Karen Heikkilä

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Personal profile

Description of research and teaching

Dr. Karen Heikkilä has conducted research with indigenous communities in Malaysia and Canada. Prior to completing her doctorate at the Dept. of Geosciences & Geography (Helsinki), she worked in the Canadian Arctic, Tajiskistan and Mongolia. She is an alumna of the University of British Columbia, where she completed her B.A. and B.Ed. degrees. Her M.A. thesis research was part of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada project that was undertaken on the John Prince Research Forest, jointly managed by Tl’azt’en Nation and UNBC. Her interest in indigenous language and cultural maintenance has taken her to Bodø University College, where she undertook practical training in language documentation and revitalization methods. A Finnish Cultural Foundation grant awardee, she is currently based in the US, at the Orang Asli Archive (Keene State College). Her research project focusses on Semai Orang Asli oral history and toponymy, particularly the unfolding and continuity of indigenous cultural heritage in forest landscapes. The project speaks to the resilience of indigenous forest-based livelihoods and territoriality, and the role of intact forest in preserving Semai memory and customs. Karen has taught in the university, adult/continuing education and compulsory schooling sectors; her work within the International Baccalaureate and British Columbia Curriculum systems has covered subject as well as special needs teaching. She maintains an active interest in indigenous education and the popularization of academic research for use in educational and community-based projects. At the University of Helsinki, she is affliated with the Global Development Studies programme as a Grant-Funded Researcher.

Fields of Science

  • 5203 Global Development Studies
  • Geography
  • Education
  • Indigenous Cultures
  • Subsistence Lifeways
  • Oral Tradition
  • Memory
  • Place-Names
  • Cultural Landscapes
  • Human Ecology
  • Southeast Asia
  • Eurasia/Central Asia
  • Tropical Forests
  • Boreal Regions