NCSR 2008 - Urban Diversity and Religious Traditions
13-15 August 2008, Åbo Akademi University

Media discourse on cemeteries: A window to Finnish modernisation and religion

Teemu Taira

This paper demonstrates how the media discourse on cemeteries provides a window for studying the relation between Finnish modernisation and religion. The research material is gathered from the most influential and widespread Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. I have collected leading articles and readers’ letters from the sixty years after the World War II (every second year, full volumes). I shall provide a general overview of the continuities and transformations in the discourse. Despite continuities, three periods with different discursive features arise from the material. I have termed these as traditional period (1946–1966), state-planning period (1966–1988), and the period of post-traditional competition (1988–2006). This longitudinal case-study reveals how the urbanized Finnish society has changed from a religiously and culturally homogenous society to a more heterogeneous and secular one which emphasises individuality and free competition. However, this discursive change has not disconnected Lutheranism and Finnishness altogether. The media discourse on cemeteries is one example which demonstrates how the Finnish society reflects its religious and national identity. The paper is part of a larger project called “Religion, modernisation and the Finnish public 1946–2006”.