Research

I am first and foremost a sociologist of religion, but I have also written about and taught social theory and social research methods. My substantive focus is the role of religion in contemporary societies, especially as manifested in the media, politics, and public controversies. My area expertise is Finland and the Nordic countries, but I am very keen on developing a continental view through my editorship of the Journal of Religion in Europe (2011-2021) and a planned book series ‘Religion in Europe’ for Bloomsbury Academic.

Earlier in my career, I studied New Religious Movements, especially the public reactions to them. My PhD was on Satanism in Finnish news media, and I continued to develop the perspective on religion and social problems construction in my later work. I also published several articles and a popular book on Wicca.

Later my focus turned to religion and social theory, both in the sense of theories of religion and theories of religious change. I was especially keen to develop an approach that applies discourse theory/analysis to the sociology of religion. I combined this with perspectives from the tradition of critical social theory (esp. ideology critique), leading me to devise an approach which I call Critical Discursive Study of Religion (CDSR). Lately I have applied this approach to the study of religion and politics in Finland . I lead the Academy of Finland-funded project ‘The Religious Legitimation of Politics and the Political Legitimation of Religion in Finland (LegitRel)’ from 2020 to 2024. A three-year project, funded by the Kone Foundation, ‘Religious Literacy in Action (RELIACT): An Experimental Inquiry into the Impact of Religious Education Courses in Finnish Upper Secondary Schools’ will start in the beginning of 2023

In addition to religion, I have published on social theory, heavy metal music, youth, media, and national identity.

I have supervised seven PhDs to completion (6 at UCL and 1 at UH) and currently supervise five PhD students (5 at UH, and 1 at University of Eastern Finland), working on topics ranging from the analysis of the constructions of religion in the Finnish asylum process to extreme metal music as religious and political protest in Iran and Saudi-Arabia. I am happy to consider prospective students in any topics falling broadly under my areas of expertise.