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Anna-Leena Siikala

Anna-Leena Siikala (formerly Kuusi, née Aarnisalo)
Born January 1, 1943, Helsinki.
Died February 27, 2016.

Master of Arts (folkloristics), 1968, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1970, Doctor of Philosophy, 1978, University of Helsinki

Academy Professor, Academy of Finland, 1999–2004
Professor of Folkloristics, University of Helsinki, 1995–2007
Professor of the Study of Tradition, 1988–95, University of Eastern Finland
Senior Research Fellow, State Committee for the Humanities, 1986–1988
Acting Professor of Folklore and Comparative Religion, University of Turku, 1979–1982

Publications, research projects and other academic activities

Research interests
Rituals, myths, oral storytelling, poetry written in the Kalevala verse form, regeneration of tradition and its political use in peripheral regions

Awards and Special achievements
Annual Prize for Non-fiction, Federation of Finnish Learned Societies and Finnish Association for Scholarly Publishing, 2014
Academician, 2009
Kalevala Society prize for academic work, 2007
Commander, Order of the Lion of Finland, 2006
Honorary Member, Finnish Literature Society, 2004
Honorary Member, Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, 2008
Honorary Member, The Kalevala Society, 2011
Honorary Doctorate, University of Joensuu (present-day University of Eastern Finland), 2004
Honorary Doctorate, University of Tartu, 2008
Honorary Doctorate, University of Turku, 2009
Honorary Award, Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, 2004
Doctor Honoris Causa of the Societas Ethnographica Hungarica, 2000
Knight (First Class), Finnish Order of the White Rose, 1999
Honorary Professor, Udmurt State University, 1998
Finnish Literature Society Prize for Scientific Literature, 1979, 1992 & 1994

Photo: Sakari Majantie
Written by Anna-Leena Siikala (Tomas Sjöblom, ed.)
Translated by John Calto

Multicultural and Multilingual Research

Fieldwork abroad and many lecture tours to distant countries have shown that young academics studying their own culture benefit from being educated in a country like Finland. Anna-Leena Siikala has continuously strived to further the studies of young post-graduates of Finno-Ugric studies by ensuring that there are grants available to them that will make this possible. This work has been greatly supported by the Centre for International Mobility and Co-operation.

Educating the researchers has been important for Siikala on a global scale as well. Since 1991 The Folklore Fellows’ Summer School, jointly organised by Finnish universities, has brought together students from Europe, the United States, Russia, Africa and Asia; to date over three hundred folklorists have participated in the research course. As the director and a teacher of the course Siikala has emphasised the importance of initiating dialogue between cultures and understanding of the different ways of thinking inherent in their regions. Together with Jawaharlal Handoon, she published Folklore and Discourse (1999) in Mysore, India. The book compiled scholarly writings from both Indian and Western perspectives.

Students of the Folklore Fellows’ Summer School research course from China, Macedonia, Sweden, Latvia, India and Estonia in 1997.​
Students of the Folklore Fellows’ Summer School research course from China, Macedonia, Sweden, Latvia, India and Estonia in 1997.​

Teaching, doing research and publishing through institutions in other countries has helped Siikala acclimatise to the varying university environments across the globe. She has taught at the University of Hamburg and done research work in Australia and elsewhere. She has been on the editorial boards of twelve periodicals in Europe, the United States and Russia, from Novosibirsk to Paris and Georgetown to Umeå. One of her most notable undertakings has been to edit the Folklore Fellow’s Communications series, which is published by the Finnish Academy of Science. The series was founded in 1910 and it is still regarded as the most significant series of monographs on folkloristics. Since the 1980s she has also been committed to working on the Studia Fennica series by the Finnish Literature Society.

Anna-Leena Siikala has performed administrative duties at several international and three Finnish learned societies. With her tenure lasting from 1996 to 2001 she became the first woman to direct the Finnish Literature Society in its 180-year existence. As a member of the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies she has discussed problems related to publishing and as a member of the State Committee of Humanities she has advocated the reinforcement of research.

For researchers, the basic problems of scientific organisations mainly relate to getting work published and funding translations. In a small country like Finland it is necessary to publish both in languages that are widely read internationally and in the native Finnish to uphold national cultural integrity.

Multilingualism has been a matter of principle for Siikala, as has been publishing in other small languages besides Finnish. Her own work has been published in at least ten languages. The Science and Technology Council of Finland has been instrumental in shaping science policy; Siikala was a member for six years in the 1990s. In her work on the Council her priority was always to increase respect for, and improve the prospects of, the humanities.

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