Marja-Liisa Honkasalo
1996 …2023

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Curriculum vitae


Ph.D. 1988 University of Helsinki, docent 1992 University of Tampere, 1996 University of Helsinki (medical anthropology), 2008 (sociology of health). Visiting scholar 1996-1997 at the University of Harvard, Department of Anthropology and Social Medicine. Professoressa visitanta Universitá di Roma La Sapienza, Dipartimento di Antropologia 2002 -2003. Academy Fellow 1999 -2004, Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies 2005 -2007. Professor in Medical anthropology at the University of Linköping 2006 - 2010. Invited to University of Turku to Professorship of Culture, Health and Wellbeing 2010 -> Leader of The Research Center of Culture, Health and Illness. Visiting researcher and Kone fellow at the University of Arts 2017 ->

Main research projects, funded by the Academy of Finland: Vulnerable Agency 2012 - 2017; Mind and the Other 2013 -2016. Kone foundation: Body and the Other 2018 - 2020 (University of the Arts, Helsinki).

Awards: American Anthropological Association/Society for Medical Anthropology: The Steve Polgar Professional Prize for the best article published 2009.

Description of research and teaching


Current research interests

In my current research, I am interested in the ill body in cultural contexts. I work within the interdisciplinary field of medical anthropology and  my main aim is to study the body as a window to

1)     the problem of agency and the ways in which it is shaped in the multitude of social and technological practices, and

2)     social and ethical relationality which arise from the technological possibilities of treating illness.


Empirically, these questions are studied through the human heart together with ethnographically oriented researchers in projects, which are listed below. My research is coordinated jointly by the University of Helsinki and University of Linköping.


Background of research

My ethnographic research has started in 1980’s with my Ph.D. in cultural meanings of illness. It has grown to a program of medical anthropology, which joins several Ph.D. students and post doc researchers both in Finland and in Sweden where I hold my Professorship in Medical anthropology. My own research themes have a long iterinary, from bodily symptoms to illness experience, notably that of chronic pain, which I have studied in the theoretical and methodological context of suffering. Another line of my research has been focused on death, particularly on suicide.

My most recent interest has been heart disease and the ways in which it is “done” by various cultural and social practices. One important bundle of the practices consists of medical technology.

Fields of Science

  • 5141 Sociology
  • 314 Health sciences
  • medical anthropology
  • 616 Other humanities

International and National Collaboration

Publications and projects within past five years.