MenSoc group

MenSoc members Annukka Sailo, Liisa Louhela, Petteri Pietikäinen (PI), Katariina Parhi, Jari Turunen and Mikko Myllykangas in front of former Dårhuset i Uleåborg, the first mental asylum in Oulu, Finland.


Project members and their research topics are the following:

Petteri Pietikäinen, PI, Professor of the History of Science and Ideas (University of Oulu)

Social Engineering, Human Sciences and the Question of Adjustment

Prof. Pietikäinen is a leading expert in the history of psychiatry, psychoanalysis and psychology. In his book Neurosis and Modernity (2007) , he analysed medical and psychological interpretations of distress in Sweden, as well as the relations between the disrupted mind and sociocultural developments from the late 19th to the mid-20th century. His expertise also covers utopian thought, and in his book on ‘psychological utopianism’ (Alchemists of Human Nature, 2007) theories of psychodynamic psychology were related to the utopian goal of ‘improving’ human nature. His most recent book is a large-scale historical overview of madness, written in Finnish  (Hulluuden historia, 2013) . This book won a national book award for the best non-fiction book of 2013 (Kanava Award).  He is currently completing a book manuscript for Routledge; entitled Madness: A History, the book is scheduled to be published in June 2015.

At present, Pietikäinen is going through the patient records of the former District Mental Hospital of Oulu between 1925 and 1975 and reading both published sources (articles, monographs, policy documents) and secondary literature. He will write four peer-reviewed articles during the project: 1) on the diagnostic use of psychopathy as a form of social control (w. Parhi, 2015); 2) on the social engineer Pekka Kuusi and his debates with social scientists, including sociologist Veli Verkko (w.  Myllykangas, 2016); 3) on the psychoanalytic and psychiatric views on aggression (w. Sailo, 2017), and 4) on the idea and practice of adjustment in the Finnish mental health care (2018). The final product of his project will be a monograph (working title The Adjusted Mind: Mental Health, Social Engineering and the Human Sciences), which he is planning to write in 2019.


Mikko Myllykangas, Postdoctoral Researcher

Doctoral thesis on the medical research on suicide in Finland (2014)

History of social psychiatry in Finland

Mikko Myllykangas attained his doctoral degree in June 2014; his dissertation topic was ‘Medical suicide research in Finland from 1860s to 1985’. Myllykangas started his post-doctoral research in MenSoc in July 2014. In his research, he examines the history of social psychiatry in Finland. Social psychiatry as a medical specialty emerged from the 1960s onwards. The roots of the Finnish social psychiatry can be found in the interest in the science based social planning as well as in the influences of the American social psychiatry of 1950s. The history of social psychiatry in Finland has not been studied so far. The focal point, or a “case”, of the study of the history of social psychiatry in Finland is the National suicide prevention project, initiated in 1986 and carried out ‘til the mid-1990s. The project epitomized social psychiatric principles both in theory and in action by performing data gathering on national scale. Also, the social psychiatric principles were followed in the use of social psychiatric and sociological theories in the analysis of the data, and also in the implementation of practices of prevention of suicides into the society, especially into the healthcare and social work sectors. Myllykangas will utilize his expertise into the history of the Finnish suicide research as he examines the intellectual and the social background, execution as well as the outgrowth of the National suicide prevention project. As suicide has been regarded as a national health problem in post-World War II Finland, the study of the National suicide prevention project gives a unique insight into how the problems of adjustment, mental health, and of the living and working conditions were evaluated in regards to a certain individual and social malady that is suicide.


Katariina Parhi, Doctoral Student

History of psychopathy in Finland

Katariina Parhi examines the history of psychopathy in twentieth-century Finland. Parhi studies the factors that have been seen as causal factors in psychopathy and analyses how the psychopathy diagnosis has been used in medical debates and clinical work throughout the twentieth century. She examines how patients diagnosed as psychopaths have been treated in Finland, and on what grounds these individuals were diagnosed psychopaths in the first place. Parhi’s research will clarify the complicated relationship between psychopathy, other mental disorders and forms of maladjustment, including criminality. Above all, it will analyse how the use of the diagnosis reflects changing views on normality and ways to adapt citizens to society and its value system.


Annukka Sailo, Doctoral Student

Scientific Debates on Human Aggression from the 1960s to the 1980s

Annukka Sailo examines the scientific controversies in aggression research from the 1960s to the early 1980s. In the era, human aggression was a highly debated topic in many scientific fields, and it was closely linked to the ongoing debate over evolutionary versus cultural explanations of human behavior, inspired by the quick development of evolutionary biology. Sailo’s doctoral thesis examines the ways that human aggression was explained in the era and the different reasons that influenced the popularity of some explanations over others. Sailo will analyze the debate with emphasis on the changing societal, ideological, and political contexts as well as their relationships to science. One such example was how the question of female aggression (or non-aggression) was influenced by feminist ideologies and concrete changes in the position of women in society during the era.


Jari Turunen, Deputy chief physician (rehabilitation medicine) at Verve

Our group also includes an expert in occupation medicine, MD Jari Turunen, who is working at the Rehabilitation and Reserch Centre Verve in Oulu. Turunen analyses so-called MODULO case formulation, which aims to develop a new core methodology in work-related well-being in occupational health care. He has cooperated with prof. Pietikäinen, with whom he has written a number of articles, papers and columns on diagnostic categories, medicalization and disease mongering.