Category Archives: General

The Happiness Track in Academia

by Elisa Uusimäki

Dr Emma Seppälä tackles modern myths of success in her recent book The Happiness Track (HarperOne, 2016). Seppälä’s work is highly relevant for academic communities: she has a PhD in psychology and works as a science director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and as a co-director of the Yale College Emotional Intelligence Project. In her book, Seppälä identifies six myths of success that are prevalent in contemporary western culture:

  1. Never stop accomplishing.
  2. You can’t have success without stress.
  3. Persevere at all costs and work to exhaustion.
  4. Focus on your niche: by focusing exclusively on your field and becoming an expert in it, you’ll know how to best solve its problems.
  5. Play to your strengths – do what you do best and stay away from your weak areas.
  6. Look out for yourself and your interests so you can successfully outperform the competitions.

Sounds familiar? Probably, but be critical of such claims. Drawing on recent research in psychology, Seppälä questions the value of these myths. In order to provide a healthy and viable option, she proposes six sustainable keys to happiness and success:

  1. Stop chasing the future and live/work in the present moment: you are most productive (and charismatic) if you focus on the task or conversation at hand.
  2. Step out of overdrive and tap into your resilience: you’ll reduce stress if you train your nervous system to bounce back from setbacks. Thus take a breath and ease into your body.
  3. Manage your stamina and save mental energy by remaining calm and centred instead of engaging in exhausting thoughts and emotions. Do things that make you feel positive, turn what you are doing into something you want to be doing, remember the big picture, practise gratitude, and detach from work when you are not working.
  4. Get more done by doing more or nothing: idleness, fun, and irrelevant interests make you more creative and innovative. They are needed for breakthroughs. Thus diversify your activities, make time for silence, and engage in play.
  5. Enjoy a successful relationship … with yourself. Be good to yourself and avoid excessive self-criticism. We learn from mistakes. Talents and strengths can be developed – the human brain is built to learn new things.
  6. Understand the kindness edge and strengthen your compassion muscle. Self-focus creates blind spots, ruins relationships, makes you weak in the face of failure, and damages health and emotional well-being, while supportive relationships with colleagues increase loyalty and commitment.

Seppälä’s theses are obviously helpful for us in academia who struggle with several on-going projects and whose work is often characterised by the bizarre combination of stress, freedom, and creativity. For us in the humanities, a field that has long been known for solitary work, it is also good to be reminded of the power and beauty of working in a community towards a common goal.

Vauvoja ja väitöskirjoja

Vuosi 2016 tarjosi huippuyksikössä paitsi tutkimuksen myös perhe-elämän huippukohtia.

Vuonna 2016 huippuyksikön tutkijoiden Katri Antinin, Sanna Saaren ja Miika Tuckerin väitöskirjat jäivät hetkeksi taka-alalle – varsin onnellisista syistä. ”Lapsen saaminen on ollut uskomaton elämys!” kiteyttää Tucker, marraskuussa syntyneen poikavauvan isä. Tuckerin perheen esikoinen on huippuyksikön piirissä viime vuonna syntyneistä vauvoista tuorein. Saaren tytär syntyi maaliskuussa ja Antinin tammikuussa.

Kaikkien kolmen tuoreen vanhemman kokemus on, että lapsen myötä väitöskirjan kirjoittamiseen käytettävä aika on vähentynyt mutta samaan aikaan työskentely on tehostunut. ”Ennen lasta saatoin lukea useamman tunnin kotona töiden jälkeen, mutta nyt se aika kuluu lapsen kanssa ja kotitöiden hoitamisessa”, sanoo Miika Tucker. ”Toisaalta tämä on ainakin jonkin verran patistanut minua käyttämään työaikaani tehokkaammin työpaikalla”, hän pohdiskelee. Myös Katri Antin kokee, että aika on uudessa elämäntilanteessa kortilla. ”Mutta se ei ole ollenkaan huono asia, koska olen mielestäni aikaisempaa keskittyneempi ja tehokkaampi työssäni”, hän toteaa. ”Vaikka keskeneräinen väitöskirja on aina jossain määrin ahdistava asia, nautin nykyään enemmän siitä, että saan istua alas rauhassa ja tehdä jotain keskeytyksettä.”

