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Janne Saarikivi

Janne Santeri Saarikivi
Born May 29, 1973, Helsinki

Bachelor of Arts 1996, Master of Arts 1998, Licentiate 2003, PhD 2006 (Finno-Ugrian languages), University of Helsinki

Helsinki Collegium research fellow 2014–2017, University of Helsinki
Acting professor of Finno-Ugrian languages 2009–2014
Postdoctoral researcher 2006–2008, University of Helsinki
Researcher 2008, Centre for Advanced Study at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
Visiting lecturer of Finnish language and culture 2004–2006, University of Tartu
Acting university lecturer (Finno-Ugric studies) 2003–2004, Doctoral student 1999–2003, research assistant and civilian service 1995–1999, University of Helsinki

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Awards and special achievements:
Society for the Study of Finnish Language article prize 2002
Best Doctoral Dissertation Prize 2007
Member of the Young Researcher Society of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters 2009
Member of the editorial boards of several international journals in, inter alia, Russia, Estonia and France

Photo: Eija Saarikivi
Written by Janne Saarikivi (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Research in fact, fiction, and fantasy

I have spent much time and energy on the protection of minority language communities and the revitalisation of languages. Working on the Finno-Ugric language nest project (under the joint aegis of the Finland-Russia Society and the Finnish Cultural Foundation) and the Finno-Ugric NGO project (in Finnish) I have travelled all over Russia and talked myself hoarse trying to convince people that multilingualism is important and that Russian language monolingualism means not progress but regression. I have spoken before many audiences on how a different language makes you think in a different way and how the often despised speakers of minority languages are in fact a universal treasure we ought to honour, bearers of the richness and diversity of our cultural heritage.

Lately I have been interested in community art as an instrument in language revitalisation. This suits me well, since I am restless and want to leave my study every now and then. We organised a language revitalisation week in Vieljärvi (Vedlozero) in Karelia together with community artists Anne Siirtola and Heidi Hänninen. Together with them we tried various ways of creating a positive buzz about the Karelian language. We printed t-shirts on the street. Everyone received a free t-shirt or tote bag on the condition they had something in Karelian printed on it. In the village shop we translated into Karelian the names and prices of all products, emergency exit signs, and bulletins on consumer legislation and warnings. The artists painted one wall of the shop and together with the young people of the village filled it with Karelian text. We provided the shop with prizes for everyone who did their shopping in Karelian.

I also keep busy by writing for the general public. I have worked on high school textbooks and written numerous columns and essays. Right now I am working on what I hope will become a book, an essay on Finnish language and Finnish thought.

Dr Janne Saarikivi speaking on the Sami National Day, 6 February 2014. To the left, retired Sami politician and public debater Mr Jouni Kitti. Photo: Mika Federley.

The current trend where only academic peer reviewed publications count makes me very sad. The idea behind the Publication Forum is well meant, but I fear it will prove detrimental to the university. The writers unfit for the research journal framework will be hounded out of the university, even though there is plenty of intellectual life outside those so-called top Anglo-American journals. Even though it may be difficult to tabulate and quantify. It is crucial to write in Finnish as well as in every language besides English, because language is not merely an instrument for expressing ideas but also an instrument for creating ideas. A thought in Finnish is slightly different from a thought in English, and they are created mainly in Finland. The same thing holds for the minority languages I study, Sami, Komi, Mari or Udmurt. Every single column and essay, every single publication in your own voice is crucial for a small language. In general it's more important to work in the margins than at the top. That's where the elite of tomorrow will be found. In the margins they know many things that are undreamt of in the mainstream.

I would like to create a writing style where you can't quite be sure whether you're reading fact, fiction or fantasy. In Finland, Dr Martti Haavio was one of the pioneers of that style. The late President of Estonia, Dr Lennart Meri, also excelled at it in his ethnographic publications.



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