Current Research

1 Discourse on Religion and the Secular in the Finnish Media: Longitudinal and Comparative Study

The project examines discourse on religion and the secular in the Finnish media by concentrating on major newspapers, especially Helsingin Sanomat from the end of the WWII to the present day. During this period Finnish society has changed from agricultural to industrial and further to post-industrial society. The project seeks to answer: 1) how the media discourse on religion and the secular has changed in Finnish modernisation, 2) how the distinction between religion and the secular, especially between the Lutheran Church and state has been employed, defended and challenged in an increasingly multicultural context, 3) what these discourses tell us about the changing roles and locations of religion in the public sphere, and 4) what theoretical ideas, research hypotheses and methods the study can generate that could be used to examine, analyse and compare corresponding developments in other locations.

The project develops a research strategy according to which distinctions between religion and the secular are parts of discursive formations – and thus part of the power struggles and relative to a society’s changing interests and situations. Theoretically the project approaches the categories of ‘religion’ and ‘secular’ as discursive items and thus argues for the importance of discursive study of religion.

 

2 The Category of ’Religion’ in Public Life

In addition to the main project I continue to examine cases where ’religious’ or ’non-religious’ nature of groups and practices have been defined and negotiated in public life.  My argument in these cases is that the category of ‘religion’ functions as a tool for making things happen on various levels (from particular groups to media and other institutions, and state). Therefore, the analysis of cases focuses on practical interests of all involved parties and upcoming consequences.

 

3 The New Visibility of Atheism

I have already written a couple of articles on the recent visibility of atheism and I will continue to study this area in addition to the main project. I am especially interested in atheism as an identity, both historical and contemporary, and how the recent visibility of atheistic consciousness-raising is connected to theories addressing the new visibility of religion. My argument is that we are witnessing the visibility of ’religion’ and ’atheism’ at the same time, and that discourses on ‘religion’ and ‘atheism’ reinforce each other in public life, especially in the media.

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