Katri Antin ja Sanna Saari palasivat kumpikin töihin lapsen ollessa noin vuoden ikäinen. Molemmat ovat hyödyntäneet tutkijan työn mahdollistamia joustoja. Antin ja hänen puolisonsa ovat molemmat osittaisella hoitovapaalla ja työskentelevät vuorotellen. Näin lapsi voi olla vielä kotihoidossa, vaikka molemmat vanhemmat käyvät töissä. Myös Saari ja hänen puolisonsa ovat suunnitelleet työ- ja loma-ajat siten, että lapsi voi olla mahdollisimman pitkään kotona ennen päivähoidon aloittamista. Miika Tuckerin perheessä vanhempainvapaalla on tällä hetkellä Tuckerin puoliso, tutkija hänkin. Lapsen syntymän jälkeen Tucker on ottanut entistä enemmän vastuuta kotitöistä mutta se ei tunnu raskaalta: ”Koen nykyään työpaikalla olemisen hyvänä vaihteluna kotitöihin, joihin kuluu yleensä tunti tai pari aina illalla. Puolisollani ei ole tätä vaihtelun mahdollisuutta samassa määrin mitä minulla, mutta yritän järjestää myös hänelle tilaisuuksia päästä kodin ulkopuolelle harrastamaan”, sanoo Tucker.

Sekä Katri Antin että Sanna Saari korostavat, että vanhempainvapaa toi väitöskirjan tekoon nostetta: ”Motivaatio väitöskirjan tekemiseen kasvoi hurjan paljon kun työ oli vuoden verran taka-alalla. Ehkä sitä alitajuisesti työsti lapsenhoidon lomassa,” pohtii Saari. Miika Tuckerilla ei ole takanaan yhtä pitkää taukoa mutta lapsi toi hänellekin mukanaan uudenlaista kannustetta työhön: ”Lapsen synnyttyä koen, että minulla on suurempi vastuu tukea perhettäni taloudellisesti. Pidän työstäni ja haluan jatkaa tällä alalla, ja se on mahdollista vain, jos hoidan työni mahdollisimman tunnollisesti.”

Työ ja vapaa-aika on kolmikon mielestä nykyisin varsin helppoa erottaa toisistaan: ”Koen, että tutkimuksen tekeminen on minulle lepoa kotona olosta ja kotona olo lasten kanssa on niin kokonaisvaltaista, että työstä tulee levättyä väkisinkin”, sanoo Saari.”On mahdotonta hoitaa taaperoa ja näppäillä tietokonetta samaan aikaan”, kiteyttää puolestaan Antin.

Tutkimustyö on nuorille väitöskirjan tekijöille ehtinyt jo muodostua osaksi omaa identiteettiä. Vanhemmuuden myötä tämä osa minuutta on entistä merkityksellisempi. ”Äidiksi tulemisen myötä tutkijan identiteetistä on tullut eri tavalla tärkeä, sillä tutkimus on elämänalue, joka kuuluu minulle, ja saan toteuttaa tutkijana omia lahjojani ja haaveitani”, toteaa Katri Antin.

Jutun kirjoittajan Hanna Vanosen poika syntyi kesäkuussa 2016.

Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Hong Kong Workshop on Textual Change in the Hebrew Bible

by Ville Mäkipelto

Textual scholars often work with small textual variants and single incidents of change. A detailed analysis of the evidence is important; however, there is an increasing need to understand the broader processes of textual change in the context of ancient Judaism. Could the evolutionary theory, systems approach, or Star Wars saga illuminate the textual history of the Hebrew Bible?

Hong Kong skyline as seen from the Victoria Peak (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).

At the end of May, from 26th to 28th, team 3 gathered in Hong Kong with the desire to sketch a broader picture of change in the textual and editorial history of the Hebrew Bible by applying new analogues and theoretical frameworks. The workshop was hosted by Francis Borchardt in the Lutheran Theological Seminary. In addition to Team 3 members and affiliates, we had the delight of hosting three brilliant guests: Sara J. Milstein, Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the University of British Columbia; Ron Hendel, Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies at the University of California Berkeley; and Holger Strutwolf, director of the Institute for New Testament Textual research in Münster.

The participants of the workshop were asked to prepare a paper in which they seek to explain the broader phenomena of textual transmission in the ancient world. We were encouraged to go beyond conventional models of textual change and find new ways of understanding the phenomenon from other fields and processes of change. Unconventional and original ideas were encouraged, and traditional ways of thinking were discouraged. The papers were circulated beforehand; thus, most of the time at the workshop was used for discussing and evaluating the new insights together. This proved out to be a constructive and fruitful way of working.

