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Leena-Maija Rossi

Born July 5, 1962, Valkeakoski

PhD (art history and women’s studies) 1999, University of Helsinki
Fulbright scholar, New York University 1990–91
Master of Arts (art history) 1987, University of Helsinki

Executive Director 2011-16, Finnish Cultural Institute in New York
Professor of gender studies 2011, University of Helsinki
Lecturer in gender studies 2010, University of Helsinki
Lecturer in women’s studies, 2003–09 University of Helsinki
Research Doctor 2000–03, Academy of Finland, University of Helsinki
Research Doctor, 1999–2000, Academy of Finland, University of Art and Design Helsinki
Project researcher 1996-98, Academy of Finland, University of Helsinki
Docent 2000, University of Helsinki
Docent 2002, University of Turku

Research fields:
Gender and sexuality, visual culture from art to media culture, multiculturalism and intersectionality

Academic activity

Magister Bonus, the Student Union of the University of Helsinki’s prize for teaching excellence, 2009
The Finnish Art Society’s art book of the year prize 1995

Photo: Kari Sainio
Written by Leena-Maija Rossi (Kaija Hartikainen ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Internationalising artists

Gender studies is a field which interweaves theory and empirical research, and I consider myself a scholar who examines gender predominantly through its imagery. I have studied both media imagery and contemporary art, and in my current work as the director of the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, I work to internationalise the work of Finnish artists, designers and architects as well as other art professionals. The institute, or FCINY as Americans call it, which turns 25 years old in 2015, was originally founded as a residency centre for artists. It still functions as one, but its activity has also spread to include exhibitions, publications, seminars and other events as well as artist residencies and professional mobility activities.

When I left for New York, I was obliged to give up my beloved work as a university lecturer and I won’t say it didn’t hurt. To replace it, however, I had a unique chance to work in an international cultural field and combine my academic background with expertise in the practice of art. At the institute, we have produced an exhibition called Bodies, Borders, Crossings, which has toured in three continents, worked in collaboration with Parsons New School in the field of fashion research, and in the autumn of 2015 we are organising an event for Finnish and American scholars and artists on the theme of urban nature.

Exhibition by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, "Bodies, Borders, Crossings", in Lima, capital of Peru, in the spring of 2014. Photo: Kari Soinio.

In a nutshell, the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York works with the mobility of people and ideas. In this day and age, it is particularly essential to create international dialogue, be it in any field. I also consider it important for the Finnish cultural and academic institutes abroad to be able to work as part of the local professional networks and represent civil society instead of official efforts at country branding.

Academics can never escape their true nature, and in addition to my day job I have been a visiting scholar at New York University’s Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. I have also been sure to keep Finnish language academic writing in mind, and this autumn the Gaudeamus publishing house is publishing my book Muuttuva sukupuoli: Seksuaalisuuden, luokan ja värin politiikkaa – ‘Changing Gender: the Politics of Sexuality, Class and Colour’.

An interview on the Bronx Gothic dance performance in 2014. Photo: Kari Soinio.


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