Guest lecture by Dr. Samira Saramo on Loss in Finnish North American Life Writing

Organised by SELMA: Centre for the Study of Storytelling, Experientiality and Memory & Research group Gender, Writing and Textuality (Dept. of Cultural History)

All interested warmly welcome!

Students can use their academic lecture pass

12.4., Wed at 14.15-15.45 at Litzen, Minerva, Sirkkala

Guest lecture by Dr. Samira Saramo:

Loss in Finnish North American Life Writing

Life writing has been a primary tool for people to work through loss. In the context of twentieth-century migration, the death or disappearance of a loved one raised questions about a person’s place and sense of continuity, and challenged the process of identity maintenance. Letter correspondence with friends and family in the home community, then, offered a platform for making sense of grief and connection. Engaging in memoir-writing could, even years later, allow life writers to confront the rupture of loss and re-script their experience.

This lecture analyzes diverse narrations of loss in the personal letters and autobiographies of Finnish North Americans from 1900-1960. The studied life writing highlights the emotional, physical, and practical responses to death and loss. Though very intimate, loss often also served to solidify collectives, shaped by ethnicity, gender, and class. The lecture aims to push dialogue on life writing study by questioning why the personal letters of ordinary people have faced an uneasy reception within the field. Bridging personal letters and autobiography, the theme of loss provides an opportunity to critically engage in the form and content of these source types.


Dr. Samira Saramo is Research Fellow at the John Morton Center for North American Studies at the University of Turku and holds a Ph.D. in History from York University (Toronto, Canada). Saramo’s multidisciplinary research focuses on ethnicity, gender, emotion, violence, place-making, and social movements in both historical and current contexts. Analyzing personal letters, memoirs, and social media narratives, Saramo is particularly interested in the form and accompanying challenges of life writing research. Her current project, “The End of Life and the Birth of ‘Finnish North America,’” is funded by the Jenny & Antti Wihuri Foundation.