The guest speakers of the workshop brought important perspectives to the discussions. In her paper, Sara J. Milstein applied insights from cladistics—a tool for classification and categorization of species in biology—into textual studies. Her paper demonstrated that cladistics can serve as a helpful model for understanding the common ancestries of biblical and other ancient Near Eastern texts. With the tools of cladistics, she discovered new traits from the transmission of the so-called flood myth. Continuing in a similar vein, Ron Hendel illustrated that the field of textual studies can benefit from the tools used in evolutionary biology to map “communities of descent”. He noted the similarities of building stemmas in both fields, illustrating his point by comparing stemmas such as the vertebrate cladogram and the textual transmission of Exodus. Responding to recent nominalist and postmodern critics, Hendel insisted that—much like studying the evolution of various life forms on earth—studying the historical relationships of various texts within their larger communities of descent constitutes an important part of textual research. The third guest of the workshop, Holger Strutwolf, provided insights from New Testament textual criticism by exploring the transmission of the so-called “western text” of Acts. Drawing from exhaustive statistical and qualitative analysis, Strutwolf illuminated the creative changes observable in this “living text”. In the discussion, many parallels were found between these processes of transmission and the transmission of some traditions of the Hebrew scriptures (e.g. the Samaritan Pentateuch).

Many students and faculty members of the Lutheran Theological Seminary also took part in the discussions of the workshop (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).

The papers from Team 3 researchers constituted a diverse collection of insights into textual changes in Hebrew scriptures. Mika Pajunen applied perspectives from hurricane formation and river deltas to the transmission of traditions in Second Temple Judaism. Ville Mäkipelto modeled the processes of textual transmission as a complex adaptive system—a recent theoretical framework within the interdisciplinary field of system studies. Reinhard Müller formulated theses related to the nature of editorial developments in the Hebrew Bible and compared these editorial processes to the growth of an unattended forest. Christoph Levin addressed the dilemma of changeability and sacredness of Hebrew Bible texts by elaborating on the editorial process of Fortschreibung. Tuukka Kauhanen offered more precise probability concepts for decision making in textual studies with insights from philosophical probability theories—especially the Bayesian framework. Timo Tekoniemi illustrated convincingly that there are several parallel phenomena in the editing of the Star Wars saga and the editorial processes of the Hebrew Bible. Juha Pakkala presented a classification of the diverse editorial processes visible in the documented evidence of editing. Finally, Francis Borchardt explored ancient models of publication as found in a plethora of texts from the Second Temple Period and discussed their implications for understanding textual change.

Participants enjoying dim sum lunch (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).

Hong Kong turned out to be a key player in the success of the workshop. The location of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in the middle of a beautiful subtropical forest provided an experiential framework for the title of the workshop. The timetable allowed for some short excursions to places such as the Victoria Peak, Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, and Che Kung Temple. The participants were especially grateful for the rich food culture of Hong Kong consisting of, for example, delicious Michelin-star awarded dim sum, varieties of roasted meat, traditional Chinese lunch, and unique street food.

The insights gained from the workshop will hopefully affect the way we do research in the future. It is clear that new interdisciplinary insights and collaboration are needed to better understand the broader phenomena of textual change in the Hebrew Bible. There will be no single collected volume from the workshop, but some of the papers and models will eventually find their way into various publications.

Learning from a local scribe (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).
Lutheran Theological Seminary in Hong Kong (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).
Beautiful garden at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).

 

 

 

New book “Sahidic 1 Samuel – A Daughter Version of the Septuagint 1 Reigns” (V&R, 2017)

Elina Perttilä (2017) Sahidic 1 Samuel – A Daughter Version of the Septuagint 1 ReignsDe Septuaginta Investigationes 8. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Elina Perttilä’s study considers the Sahidic version of 1 Samuel as a translation and how it may best be used in Greek textual criticism. The first aim is to examine the translation technique of the Sahidic translator. The second aim is to analyze the affiliations between the Sahidic manuscripts and the affiliations between the Sahidic version and Greek traditions. This translation-technical study will allow a more careful and accurate citation of the Sahidic version within the critical apparatus of the Greek text.

For more information and to order the book, please visit Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

CSTT Youtube-channel + new “video”-section

As you may have seen already, the CSTT now has its own Youtube channel, where we’ll showcase the latest biblical and related research to the wider Finnish public. You can reach the Youtube channel by clicking on the youtube2 button in the website’s upper-left corner.vThe videos will also be displayed in our new “video”-section on our website (see left-side menu > ‘Videot’).

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Screenshot of the CSTT Youtube channel.

We hope that these videos — so far all in Finnish — may be useful for high school teaching and to engage high school pupils with current research in biblical studies and related fields! So far two videos have been posted online, one with Saana Svärd and one with Juha Pakkala.

Please tell us below in the comment-section what you think about the videos and what you’d like to see to be changed in terms of format!

