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Henry Hedman

Henry Matti Vihtori Hedman
Born March 8, 1952, Riihimäki

Master of Religion Education 1994, Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia (B.C.)
Studies for a Bachelor of Theology in 1977–1978, Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas
Vocational qualification in business and administration 1971, Riihimäki Business College

University Instructor, Romani and Roma culture, University of Helsinki
Musician, non-fiction author, theologist and translator

Researcher, Centre for the Languages of Finland 2002–2012
Executive manager, Romano Missio ry 1996–2000

Publications, research projects and other academic activities (linkiksi: http://tuhat.halvi.helsinki.fi/portal/en/person/hmhedma)

Awards and memberships in organizations
Advisory board on Roma Affairs, member 1986-, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, member of the Committee, appointed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland 2012-
Member of MG-S-Rom, a Council of Europe Group of Specialists 2002–2010
Awarded for work on materials and education in Romani by the National Board of Education and the Advisory Board on Roma Affairs, 2010
Person of the year in Riihimäki, 2001

Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by Olli Silvennoinen

’I used to think of the Roma as a collective, now I think of them as individuals’

Henry Hedman works as a University Instructor of Romani and Roma culture in the Faculty of Arts at Helsinki University. The programme was launched in 2012. Before that, Hedman worked at the Centre for the Languages of Finland for ten years and the six years before that he was managing director of Romano Missio.

Hedman’s teaching is based on discussion and questioning. He wants to get his students to think for themselves.

– My teaching style is not just about making the students listen to lectures and take exams on books. When I think back to my own studies, the teachers that I remember best are the ones that made the students think and discuss. We had to take a stand and argue for our views. That is what I’m after in my own teaching as well.

Hedman has personal experience of what the 500 years of Roma culture in Finland have been like. He knows what it is like to live as a Roma and to be a member of a special group in the middle of the majority.

– When I’m teaching the history of the Roma, for instance, I feel so deeply about it that I often end up with tears in my eyes. That is how strongly I feel about teaching it. But I don’t give a rose-tinted view of our history, I don’t say that the Roma are squeaky-clean or that we’ve always been mistreated. The Roma do make mistakes and bad things just as everyone else. I want to give my students the historical background because it has had a huge impact on the Roma. To give an example, education has not been as important to the Roma as it has been to others. For them, it has been more important to have emotional intelligence and to get by in different social situations as well as to make a living in one way or another.

Romani and Roma culture is a 60-credit minor module (http://www.helsinki.fi/fus/studying/romani.html) that is available to all students enrolled in the University of Helsinki. It is a suitable minor not only for language majors but also students of general linguistics, cultural and/or social anthropology, psychology, comparative religion, social sciences, education and even medicine. The 25-credit basic studies module is available for everyone through the Open University.

In addition to history, an integral part of Hedman’s teaching is the Romani language and contemporary Roma culture. Like any other culture, that of the Roma is also shaped by its surroundings, and changes in society affect the lifestyle of the Roma as well.

– In my lectures I see changes in attitudes in both camps. It is great to see how Roma students and majority students face each other, and some even become friends during the course.’

Henry Hedman with university students. Photo: Sami Väätänen​
Henry Hedman with university students. Photo: Sami Väätänen​


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