Market, media and popular culture

Important parts of the contemporary religious landscape are found outside and beyond the realm of institutional, public, and political oversight and governance. Given this situation, it has become increasingly important to integrate studies of media, popular culture, and consumer culture with the study of today’s religious landscape. As argued by many scholars of religion today, popular culture has come to play an ever more important role in the dissemination of a wide range of religious and spiritual beliefs and ideas. As such, it has also come to constitute an increasingly important resource for the construction of religious and spiritual identities and practices for growing numbers of people today.

These developments also highlight the need for our explorations of the contemporary religious field to pay particular attention to the ways in which the actual religious beliefs and everyday religious and spiritual practices of individuals and religious or spiritual groups are affected and connected to various forms of media and popular culture. Moreover, this also involves exploring the different ways and degrees to which media and popular culture may become formative and determinative of the practices of such individuals and groups. It is particularly important in this context to allow micro level qualitative case studies and more overarching macro level observations to be closely informed by one another.

This thematic field includes analyses of the participation of individuals, religious groups, actors, and movements in today’s broader consumer marketplace and media- and popular cultural environment. Particular focus is directed at the extent to which their characters have come to constitute part of, been influenced or formed by, practices characteristic of consumer culture, new media, and various popular cultural forms. Within this very broad thematic field, these questions are approached through focusing on a set of particular, but notable, cases of the intersection of market, media, and popular culture in a Finnish context. These cases are approached through ethnographic methods and analysis of various forms of media and popular culture in dialogue with earlier research within this growing field of study. Through concentrating on these issues in the particular social and cultural context of Finland, research within this thematic field also aims to highlight the peculiarities of this particular social and cultural context.

Central research areas
The use of media by Finnish Christian groups and denominations, Christian/evangelical popular culture, and the contemporary relationship between Christianity and consumer culture in a Finnish context.
The construction and influence of Finnish pre-Christian religious beliefs, themes, and practices in conjunction with popular culture, national romanticism, and popular conceptions of ‘Finnishness’
The appearance of alternative esoteric epistemological discourses in mainstream media coverage
Consumer culture and media within the realm of alternative spirituality
Dr Marcus Moberg, Researcher, Åbo Akademi University
Dr Kennet Granholm, Assistant professor, Stockholm University
Dr Sofia Sjö. Researcher, Åbo Akademi University
MPS Nana Blomqvist, Doctoral student, Åbo Akademi University
MA Tommy Ramstedt, Doctoral student, Åbo Akademi University