Eira Juntti, Ph.D
Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy
P.O. Box 35 (Ylistönmäentie 33)
FI-40014 University of Jyväskylä
Research interests: Gender and Nationalism
Development of the Concept ‘man’ in Finnish in the late 19th and early 20th Century
This research project looks at the development of the concept ‘mies’ (man) in Finnish from the mid-19th century through the early 20th century. The starting point is the claim that the concept ‘mies’ (man) was central in the process of creating the new Finnish nation in the 19th century. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that the concept ‘mies’ did not stay unchanged.
The study builds on my research on the concept ‘nainen’ (woman) in the early 19th century in Finland. In my dissertation Gender and Nationalism in Finland in the Early 19th Century, I argued that the concept ‘nainen’ (woman) as it is understood in Finnish today – an adult female person – developed in the 19th century. It evolved primarily from the concept ‘nainen’/‘waimo’ (woman/wife; the words ‘nainen’ and ‘waimo’ were used interchangeably) which signified an adult female who was married or what I called a ‘wifely person’. The new concept ‘nainen’, which began to be used in the 1850s in Finnish newspapers, did not signify a married adult woman, just an adult woman – whether married or single. ‘Nainen’ also lacked specific class connotations, it was purposely more egalitarian, even if based on middle-class ideals of femininity. ‘Nainen’ was envisioned as an educated woman, but educated to be a good mother and a good caretaker in society, epitomizing the virtues of social motherhood, which became the ideal for women in Europe and North America in the mid and late 19th century.
Given the emergence of the new concept ‘nainen’, the question this research project asks is did similar shifts happen to the concept ‘mies’? I will examine the meaning of the concept ‘mies’ and the possible changes in how the concept has been defined in the late 19th and early 20th century. I am especially interested in normative shifts that might have taken place during this period.
In my dissertation I argued that the Finnish nationalist discourse in the 1840s and 1850s was gendered. In focusing on the concept ‘mies’, one of the underlying questions I have is how are the definitions of ‘mies’ connected to the process of creating the new Finnish nation: what kind of a nation, what kind of a gender order was being constructed?