Raija Mattila

Dr. Raija Mattila is the Director of Finnish Institute in the Middle East since 2014. Raija’s research focuses on the Assyrian Empire, which ruled the Middle East during the 1st Millennium BC. Raija’s research interests include the administration of Assyria and its highest officials, Egyptians in Assyria and Babylonia as well as animals in Ancient Mesopotamia.

In 2018, the institute started a series of workshops which study the social, economic and cultural status of minorities in the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires in 1st Millennium BC. The first workshop was held in Beirut in April 2018, and it examined the minority concept in the context of the Ancient Near East. The workshops are organised in collaboration with the Centres of Excellence Ancient Near Eastern Empires and Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions, both of which are funded by the Academy of Finland.

Raija has published Neo-Assyrian administrative and private documents. Her doctoral dissertation The King’s Magnates (2000) studied the highest officials of the Assyrian Empire.

Raija is an Adjunct Professor (Docent) of Assyriology of the University of Helsinki and an associate member of the Centre of Excellence Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions. Before her position as the Director of FIME in Beirut, she has worked for the Intellectual Heritage of the Ancient Near project at the University of Helsinki, as a researcher at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, as the director of FIME in Damascus (2004-2008), as a researcher in the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies of the University of Helsinki, in the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary at the University of Chicago in USA, as well as in the State Archives of Assyria project at the University of Helsinki.

Taavi Sundell

FIME’s researcher and coordinator Taavi Sundell is in the process of finishing his doctoral research in world politics on the political economy of higher education in Jordan and Finland. Combining discourse theory and critical political economy, Taavi’s article-based dissertation examines how specific actors have articulated the border between public and private higher education and the underlying assumptions concerning the societal functions of universities and higher education. The Finnish case is studied through existing documentary data while the Jordanian case relies also on data collected by Taavi through research interviews in Jordan during 2013–17.

Taavi received his Master of Social Sciences degree in political science from the University of Helsinki in 2010. As minor subjects he studied development studies and practical philosophy. In 2010–13 he worked as a full-time research assistant at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. During his doctoral project Taavi has coordinated the Academy of Finland project Politics and Numbers: Global Governance and Policy Instruments, taught and coordinated two Helsinki Summer School-courses, and taught in his own faculty as well as in the University of Helsinki’s Open University.

Taavi is affiliated with the Academy of Finland funded Whirl of Knowledge: Cultural Populism and Polarisation in European Politics and Societies-project(2019–22). While working at FIME he will start working on his post doc -project in which he plans to examine the role of human capital theory in discussions on education and migration in the context of the Middle East.

Anu Leinonen

Anu Leinonen started as a researcher in FIME in June 2019. Her post doc project investigates language policies and debates over those language policies in Turkey from 2011 onwards. Her research focuses on how the arrival of 3,5 million Syrian refugees, and public services offered to them in Arabic, have influenced language policies and debates over them. Traditionally public services for citizens have only been offered in Turkish, defined as the language of the state. The relatively wide range of services provided in Arabic have been an important departure from this policy.

Anu is especially interested the experiences of providing education in Arabic for the Syrian refugee children as well as the subsequent transition or integration of the Syrian children to Turkish-language public education from 2016 onwards. Have these experiences raised new awareness of multi-lingual and multi-cultural issues in the classroom? Could the process have an influence on the use of Kurdish language in education? The research material consists of official documents and reports and publications focusing on education and a limited number of expert interviews.

Anu received her PhD in Middle Eastern studies in the University of Helsinki in 2017. Her dissertation investigated how Kurds’ political and cultural demands were presented in the Turkish-language mainstream press in 1999–2009. She received her master’s degree in Central Asian studies in 2003. In addition to nationalism, diversity, minority issues and language policy, her interests include media in Turkey, Turkey-EU relations and Ottoman history.

She has followed Turkey from 1995 onwards and has lived in the country a total of five years. Previously, in 2008-2019 she worked as the Executive of the Foundation for the Finnish Institute in the Middle East and for four years as the coordinator of the Finnish Network of the Anna Lindh Foundation.

Former researchers at the Institute

Päivi Miettunen

FIME’s coordinator Päivi Miettunen works on her postdoctoral research at FIME. Päivi is studying the role of information behaviour in the construction of social identities among both Bedouin and immigrant communities in the Middle East. She applies the multi-sited ethnography in her comparative study of the use and choice of information sources, and analyzes their effect on choosing and displaying social identities.

Päivi’s Master’s thesis in Semitic Studies (University of Helsinki) focused on the local rituals and beliefs connected to the shrine of Aaron near Petra, Jordan. Between 2000 and 2008 she was a member in the Finnish Jabal Haroun Project, participating in the excavations and specializing in the ethnoarchaeology of the Mountain of Aaron. In 2003 Päivi worked as an intern in Damascus, at the Finnish Institute in the Middle East. Her minor subjects have included archaeology, computer science and information studies.

In 2014 Päivi received her PhD degree in the Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Helsinki. In her dissertation she studied the effects of modernization on the religious and cultural identity of Southern Jordanian Bedouins. The case study focused on the holy sites of the region. In her field research she mapped and surveyed the sites, many of them uncharted until today. She also used participant observation and interviews to familiarize herself with local Bedouin culture, traditions and dialects. In 2016 Päivi was a visiting researcher at CMES in Lund University, Sweden.