Theme: Joy

The Society for Cultural Studies in Finland and the School of Humanities of University of Eastern Finland invite researchers, teachers, students, and other experts to the tenth Finnish Conference of Cultural Studies to be held in Joensuu on the 8th – 10th December 2021. Organized since 2003, the conference is the most significant national cultural studies event in Finland. 

The theme of the 2021 conference is joy.

As a socio-political academic discipline, cultural studies have a reputation as a keen critic of the contemporary society, addressing issues such as hidden power structures, shining a light to the significance of mundane phenomena, and giving a voice to the experiences and ways of life of marginalized groups. Although cultural studies have been at times accused of focusing on light topics and even of cultural populism, critical research often leads scholars of the field to examine societal flaws and to arrive to gloomy conclusions. As the critical examiner of contemporary society, it often seems that the role of cultural studies scholars is to throw a spanner in the works and to be the designated killjoy.   

Joy is a politically ambivalent emotion, thus there are good reasons to act as the killer of it.  Joy as a ritual act can force a smile on persons face, while they are being oppressed and unconsciously recreating existing societal hierarchies. Cultural expressions of joy become hegemonized and thus part of the dynamics of maintaining power and control. For instance, in the early 2020s self-help guides filled with positive psychology and polarized neuroscientific discussion direct their readers to put up a smile when facing hard times, to see challenges as opportunities, to swallow their anger rather than to show it, and to be the complying “good guys” instead of questioning troublemakers in the workplace. On the other hand, it can be difficult to find joy in today’s world, ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has put an effective stop to life as we have come to know it. At the same time, constantly present ecological crisis is causing unprecedented anxiety. 

Amid dark times, joy can be a mask we put on to escape from our gloomy reality to more gleeful, although fictional, existence. It can also be a sign of surrendering to the unconditional circumstances we are forced to face. Is it possible that joy is more than just this?

Can joy act as a critical and creative emotion, thus a producer of new knowledge? In what type of cultures of joy we can observe to have potential to be a force enacting utopias and push critical thinking forward today? At last; what are the reasons for joy for scholars of cultural studies in the 2020s?

We invite papers and chairs of sessions to reflect on cultures of joy and joy of cultural studies. Themes and points of view for this reflection can be, but are not limited to:

How joy and being the killjoy are present and presented in different areas of cultural studies research?

How would joy look as a method or affective quality for research in cultural studies? 

What cultural studies can offer for the understanding different aspects of joy in public discussions which are dominated by clinical research and neurobiology?

What and how is joy used as a method to control?

How can joy act as a point of view for understanding vast cultural shifts?
How reasons and opportunities for enjoyment are polarized in society (nationally and internationally)?

How modern technology and cultures formed around them have shaped the meaning and ways of utilizing joy?

How joy (or lack of it) is thematically present and presented in art and cultural production?

What is the relationship between joy and, for instance, hope, pleasure, and satisfaction?

Contact us

Tuomas Järvenpää
the Chair of the Organizing Committee