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Javno predavanje prof. dr. Marje-Liise Honkasalo "Vulnerability matters"

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19. april 2023 ob 11:00 do 19. april 2023 ob 13:00
Dvorana štirih letnih časov, Novi trg 4

Raziskovalci temeljnega raziskovalnega projekta Vizionarske prakse v primerjalni perspektivi: antropološka študija imaginalnega (ARRS J6-3127) vas vljudno vabimo na javno predavanje, ki ga bo imela prof. dr. Marja-Liisa Honkasalo (Univerza v Helsinkih) in nosi naslov "Vulnerability matters".

Predavanje v angleškem jeziku bo v sredo, 19.4.2023, ob 11h v Dvorani štirih letnih časov ZRC SAZU, Novi trg 4, 2. nadstropje, v Ljubljani.


Vulnerability matters

The lecture draws on some 200 unsolicited letters sent into a Finnish anthropological research project on "Mind and the Other," after the project gained public and controversial visibility in the Finnish mediaThe project concerned itself with the extraordinary aspect of people's everyday experiences. Some letters described the intuitions of solitary people, the visions they saw or voices they heard, while others recounted vivid encounters with mysterious beings or dead relatives, friends or pets. These experiences registered across more than one sensory modality. In the lecture, I extrapolate from the letters' accounts of the extraordinary and inexplicable to ideas of mind and embodied morality in public political space. My background suggestion is that our bonds in what I call "thick life" quoting Elizabeth Povinelli, both with each other and the environment, are fraying -- a process accelerating with modernity. I take an anthropological interest to understand the 'extraordinary' or 'ungraspable' features as the mark of vulnerability. In my analysis the notion carries the phenomenological meaning of 'vulnus', a wound; simultaneously an inherent but unpredictable opening within the texture of life. 

       Most of the letters sent into the project came from 'ordinary secular Finns'. The writers were rarely healers, mystics, clairvoyants or participants in spiritual movements or wellbeing practices, though their experiences, as discussed, often set them on a path to help others. Many letter-writers wanted to find a scientific explanation for particular ineffable incidents. Others had 'always' accepted the ungraspable as part of life. Yet the majority wrote testimonies about social stigma that, according to them, was caused by biased scientific and pathologizing interpretations of the experiences.

       Rather than referring to the "uncanny", the talk uses the Finnish term the "ungraspable" (käsittämätön). In suggesting the kernel of an experience is "untouchable", the expression etymologically draws on  "grasp" or käsittää, which in Finnish conveys ideas of  "getting hold of", "including", "chasing down" and "comprehending."  As a term, it originates from a bodily gesture like touching or handling. As well as designating the incomprehensible, in ordinary use the term also implies that it is "simple-minded" people who report "ungraspable" experiences (a usage that determines my choice of the term). "Ungraspable" experiences are sensed, heard, seen and felt by the persons who experience them, and may only be "ungraspable" within a scientific frame of explanation.


Professor Marja-Liisa Honkasalo is an anthropologist and ethnographer of suffering. Her latest project is based at the Helsinki University of the Arts where, together with Live Artists, she researches 'Body and the Other – Lived Impossibilities', funded by the Kone Foundation. Having a background both in medicine and anthropology, she earlier worked as a Finnish Academy research fellow and a fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. She has been Professor of Medical anthropology at the University of Linköping, Sweden, University of Turku and a visiting Professor at the University of Rome, La Sapienza. In 2009, she became a recipient of Steve Polgar Professional Prize for medical anthropology, for the article "Grips and Ties. Agency, Uncertainty and Suffering."