Mighty Forces of Life Symposium

Mighty Forces of Life: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on Transformative Moments and Crossroads

June 6-8, 2022

University of Helsinki, Metsätalo (room 4) 


Battles over birth – Finnish birth culture in transition (Kone Foundation, 2020-25, University of Helsinki) led by Kaisa Kuurne

Learning from new religion and spirituality (Academy of Finland, 2019-23, University of Turku) lead by Terhi Utriainen

Centre of Excellence in Research on Ageing and Care, Migration, care and ageing (Academy of Finland, 2018-25, University of Helsinki) led by Sirpa Wrede  

Nutrition, expertise and media - MEX (Academy of Finland, 2019-22, Tampere University) led by Piia Jallinoja

This interdisciplinary symposium discusses the mighty forces of life that set something transformative in motion. It addresses various social, cultural and material aspects of transformative moments and crossroads in which life itself is in action, breaking the existing orders. How do we confront birth, death and other life-altering crises? How do we make sense of large historic turning points like global pandemics or war? 

More specifically the symposium addresses the following topics. How do we endure, navigate and signify liminal spaces between different identities and social orders? How are the transformations more-than-human? What kind of impact do powerful affects, drives to attain and hold power, money and politics have in organizing our lives? What kind of ways of knowing and narrating transformation and healing affect our culture and society, and which ones of them are seen as legitimate? How do symbolic, ritual and spiritual engagements help people confront the mighty forces of life – were their level personal, cultural, social or global?

The symposium consists of two plenary talks, five paper sessions and joint discussions. 

Want to take part? The event is open to public and free of charge.

SIGN UP by May 30, 202 by sending an email:

When signing up, please, specify which days you will attend and whether you will attend the Monday evening event at Hietsun Paviljonki.



Monday June 6, 2022

13.00 Welcoming words
13.20 - 15.00 The first plenary session: Olli Pyyhtinen: Restoring Things to Life: How We Come into Being, Change, and Perish
Comments by Kaisa Kuurne
Discussion, chaired by Piia Jallinoja

Coffee break

15.30-17.30 Session 1: Liminal Spaces

18.15 - After work wine and snacks at Hietsun Paviljonki

Tuesday June 7, 2022 

9-10.30 Second plenary session: Brenda Matthjissen: Ritual worldmaking: Speculative experiments and embodied practices at the beginning and the end of life 

Comments by Terhi Utriainen

Discussion, chaired by Sirpa Wrede

Coffee break

10.45-12.45 Session 2: Affect, attachments and Power

12.45-14 Lunch break

14-16 Session 3: Money and politics in the ordering of life

Coffee break

16.15-18.15 Session 4: Ways of knowing and narrating change in life

Wednesday June 8, 2022

9.30-12 Session 5: Ritual and Spiritual Engagements

Final Panel discussion

SESSION 1: Liminal Spaces (Chair: Kaisa Kuurne)

Kaisa Kuurne: Not quite from this world: Birthing as a luminous moment

Elina Vuola: Women’s Shield: The Birth-Giving Mother of God and Birth-Giving Catholic and Orthodox Women.

Outi Hakola: Transformative Journey to Alleviate Fear of Death in End-of-Life Documentary Films

Auli Vähäkangas: Continuing bonds after spousal loss

Laura Huttunen: Violent absences, haunting presences: The liminality of human disappearances

SESSION 2: Affect and power (Chair: Keiju Vihreäsalo)

Keiju Vihreäsalo: At the crossroads of experience and structure: Shame and medical rationale in narratives of obstetric violence

Anna Leppo & Eeva Itkonen: Coming to terms with the dangers of childbirth – institutionalisation of fear and desire 

Tiina Suopajärvi: Resistance and the transformative possibilities of affects in academia

SESSION 3: Money and politics in the ordering of life  (Chair: Sirpa Wrede)

Sirpa Wrede: Social ordering of life  

Emilie Larsson: The closure of a rural municipality’s maternity ward: Risk, depoliticization and peripheralization

Johanna Sarlio-Nieminen: Negotiating the urgency of birth – midwives, birthgivers and the constraints of leaned hospital birth

Linda Haapajärvi: Fixing the final journey. Varieties of transnational death, money and belonging 

Anastasya Novkunskaya: Bureaucracy vs. money: institutional logics dominating the field of maternity care in Russia

SESSION 4: Ways of knowing and narrating change in life  (Chair: Piia Jallinoja)

Piia Jallinoja: Eating right, identity and visions of better society

Mikko Jauho: Transformative experiences and experiential knowledge: contestation and institutionalization

Marjaana Jones: Narrative competence in the context of health and illness – exploring potentials and dangers

Helena Kupari: Spiritual transformation and secular culture: Orthodox Christian conversion narratives of Finnish cultural workers

SESSION 5: Ritual and spiritual engagements (Chair: Terhi Utriainen)

Maija Butters: Spirituality of Aesthetics: A way to talk and do death

Johanna Sumiala: Mighty Forces of Death - Ritual Transformations in the Face of Mediated War

Igor Mikeshin: "Seven evil spirits": bodily relapse and spiritual collapse in a Russian Baptist ministry

Linda Annunen: Singing bowl sound healing and Covid19: Ritual creativity in times of social isolation

Terhi Utriainen: How to understand ritual responses to forces of life in modernity?

Past Events 

Panel discussion (in Finnish): "Suomalaisen synnytyskulttuurin murros: Synnytyskokemukset, synnyttäjien liikehdintä ja äitiyshuollon haasteet" with PI, D.Soc.Sc. Kaisa Kuurne, prof. Sirpa Wrede & MD Tiina Taka-Eilola, lead by D.Soc.Sc. Keiju Vihreäsalo. The Annual Sociological Conference, University of Helsinki (online). 11.-12.3.2021.

Book Talk. Barbara Katz Rothman: Biomedical Empire. Lessions Learned from the Covid-19 Pandemic. Online event, 29.4.2021.

Multidisciplinary Webinar (in Finnish): "Synnyttäjien hoidon jatkuvuudet ja katkokset" with D.Soc.Sc. Anna Leppo, doctoral researcher, psychologist Mirjam Raudasoja, and prof. Pekka Louhiala, lead by docent, D.Soc.Sc. Kaisa Kuurne. Online event, 29.11.2021.