Symposium: Culture, Suicide, and the Human Condition (Hki)

Culture, Suicide, and the Human Condition
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
Fabianinkatu 24A, Helsinki
February 14 -16, 2008

Viimeisin updeitattu ohjelma ja posteri avautuu sivulla, uusia tapahtumia.

Huomatkaa ennakkoilmoittautuminen!

The aim of this interdisciplinary symposium is to discuss suicide from historical and cultural perspectives. We shall address the following questions:
1. How is the definition of suicide based on western religious and philosophical ideas?
2. How is suicide defined and understood within various cosmologies across cultures?
3. How are culture, nature, and society intertwined in our understanding of suicide?
4. How is suicide intertwined with global, social and political problems?
5. How do the western ideas of the relationship between self and society, embedded in social research on suicide, cause biases for research in non-western cultures?
The workshop brings together scholars from the field of the humanities, social sciences, and psychiatry for discussions and establishment of an international research network in the area.

Thursday, February 14
10 –10:15 Opening
University of Helsinki Main Building, Lecture Hall 12
Professor Juha Sihvola (Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies)

10:15 – 11:45 Plenary Session
University of Helsinki Main Building, Lecture Hall 12
Professor María Cátedra (Universidad Complutense de Madrid):
When it is worth the trouble to die – The cultural valuation of suicide
11:45 – 13:30 Lunch break

13:30 – 16:15 Ancient and Medieval Perspectives on Self-Killing
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Seminar Room 136
13:30 – 14:45 Ph.D Miira Tuominen and Ph.D student Malin Grahn (University of Helsinki): Self-killing in antiquity – an act of courage or an act of folly?
14:45 – 15 Coffee
15:00 – 16:15 Academy fellow Virpi Mäkinen (University of Helsinki):
Right to life and death in the late medieval and early modern moral philosophy

18 Rector’s Reception
Friday, February 15
Contemporary Cultural Perspectives on Suicide

10:15 – 11:45 Plenary Session
University of Helsinki Main Building, Lecture hall XIII
Professor Charles Macdonald (CNRS):  Constructing the suicide’s identity
11:45 – 13:30 Lunch break

13:30 – 16:15 Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Seminar Room 136
13:30 – 14:30 Psychoanalyst Petri Meronen: The idea of suicide in psychoanalysis
14:30 – 14:45 Coffee break
14:45 – 16:15 Plenary Session
Professor Hasse Karlsson (Helsinki University Hospital):
How psychiatry explains mind, illness, and suicide

Saturday, February 16
Global, Political and Social Perspectives on Suicide

10:15 – 11:45 Plenary Session
University of Helsinki Main Building, Lecture hall XIII
Professor Fei Wu (University of Beijing):
“Excluded suicide” – death, illness, and stigma in rural China
11:45 – 13:30 Lunch break

13:30 – 15:45
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Seminar Room 136
13:30 – 14:30 Docent Marja-Liisa Honkasalo (University of Helsinki):
Autonomy, responsibility, and suicide in Finnish contexts
14:30 – 14:45 Coffee
14:45 – 15:45 Ph.D Susanne Dahlgren (University of Helsinki): The "Islamic Suicide Terrorist" - Questions and Comments

15:45 – 17 Closing Discussion

Please note: preliminary registration is necessary. For registrations, contact Mette Sundblad:

About the plenarists:

María Cátedra is Professor of social anthropology at the University of Complutense (Madrid). She holds her PhD at the Universidad de Complutense and has done fieldwork among Vaqueiros in Spain. Her most well known publication about cultural aspects on suicide "This World, Other Worlds. Sickness, Death, and the Afterlife among Vaquieros" is published by University of Chicago Press 1992. Currently, Professor Cátedra works with urban anthropology, and especially about symbolic aspects on ancient cities.

Charles J-H Macdonald is a French anthropologist working in Southeast Asia. He holds a Ph. D and a Doctorat d’Etat from the Sorbonne and has done extensive periods of fieldwork in the Philippines (mostly in Palawan island) and South Central Vietnam among the Raglai. He is a senior research fellow at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and is attached to the University of Aix-Marseille II (“Université de la Méditerranée”). He has in recent years published several books and articles on the topics of suicide, Christianization in Asia, and naming practices. The most recent book “Uncultural Behavior” is about suicide in Palawan, and is published by University of Hawaii Press 2006. Prior to that he has extensively published on Palawan and Raglai ethnography, on mythology, social structure, religion and rituals, kinship, and various other topics.

Fei Wu is a Chinese anthropologist working at the University of Beijing. He holds a PhD from University of Harvard, entitled “The Elegy for Luck - Suicide in a County of North China”. He has conducted a long fieldwork in a rural China where the incidence of young women’s suicide has been very high. Chinese ideas about suicide are based on Chinese concepts of personhood and life, which are very different from Western ones. In Chinese tradition, life is seen as a process between birth and death, and a person is understood as one who can spend this life. People commit suicide when focusing on an idea in this process. It is not seen as abnormal, but as a defective way to pursue happiness and good luck. Typical suicide is not a result of mental abnormality.

MD, PhD Hasse Karlsson is a professor of psychiatry and head of department at the  University of Helsinki and Chief Physician at the Helsinki University Central Hospital, Department of Psychiatry. Besides being a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist he also has a MA in theoretical philosophy. In the field of psychotherapy, he has specialised in brief dynamic psychotherapy and in interpersonal psychotherapy and he has conducted functional neuroimaging studies of the brain on emotion regulation and on changes induced by psychotherapy.

He has worked as a lecturer in psychiatry and as a professor of psychiatry at the University of Turku from 1991 to 2002 and as an acting professor of Neural Transmission, National PET-Centre, Turku University Central Hospital and University of Turku in 2004. Over the years he has also been one of the psychotherapy lecturers and trainers at the Centre for Extension Studies at University of Turku.

He has written about 120 scientific articles, of which around 70 in international peer-reviewed journals and has contributed and co-authored several books on philosophy of medicine, psychotherapy and other topics. One of the books he has edited is a book on philosophy of psychiatry:  Karlsson H, Mielen malleja. Psykiatrian tieteenteorian uusia kysymyksiä, Yliopistopaino, Helsinki 1994 (Models of Mind – Emerging problems in the theory of science in psychiatry).

He has organized and chaired several courses and symposia eg on psychosomatic medicine, psychotherapy, theory of science in psychiatry and neuroimaging in psychotherapy research. 

His main research interests are currently depression, functional brain imaging, psychotherapy, somatization, philosophy of psychiatry.

Organizing committee:
Docent Marja-Liisa Honkasalo (person in charge), University of Helsinki
Professor Vilma Hänninen, University of Kuopio
MD Petri Meronen, psychoanalyst, The Therapeia Foundation
PhD Miira Tuominen, University of Helsinki

Organizers: Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki Department of Sociology, Graduate School of Psychiatry

For further information please contact