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Kirsti Salmi-Niklander

Born May 20, 1957, Joensuu

Master of Arts 1988, licentiate 1991, PhD 2004 (Folkloristics), University of Helsinki

University lecturer in folkloristics 2015–, University of Helsinki
Academy of Finland research fellow 2011–16

Docent in folkloristics, University of Helsinki 2008–
Academy of Finland postdoctoral researcher 2005–09
Research associate in folkloristics, University of Helsinki 1989–2003
Assistant archivist, National Archives of Finland 1987
Temporary researcher, Finnish Organisation for Labour Heritage 1985–87
Research themes: interaction between verbal and literary expression, hand-written newspapers, oral history, working-class culture, migrant culture

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Awards and special achievements:
Award for the best monograph in Labour History 2006

Photo: Mika Federley
Written by Kirsti Salmi-Niklander (Tiia Niemelä, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Collective Writing and Difficult Memories

The overarching theme in my research is the interaction between oral and written culture. My 2004 doctoral dissertation, Itsekasvatusta ja kapinaa (‘Self-education and rebellion’), dealt with conversational community of working-class youth in the 1910s and the 1920s in Karkkila. The most important source material was a handwritten Valistaja (‘Enlightener’) magazine published by the young proletariats, which was found in the attic of the Karkkila police station. Handwritten magazines have taken me on long voyages in time and space.

In recent years I have discovered other researchers around the world who work with the same unique materials. In September 2015, the historian Heiko Droste and I organised a workshop in Uppsala, in which 13 European and North American researchers of handwritten magazines participated. While this type of research may seem rather marginal, it has become surprisingly topical in the course of the 21st century; handwritten magazines were an alternative form of publishing in their day, as well as a means of social intercourse and political activism for young people. They can be reasonably compared to the social media of today, and the typical narrative forms of handwritten magazines have found new life in an online environment.

During a renovation in 2014, placard newspapers published in the 1920s by the social democratic youth club of the Ahmoo community hall in Karkkila were found. This valuable collection is now in the People’s Archives. Photo by Kirsti Salmi-Niklander.

As an Academy Research Fellow, I have been able to delve into interesting topics. After a long and demanding application process that lasted many years, I now lead two research projects that examine the radical changes of the 21st century from different perspectives. Fragmented visions is a three-year research project (2014–17) funded by the Academy of Finland which aims to study performative cultures and oral-literary traditions in early 20th century Finland: political agitation and rumours, immigrant culture, working-class theatre, and preaching. The researchers working on the project are Anna Rajavuori, Päivi Salmesvuori, Mikko-Olavi Seppälä, and Sami Suodenjoki.

I also coordinate the international research project LIVINGMEMORIES – Living together with difficult memories and diverse identities. It is part of the ERA-NET RUS Plus initiative, which aims to promote research collaboration between Russia and the European Union. The project studies the possibilities of living together after conflict: silences and breaking those silences, dialogue and the possibility of reconciliation. The two-year project receives its Finnish funding from the Academy of Finland. The researchers on the project are Sofia Laine, Päivi Salmesvuori, Ulla Savolainen and Riikka Taavetti. Research teams from Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Germany and Turkey are also part of the international project.

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