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Hannu Juusola

Hannu Matti Sakari Juusola
Born 10 May, 1963, Rovaniemi

Master of Arts 1993, Doctor of Philosophy 1999 (Semitic Languages and Cultures), University of Helsinki
Docent of Semitic Languages and Cultures 2008-, University of Helsinki

Professor of Semitic Languages and Cultures 2011-, University of Helsinki
Doctoral student at the national research school of Asian and African Studies,1995–1997
Acting Professor of Semitic Languages and Cultures, 2001
University Lecturer in Semitic Languages and Cultures, 2001–2010
Academy of Finland Postdoctoral researcher at Yale University (Department of Religious Studies, Visiting Fellow), January 1 - July 31, 2002.

Director of the Finnish Institute in the Middle East, January 1, 2009 - December 31, 2010.
Visiting Fellow (Department of Middle Eastern Studies, University of California at Berkeley), September 2013.

Publications, research projects and other academic activities

Research interests: Democracy, secularisation and citizenship discourses in the Middle East; the significance of drought in political conflicts in the Middle East; cabbala; orientalism in Finland.

Awards and special achievements
Honorary mention, Society of the Friends of History 2005 (History of Israel)
Honorary mention, The Lauri Jäntti Foundation 2006 (History of Israel)

Foto: Ari Aalto
Written by Hannu Juusola and Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta (ed.)
Translated by Kaisla Kajava. Revised by John Calton

From orientalist to scholar of the Middle East

Professor Hannu Juusola’s research focus has changed over the years.

– During my study years in the 1980s the Middle East was still very far away, and our studies concentrated mostly on the classical cultures of the area, which I went on to specialise in.

Since his doctoral dissertation, Juusola has re-trained himself to become an expert and researcher of the modern societies and politics of the Middle East.

– I don’t feel that the diverse language skills and knowledge of the classical Middle East I gained earlier are any kind of impediment; on the contrary, it is important to understand the long cultural development of the area, also in light of the contemporary situation. Cultural reading skills are very important when you specialise in societies where there is a palpable sense of the past in the present day. I was shocked for example when I happened to meet a scholar of the contemporary Middle East in Syria who did not know what an Umayyad mosque is.

Professor Juusola’s current research interests are democratisation, secularisation and the relationships between different citizenship discourses in Arab countries and in Israel, as well as the significance of sectarianism in the politics of the region. Other interests of his are the relationship between the middle classes and democracy and the role of water as a political question in the Middle East crises. Juusola explains:

– This interest was aroused when I lived in Syria and saw with my own eyes how drought affects people’s lives. The Syrian civil war has been most detrimental in areas affected most by drought as well as the slums surrounding cities, where poor people from the withering countryside have settled. In recent years I have done fieldwork, especially in Lebanon. It’s a lesson in humility trying to get to grips with another society using a language with such a huge array of dialects. Putting the boot on the other foot, I have often wondered how a foreign scholar would feel about going to Ostrobothnia for example to research the supporters of the Centre Party who speak nothing but Finnish. I believe–or at any rate hope–that an outsider can see things that local researchers might have overlooked, says Juusola.

Photo: Ari Aalto.​
Photo: Ari Aalto.​


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