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Juha Siltala

Juha Heikki Siltala
Born November 25, 1957

Master of Arts 1982 (general history) and PhD 1985 (Finnish history), University of Helsinki
Docent in History 1990–, University of Helsinki
Docent in cultural history 1995–, University of Turku

Professor of Finnish history 1997–, University of Helsinki
Research fellow 1985–97, Academy of Finland

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Membership of scholarly societies:
The Finnish Historical Society
Finnish Academy of Science and Letters
Association for Psychoanalytic Study of Culture & Society
International Society for Political Psychology
European Human Behavior and Evolution Association, Capitalism, State and Society research network

Awards and special achievements:
State Award for Public Information 1993
MTV 3 Award for Culture 1993
Researcher of the Year 1998
Väinö Tanner Foundation award 2000
Award of the Finnish Evangelical-Lutheran Church 2004
Award of the Finnish Social Forum 2005
Women Journalists in Finland award 2005
Membership of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters 2014

Photo: Eetu Sillanpää, WSOY
Written by Juha Siltala (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Angst trilogy

Because I had completed my PhD in Finnish history, a constantly accumulating and changing area of application for a ‘biosocial synthesis’ needed to be found from within that discipline. The trilogy Suomalainen ahdistus. Huoli sielun pelastuksesta (‘Finnish angst. Concern about the salvation of the soul’ 1992), Valkoisen äidin pojat. Siveellisyys ja sen varjot kansallisessa projektissa (‘True sons of the white mother. Morality and its shadow side in the nationalist project’ 1999) and Sisällissodan psykohistoria (‘A psychohistory of the Finnish Civil War’ 2009), which untangles the history of the Finnish notion of angst, does not compare Finland to other countries, nor does it describe the national character.

It proved possible to conduct a qualitative analysis of individualisation in a modernising society and bind the anxiety that it produced first to religious awakening, then with national awakening and self-education. With their help it was possible to experience individual difference but preserve peer-group connections with an emotional force reminiscent of early attachment. People were able to utilise their own talents, if they were thought to serve the common good.

The first two books were really a history of the permitted way life and the autonomy-dependence conflicts that were experienced. The material was of course biased towards literary and sensitive people, but it is also possible show the development of child-rearing and the quest for individuality in wider terms, when the future began to look brighter and it was worth the effort, particularly during the economic boom in the latter half of the 19th century.

The first two parts of the trilogy were still psychoanalytical, but they didn’t pathologise attachment and dealing with anxiety with the help of culture. In contrast, the Awakening movement and the nation-building project were seen to offer a protective space from which people could launch their own personal projects. The psychology of reasonableness and hope, such an essential part of my research into working life, began to be incorporated. As with the theoretical building-blocks of understanding and classification used in Sisällissodan psykohistoria (‘A psychohistory of the Finnish Civil War’), reciprocity, fairness and the motive of control pointed the way forward.

Juha Siltala’s ‘trilogy’ untangling the history of Finnish angst. Photo Mika Federley


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