Interview of the Month: The Association for Gender Studies in Finland (02/2017)

Every month, for you, EPWS presents the characteristics and activities of one Member Association.

Read all the previous Interviews with our Members here


Our member for February is the Finnish association SUNS, The Association for Gender Studies in Finland (Sukupuolentutkimuksen seura/Sällskapet for genusforskning).


For SUNS, Tuija Pulkkinen, president of SUNS and professor at the University of Helsinki, has accepted to answer the EPWS questionnaire.

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EPWS: If you wanted to describe your association in one sentence, what would you say?

T.P.: SUNS is a Gender Studies association based in Finland that brings together those interested in research and teaching in gender studies, and more generally in feminist research.

EPWS: What are the objectives of your association?

T.P.: SUNS promotes Gender Studies at Finnish universities. The association has two main objectives:

*it produces an academic quarterly journal Sukupuolentutkimus/Genusforskning, which publishes original gender studies research in Finnish and Swedish, and
*it organizes an annual national conference on gender studies, Sukupuolentutkimuksen päivät in November. The conference rotates between Finnish Universities, and generally 200-300 participants are attending it, with presentations in parallel panels, and 2-3 keynotes. Presentations are given in Finnish, Swedish, and English. In recent years the conferences have also increasingly attracted participants from outside Finland.

More generally SUNS:
*works for better conditions for gender studies in the Finnish universities and promotes co-operation between the gender studies communities in different universities
*takes part in public discussions about research and political decision-making concerning the conditions of research

SUNS also annually awards the prize for the best MA thesis in Gender studies, and the prize for the best article of the year in the journal Sukupuolentutkimus.


EPW: what is the history of SUNS, in a few words?

T.P.: SUNS was founded in 1988. During SUNS’s existence, gender studies have grown from being a group of interested activist scholars in different fields of feminist research into an academic society representing the discipline of gender studies, which now provides BA, MA and PhD degrees, and is taught in all Finnish research universities. At the same time SUNS continues to represents the large multidisciplinary community of feminist scholars in Finland working in different fields. SUNS has organized Gender studies annual conferences since 1989, and the annual event has now firmly established itself and attracts participation from multiple disciplinary areas. SUNS also has a wide membership base outside the universities. The journal is read by non-academics and ex-academics interested in feminism, and it also entertains a lively relationship with new activism within the ever-changing feminist agenda.

EPWS: Could you explain the organization of your association?

T.P.: The board, elected annually at the SUNS conference, consists of the representatives of the Gender studies programmes in the Finnish universities. In addition there is a student representative, as well as the representative of the journal, Sukupuolentutkimus.
The journal’s editors-in-chief are elected for two years, and the journal’s physical address rotates through the universities accordingly. The president, the secretary, and the treasurer are also annually elected and usually work within one university, which is currently the University of Helsinki.

The association is funded mainly by individual membership fees which include subscriptions for the journal Sukupuolentutkimus. Each year the conference and the journal also receive funding from the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies.

EPWS: What are its recent achievements?

T. P.: We consider the growth of the field of gender studies and feminist research in Finnish universities, as well as the status of gender studies as a discipline among other disciplines, established through the journal and the regular large conference, to be our greatest achievements to date.

SUNS has also recently successfully worked to promote the formal recognition of gender studies within the research funding organizations. This aims to solve the problem for those who apply for funding and wish to be assessed by experts in the same field. The Academy of Finland added Gender Studies as a category in its list of disciplines in 2010, and many other funding organizations have recently followed this example. SUNS has worked actively to achieve this.


EPWS: What is your agenda for the coming months?

T.P..: Finnish universities are currently undergoing many significant organizational changes and SUNS tries to find some practical ways of organizing co-operation between new gender studies MA programs in different universities and of bringing together doctoral students. We are currently in a new situation in which the former national doctoral programs, which brought together doctoral researchers working in the same field across Finland, recently ended and new, university-based, organizations have taken precedence.

We have also just started a project of archiving the history of the association and hope to complete that work by the summer.
The next issue of the journal (1/17) is in the process of being published, and the editorial team in Turku is working on the next three issues of this year. The SUNS conference in 2017 will be organized at the university of Jyväskylä. The theme will be “time,” and the call for panels will be published soon.

EPWS: Are you collaborating with other EPWS members? 

T.P.: SUNS co-operates with other gender studies associations internationally, and with other Finnish associations which promote the status of women in research, such as the Helsinki Association of Women Researchers.

EPWS: What do you expect from EPWS? In what ways can it help you develop your action?

T. P: SUNS makes use of the documentation that EPWS produces on the position of women in research and academic institutions. SUNS and many of its individual members are involved in public discussion of the role of women in science, and EPWS can help by providing material for argumentation.


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