Sexual Violence and Shame in the Middle of a War: Intersections of A Place, Gender and Humanity in Katja Kettu´s Novel The Midwife

Wednesday, November 26, 2014 - 3:30pm
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Wednesday, November 26, 2014 - 3:30pm to 5:10pm
Nador u. 11
Open to the Public


The Department of Gender Studies presents

 Satu Koho

 Post-doctoral researcher (Literature)

Department of Art and Culture Studies, University of Jyväskylä, Finland


“Sexual Violence and Shame in the middle of a War:

Intersections of A Place, Gender and Humanity in Katja Kettu´s novel Kätilö (The Midwife)”


Public Talk

15:30 p.m., Wednesday, 26 November 2014, Nador 11, 203


In her lecture Koho will discuss representations of war, sexual violence and shame in Katja Kettu´s award-winning novel The Midwife (Kätilö, 2011). The novel tells the weird liaison of a Finnish midwife and a German SS-officer who meet in the summer of 1944 on the coast of The Arctic Ocean. This framework allows the author to outline the position of women in the midst of the war´s cruelties. The Midwife conjures to life a long-suppressed history: prison camps, sexual violence and war-brides.

Koho´s perspective regarding this triad of place, power and a narrating self is not only spatial but also corporeal and focused on the emotional. Is it possible for a woman to be confident and to take her own position in her “impossible world”, in the middle of a war? Where does she feel safe (topophilia)? How is the fear of certain places and situations (topophobia) represented? What kind of a place is the body? How are the emotions reflecting to the environment? In her novel Katja Kettu describes the changing status of one – fictional – Finnish woman at the end of the Second World War and the Lapland war, a quite embarrassing period in Finland´s political history. At the same time Kettu describes the landscapes of a trauma and makes difficult questions visible and ponderable. Although The Midwife represents Finnish contemporary literature and deals with the past, the theme it touches – a war from an individual perspective – is universal and current. 


 PhD Satu Koho (b. 1963) is a researcher (Literature) but also a journalist-producer (Forum24) and an editor-in-chief of a literary journal (Stiiknafuulia). Her current research interests include representations of an intimate place, emotional and elastic space, body and borders in contemporary Finnish literature. Koho’s post-doc -project asks, for example, how insecurity, fear and shame are represented spatially and where and how one feels safe. The theoretical and methodological framework of Koho’s interdisciplinary research consists of literary studies and human geography, especially feminist geography, gender studies and violence research. As one of the leading feminist geographers, Linda McDowell has argued that places are created through power relations which construct the rules and define the boundaries. These boundaries are both social and spatial and in some cases also ethical, and from this perspective Koho studies ethics in contemporary literary that discuss violence (physical, mental and ‘spiritual’ violence) against children and women. Her side projects are “Abusive Sexuality and Sexual Violence in Contemporary Culture (2012-2014)” and “From Violent Backlash to Reparative Interventions – Intersectional Approach to Northern Neo-nationalism (VIBRANT, 2015-2018)”.