Summer Seminar 2017 – Historical Consciousness

For descriptions of the workshops, please see below:

The 2017 ISHA summer seminar offers the following workshops, each of which seeks to attract approximately eight participants:

  1. Historical Consciousness in Education
  2. Historical Consciousness in Culture and Media
  3. Historical Consciousness in Place
  4. Historical Consciousness in Politics
  5. PhD Workshop


  1. Historical Consciousness in Education

Workshop leaders: Johanna Norppa & Tanja Taivalantti
Email: johanna.norppa(at); tanja.taivalantti(at)

Children are hardly blank slates as they begin to study history in school. They bring with them to the classroom both true and false historical preconceptions absorbed from their family, friends, books, games, etc. Strong preconceptions have a studied tendency to withstand the cognitive dissonance brought on by opposing facts, dismissing or distorting the lesson’s message rather than being replaced by new information. To overcome this, students need to become aware of the dissonance and make a conscious decision to abandon their erroneous preconception.

On the other hand, schools are among the most important builders of historical consciousness, the shaping of which is one of their stated goals. Since there are always political aspects to historical consciousness, on what level of decision making should the more controversial details of historical subject matter be decided, and how far should schools go in their aims of producing good citizens by way of affecting their historical consciousness?

  1. Historical Consciousness in Culture and Media

Workshop leaders: Miran Hamidulla & Petri Savolainen
Email: miran.hamidulla(at); petri.r.savolainen(at)

Historical fiction, though often presented as fact, has probably been the most important shaper of historical consciousness since the dawn of tribal myths, through Homer and Shakespeare and down to Downton Abbey. Yet all such fiction has some basis in facts, from which it draws its verisimilitude. This intermingling of history and story, transmitted, re-interpreted and repeated through various media over time, is the essence of what may be called historical culture. In this workshop, we may explore practically any aspect of historical consciousness which is not covered by the other workshops: those which are not connected to education, architecture, or location and are not overtly political. For example, you might make your presentation on the impact of a particular work of culture on the historical consciousness of a specific society, or even of an individual, or you might explore the effect of a whole genre or medium when it first appeared. As long as your point of view has something essentially to do with historical consciousness with regard to culture and/or media, your imagination is the limit

  1. Historical Consciousness in Place

Workshop leaders: Ted Hellsten & Atte Koreneff
Email: ted.hellsten(at); atte.koroneff(at)

Historical consciousness affects and is affected by places, whether on the scale of a room, a building, a city, a region or a country. Names, those of streets, for example, change over time according to the wants and needs of the rulers and of the people and carry a memory of these. Buildings and monuments represent the eras, ideas and architectural styles that created them, even when they are converted for different purposes.

The use of a historical name of a modern region can bring about traumatic memories and a sense of loss for people who can no longer call it home. One example of this is the former East Prussia, which is nowadays split between Russia, Poland and Lithuania, with the former principal city Königsberg renamed Kaliningrad. The interpretations and historical consciousness of different cities and areas change over time. Different people have different ideas of the meanings of these territories as some fade from the public historical consciousness whereas some remain driven by different actors or monuments dedicated to them. In the USA the remaining symbols of the Confederate states are slowly disappearing from official use due to public outcry, while in the private sphere free speech guarantees that aficionados of “the good ol’ days” will keep them around for the foreseeable future.

  1. Historical Consciousness in Politics

Workshop leaders: Onni Kari & Leonard Wilhelmus
Email: onni.kari(at); leonard.wilhelmus(at)

Historical consciousness forms the basis of all politics. Every political movement, every political ideology is based on some understanding of history. For example, Marxism is built on the assumption that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” History is used to legitimize one’s own actions and to cast blame on the actions of others. Historical consciousness is always there, whether in the form of official propaganda used by a totalitarian regime, or more casually in everyday political debate.

The importance of historical consciousness seems to be growing and the idea of “the end of history” fading. Political disputes are fueled by historical accusations, by references to history. An obvious example is the rise of the populist right-wing movements across the globe. The opposition to such movements is often articulated in the form of anti-fascism, thus building a historical linkage between the far-right movements of the 1930s and the populists of the current times. The populist right-wing usually denies this linkage: instead, they try to prove that they just want to restore the national democracy and the national borders, which used to be the common sense until lately.


  1. PhD Workshop

Workshop Leaders: Sanna Supponen and Ilkka Kärrylä
Email: sanna.supponen(at); ilkka.karryla(at)

This workshop is designed for PhD students (and Masters students who are planning to apply for a PhD program), and topics don’t have to follow the overall theme of the seminar. During the first part (Wednesday) of the workshop, participants will present current topics or questions in their dissertation work (max. 20min), and discuss them with fellow participants. The presentations can concern for example methodological foundations, source materials, and relevance of the new historical understandings derived from these works. MA students can present their research plan. Abstracts will be required in advance.

The second part of the workshop (Friday) will focus on general challenges during PhD process, such as time managing, writing process, or how to give a good conference presentation. Participants will have advice from the guest speaker and can share their best practices with each other. Exact topic(s) will be decided according to the wishes of the participants.

The aim of the PhD workshop is to get new ideas and views from fellow doctoral students from other fields of history and different countries. This can serve as a cornerstone and prospect of constructive international collaboration among the ISHA alumni members, predominantly its PhD candidates.