In Finnish

Otsikko Marja-Liisa Honkasalo

Professor of Culture, Health and Well Being at the University of Turku

Valokuva Marja-Liisa Honkasalo, © Lauri Hannus

Photo: Lauri Hannus /

Health and Well Being at the University of Turku

My research interests and topic has always concerned the relationship between nature and culture. As a medical doctor and anthropologist, I have approached this enigma in various ethnographic domains: most notably illness, the body and death. My theoretical interest in the questions of illness and the body commenced with semiotics and thus my Ph.D. thesis at the University of Helsinki was on cultural meanings of women's symptoms. Secondly, later, I have enriched my theoretical framework with the phenomenology of the body and published a series of articles on the experience of chronic pain. In contemporary society, the body is understood more as an artifact and less as natural than ever before. In my research, I argue that the body and its illnesses are "done" by a variety of cultural practices, including medical technology. In order to open the concept of "doing", we need a theoretical apparatus elaborated from Science and Technology Studies as well as from what is called "new materialism".

My third area of interest is gender and death. I have conducted research on suicide as a cultural phenomenon and in my latest ethnography, on mothers' attitudes towards children's severe illness and death. The latest ethnography has been carried out in coastal West Africa. All the previous research has been conducted in Finland, in my native home country.

I have been in charge of three, large inter-disciplinary research projects on the themes of culture, the body and illness, all funded by the Academy of Finland. I have written about social suffering and more recently, about heart disease in the cultural context (Reikä Sydämessä, Vastapaino 2008). Currently, I am leading three research projects, 'Multicultural communication in health care', 'Vulnerable Agency', and 'Mind and the Other'.

Before joining the University of Turku in 2011, I worked as Professor of Medical anthropology at the University of Linköping, Sweden (since 2006). As Docent in Medical anthropology as well as in Sociology at the University of Helsinki, I have taught culture and health and have worked as a supervisor for altogether twelve Ph.D. students. In addition, I have previously been a visiting scholar at Harvard University, and a visiting Professor at Universitā degli Studi di Roma, La Sapienza (Italy). In 2010 I was awarded with the internationally distinguished Steve Polgar Professional Prize, for the article "Grips and Ties. Agency, Uncertainty and Suffering in North Karelia." Please see above for my most recent publications.


Marja-Liisa Honkasalo, professor
University of Turku
Center for the Study of Culture and Health
20014 University of Turku

phone +358 2 333 7920, +358 40 194 7870

Turun yliopisto

Research Projects

Research collaborators

  • Anu Laukkanen
  • Sanna Raudaskoski
  • Anna Leppo
  • Kaisa Ketokivi
  • Marjaana Lindeman
  • Annika Svedholm
  • Kaarina Koski
  • Susanne Ådahl
  • Kirsi Kanerva
  • Jyrki Korkeila