologna process which has stripped single disciplines to their core mission. In the core material, critical approaches such as feminist and queer theories are often marginalised or completely eradicated from the curricula. Hence issues such as gender and sexuality are generally no longer to be found in the curricula of most of the disciplines.[10] This means that the rather successful double strategy (followed to a certain extent also by queer scholars) of having women’s studies both as a singular discipline and integrating it into other disciplines is getting more and more difficult to practise in the conservative and neo-liberal New University.

This eradication process of any representatives of critical theory rides high at the same time as the universities are more and more mesmerised by the ideology of constant increase in productivity. Also teaching must be efficient, which too often gets translated as “aimed at large audiences”. The yearly intake of new students as well as the yearly quota for MA and PhD theses imposed by the Finnish Ministry of Education on the universities is unrealistically high and made even more problematic by the notorious uncertainty of an overflowing academic labour market. Nevertheless, the disciplines must produce tangible results yearly; in this case MA and PhD theses function as a currency for paying the salaries of the university staff and teachers.

In the present hostile atmosphere, the public discrediting attacks on women’s and queer studies can have an unfortunate negative effect on the decision-makers in the academia and in the politics of higher education. Women’s and queer studies might appear less and less attractive to students as well. Moreover, if graduate studies in women’s, gender and queer studies are structurally turned into a professional cul-de-sac, we are now left to wonder how long it will remain possible to attract students and qualified supervisors to these fields of study. The dangers of a vicious circle are threatening women’s and queer studies: fewer measurable results, fewer resources, less teaching, fewer students, no discipline.

When quantitative efficiency is the only argument used in a new academia moulded according to business principles, it would be only consequent to react to “problem areas” by closing down “inefficient” departments and sacking the personnel. The most worrisome prospect is thus that small critical disciplines, such as women’s studies, and with it queer studies, will disappear altogether from the university landscape. It is apparent that the possible elimination processes following the rising conservatism are currently affecting many critical inter- and multidisciplinary fields of study. In several European countries this trend seems to be paired with an extra portion of hostility towards feminism, gender studies and queer studies – Finland, unfortunately, being no exception.

“the rising conservatism are currently

Queers Fight Back

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,[11] 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.

SQS1

 

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.[12]

SQSJournal

 

SQS Journal

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.

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“At the moment, not only
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