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Laura Hirvi

Born July 16, 1980, Mannheim, Germany

Bachelor of Arts (ethnology) 2004, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
Master of Arts (ethnology) 2007, University of Jyväskylä
PhD (ethnology) 2013, University of Jyväskylä

Director of the Finnish Institute in Germany, 2015–
Part-time German teacher 2006–08, University of Jyväskylä and City of Jyväskylä
Project worker 2005, Theatre Info Finland
English teacher 2003-04, Carmel English School & Aukland House School, India
Project worker 2002, national poetry archive of the Finnish Literature Society
Assistant 2001–03, Gleis Lutz, Berlin

Numerous literary and general translations over a period of 10 years, including German translations of Terhi Rannela’s novel Taivaan tuuliin and Leea Klemola’s play Kokkola

Vice-chairwoman 2014, ASLA-Fulbright Alumni Association Board
Website and email administrator of ‘Sikhs in Europe’ 2012–
Book review editor 2009–11, Finnish Journal of Ethnicity and Migration
Board member (responsible for international affairs) 2009–10, Helan tutjijat ry (an association of doctoral students and research doctors at the Department of History and Ethnology, University of Jyväskylä)

Written by Laura Hirvi (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Connecting academia, economy, and art

I was raised in Germany, but I have been living in Finland for the last ten years or so, which has made me intimately familiar with Finnish culture and society. As 50% German and 50% Finn, you could say I am the personification of the idea behind the Finnish Institute in Germany. My mission is to bring people together and to create German-Finnish networks, in which it is crucially important to be familiar with both cultures.

The ten years I spent in Finland were vitally important both culturally, socially, and politically. I was able to follow the dominant themes of today on the spot and gain knowledge of the wellsprings of current topical discussion. By the way, I have never felt that my bilingual, multinational background has left me living between two worlds; it is simply one world, my own world.

Until I was appointed Director of the Finnish Institute in Germany, I was working as a researcher at the University. The main effect of this change of environment is a change of pace in my work. At this moment, an academic paper I wrote has been under review for a year; before that I spent a year researching and writing the paper, before which I spent a year applying for grants for the research. This experience has been valuable training for the Institute’s long term projects.

Caption: Panel discussion “Undressing the Meaning of Dress” in the Finnish Institute in Germany. Photo: © Finnland-Institut in Deutschland

Working on my dissertation honed my skills in analysing complicated problems and considering them in their context, which has turned out to be extremely useful in my current job. However, in the everyday work of the Institute I often need to make quick decisions and get them implemented fast, which is radically different from my previous work environment.

Work at the Institute is especially fascinating because we have the opportunity to connect academia, economy, and art. At the Institute we recently had a discussion on the meaning of clothing and dress. This discussion was part of programming related to an exhibition we also had at the Institute at the time, titled Helsinki Dresses. The exhibition consisted of dresses by the designer Anne Mustarastas inspired by the architecture of Helsinki. As panellists in the discussion “Understanding the Meaning of Dress” we had invited fashion designer Mert Otsamo and two researchers working on fashion and its meaning: Annamari Vänskä from Finland and Antonella Giannone (Weißensee Academy of Art Berlin) from Italy. The discussion was moderated by Sami Sykkö, and the entertaining and informative discussions on the meaning of clothing and fashion were enjoyed by an audience of 60.

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