What’s Up with Men: SUMS 2016

I spent last week’s Friday at the University of Tampere. The reason was that they hosted this year’s Miestutkimuspäivät (conference on [critical*] studies on men and masculinities) and I presented a paper there. The event was organized by SUMS (the Finnish society for men’s studies).

The day was an interesting and fun one. Topics were wide-ranging, and the initial session’s main event was the “long and short”history of masculinity by plenary Pirjo Markkola.

Her speech was preceded by a eulogy on “the grand old man” of Finnish masculinities studies, Arto Jokinen. The eulogy was given by Ilana Aalto (picture below).


I can’t in any way claim that I knew Arto, but I did get to meet him at last year’s conference where he also gave me valuable feedback on the initial stages of my dissertation project. He seemed like a nice, and very interesting person. By clicking on the link below the picture you can access his obituary (in Finnish).


Credit (with obituary in Finnish): hs.fi

A major Finnish newspaper published a story (in Finnish, again) on the conference. This can be read here. The piece is kinda funny in its way but also somewhat disparaging to the actually quite good speakers at the event, and it also has a very bizarre ending. It’s a good reminder, in any case, of what it looks like when an ‘outsider’ looks into one of these things.

After lunch break the participants of the conference were divided into two workshops: one on “Men, food, and health” and another on “Work, media, and violence”. My presentation took place in the latter workshop.

The workshop was chaired by Petteri Eerola, and the other presenters in my workshop discussed issues such as young men and work, the gendered agency of volunteers working with immigrants, how masculinity played into the Finnish Parliamental elections, and how masculinities studies could be relevant when thinking of ways to prevent domestic violence. The complete program is available here.

My own presentation focused on how protest masculinity could be used as a kind of heuristic steppingstone to ecomasculinity. I also briefly introduced a case study I’ve been working on.

I thought the presentation went quite well. I was initially a little nervous on finding that the room was practically speaking packed with listeners, but I thought that it ended up making the situation more fun. It’s always nice when people are interested, and the University of Tampere students who made up a significant portion of the audience, seemed genuinely interested in both my presentation, and all the other ones, as well. Some of my personal notes are illustrated below, and by clicking this link you can access my PowerPoint presentation in full (sorry, that too is only in Finnish).


All in all, things went well. I got a lot of good feedback from more senior researchers, which is always one of the major benefits of attending conferences, and my head has since then been buzzing with ideas on how best to conduct my own research.

Post-conference part of the crew gathered at a very nice hipsterish local watering-hole for some beers and informal chatting. I was sorry to be on such a tight schedule that I couldn’t stay too long. Oh well, maybe that was for the better. Luckily, I did just manage to catch my train back to Vaasa in time, after sprinting the last few hundred meters. It turns out that when locals give estimates of how long it takes to get from point A to point B they are either a) very optimistic, or b) know some secret shortcut.

Anyway, good times all around. Now business as usual again, which means desperate article writing, occasional blogging, etc.

*By positioning their research in the “critical” paradigm, masculinities scholars in Finland can make a distinction between themselves and men’s issues advocates who often approach men’s studies from an anti-feminist stance. Internationally speaking, the distinction is not always as explicit, but it is nevertheless mostly implicit that masculinities research aligns itself with feminist research and theory.

All pics (except of Arto Jokinen) by me. Featured image (not visible in mobile theme) is from Hanna Ojala’s welcome speech.


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