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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

Queer research at the Kristiina Institute

I returned to Finland in the spring of 1992. Meanwhile, an institute specialising in gender studies, the Kristiina Institute, had been founded at the University of Helsinki, and news about it had already reached me on the other side of the Atlantic. Kristiina was indeed to become my academic and political home for years to come. I taught my first interdisciplinary course there, focusing on gender roles and the structures of the gender system in visual culture. I also took part in professor Kirsi Saarikangas’s inspiring seminars. Towards the end of the decade I finished my doctoral thesis as part of Kirsi’s academic project.

The Kristiina Institute was painstakingly developed, first under the leadership of Aili Nenola and later Kirsi Saarikangas, into a socially active centre of teaching and research in the humanities. I saw Kristiina as a fruitful working environment which respected differences and even allowed contradictions, and which provided students with a practical chance to grasp the multiple perspectives that constitute academic research.

In terms of my own work, of central importance was the fact that the Kristiina Institute also became the second hub for Finnish queer studies, i.e. the critical study of gender and sexuality, the other being at the University of Turku. Finnish queer studies has been actively involved in widening and challenging conceptions of sexuality: problematizing heteronormativity and promoting understanding of gender diversity. Several scholars worked on these issues at the Kristiina Institute, and queer studies eventually developed into one of the main focuses of research and teaching.

There was plenty of international activity, but the most essential network of contacts in the field of gender studies was the national Hilma university network. Especially in the 2000s, it became invaluable for the development of teaching in gender studies as a forum for researchers in the field.

A queer researcher at their computer. Photo: Kristiina Institute photo archive.


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