Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen
Humanist of the day

Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen

Docent Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen is a veteran researcher of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, and a founding member of the Indigenous Studies Research Programme, which will begin in autumn 2015. The aim of this modular minor subject is to bridge the traditional divide between disciplines. The programme will focus on the native languages and concepts of indigenous people. Dr Virtanen would like the potential impact of cultural research on well-being and the economy to be more widely recognised.

Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen

Born January 5, 1975

PhD 2007 (Latin American research), docent 2013, University of Helsinki
Master of Arts 2000 (religious studies/philosophy) University of Turku

Researcher 2007–15, Academy of Finland, University of Helsinki
Post graduate 2003-07, University of Helsinki
Project trainee 2002, International Organization for Migration, Lisbon
Administrative assistant 2000-02, Brazilian Embassy in Helsinki

Research Themes:
Indigenous peoples, Brazil, the social philosophies and epistemologies of Amazonian indigenous peoples, post-humanism, indigenous people policy and ethno-history.

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Awards and achievements
Numerous research grants from, inter alia, the Kone Foundation 2008, Bourse Legs Lelong (CNRS/France) 2008, the Sariola Foundation 2006, University of Helsinki’s SYLFF fund 2006, the Finnish Concordia Fund 2004, the Finnish Cultural Foundation 2003

Photo: Mika Federley
Written by Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen (Tomas Sjöblom, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

The mass media seldom reports on indigenous peoples. In Brazil alone, there live around 240 indigenous nations who have their own way of seeing the past, present and future. Interconnectivity, the diversity of living beings and change are at the core of their thinking.

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Dr Virtanen has been part of a Finnish-Brazilian research group that is researching “geoglyphs” that have been found carved into the land in western Brazil. In 2015, they were among the World Heritage List Nominations. The discovery of a more than 2000-year-old civilization which constructed geoglyphs and road networks will change our understanding of the Amazon region.

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My dream is that indigenous people would themselves become participants in university research and teaching. One of the essential ideas of the new programme beginning at the University of Helsinki is that research occurs in close cooperation with indigenous peoples and indigenous researchers.

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