The Life of the Dead

Written by Anne Katrine de Hemmer Gudme

In late October the CSTT co-hosted a workshop on mortuary ritual together with the REECR. The workshop was a cross-disciplinary gathering, where scholars working within the fields of archaeology, religious studies and biblical studies could discuss aspects of mortuary ritual practices, such as funerary rituals, mourning, ancestor worship and other kinds of death-related ritual behaviour.

The two-day program consisted of eleven presentations by researchers working on contemporary thanatology (death studies) and ritual, the archaeology of death and mortuary ritual, and mortuary ritual in ancient texts. The workshop was an opportunity for scholars working in religious studies, archaeology and biblical studies to exchange ideas, material and methodologies and throughout the two days the discussion was lively, open and engaged.

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Helen Dixon presenting her research during the workshop, together with session chair Jutta Jokiranta (photo: Anne Katrine de Gudme Hemmer).

During the workshop it quickly became clear that although the presentations covered a timespan of almost 3000 years and the case-studies came from places as far apart as the Levant and Karelia in Eastern Finland there were many common denominators and aspects that kept appearing. The importance of space and materiality in relation to mortuary ritual was apparent both in contemporary and ancient practices. In many cases mortuary ritual aims to create presence out of absence and this is achieved by strategic interaction with objects and places. Another aspect that was central to many of the examples was the status changes that the dead undergo in mortuary ritual as they are transformed from corpses to the recently deceased and to venerated ancestors. It was apparent that the life of the dead in the sphere of mortuary ritual is surprisingly dynamic and changeable.

In the very first presentation on the first day of the workshop Professor Terhi Utriainen from the University of Helsinki introduced the concept of the ritual subjunctive mode. The ritual subjunctive, which was originally proposed by the American religious studies scholar Jonathan Z. Smith, is an ‘as-if’ mode of behaviour that combines the ways things actually are with the ways people would like them to be. This concept of ritual as an idealized version of the world turned out to be a very fruitful category to apply to several of the case-studies presented at the workshop. In tombs, in texts and in ritual practices the dead are often presented as peaceful, powerful and content and perhaps most important of all they are accessible. In this way, mortuary ritual enables continued social interaction with the dead so that although the living die, the dead live on – at least for as long as they are commemorated and their presence is ritually enacted.

The papers presented at the workshop will be revised and published by the Finnish Exegetical Society in a volume edited by Dr. Kirsi Valkama and Professor Anne Katrine de Hemmer Gudme. The book is expected to come out in 2018.

Conference Reflections on “Religion and Empire in the First Millennium BCE Levant” (Beirut, 22-25 October 2016)

Laura Wickström

Laura Wickström works as coordinator at FIME’s office in Beirut October 2015 – November 2016. She is a doctoral student at Åbo Akademi University and holds a Master of Arts degree in comparative religion and currently specializes in Islam and ecology within the Department of Comparative Religion.

The conference Religion and Empire in the First Millennium BCE Levant took place in Beirut, Lebanon, in October 2016. The three-day conference with excursions was jointly organized by the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence in “Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions” at the University of Helsinki (CSTT), the Finnish Institute in the Middle East (FIME), and the Department of History and Archaeology at the American University of Beirut (AUB). Continue reading Conference Reflections on “Religion and Empire in the First Millennium BCE Levant” (Beirut, 22-25 October 2016)

We’re hiring! New research positions at the CSTT (and others)

The CSTT is seeking enthusiastic candidates for several fixed-term positions of University researchers, Postdoctoral researchers and Doctoral students. The university and postdoctoral researcher positions are for periods ranging from one to three years. The period of the doctoral student positions may range from one to four years.

For more information on how to apply, please visit the University of Helsinki website. The deadline for the application is Sunday 18 September 2016.

It should also be noted that our cooperation partner, the Centre of Excellence in Reason and Religious Recognition, also has various research positions open. To see them follow the same link above.

Hämmentävä Torinon käärinliina -näyttely

Teksti: Elina Perttilä ja Kirsi Valkama

Vuonna 2010 koottu ja muutamassa seurakunnassa Suomessa kiertänyt Torinon käärinliina -näyttely oli maaliskuussa esillä Roihuvuoren kirkossa Helsingissä. Lähdimme katsomaan paljon mainostettua ”aitoa kopiota” Torinon käärinliinasta. Ainoana ennakkotietona oli Kirkko ja kaupunki -lehden (8/2016, s. 22–23) artikkeli, jossa mainittiin, että näyttely ei ota kantaa Torinon käärinliinan aitouteen. Continue reading Hämmentävä Torinon käärinliina -näyttely