Ylirajaisia suhteita: Helsingin olympialaiset, Armi Kuusela ja ylikansallinen historia

Forskningsoutput: AvhandlingDoktorsavhandlingMonografi


In 1952 Helsinki hosted the Summer Olympic Games and Armi Kuusela, the current “Maiden of Finland”, was at the same time crowned Miss Universe. In popular history writing, these events have been designated as a crucial turning point – the end of an era marked by war and deprivation and the beginning of a modern, Western nation. Symptomatically, both events were marked by Finnish women’s sexual relationships with foreign men. The Olympics were shadowed by a concern over Finnish women’s “undue friendliness” with the Olympic guests, and Armi Kuusela's world tour was cut short by her surprise marriage in Tokyo and subsequent emigration to the Philippines. This study is an inquiry into the Helsinki Olympics and the public persona of Armi Kuusela from the point of view of transnational heterosexuality and the constitution of Finnish national identity.

Methodologically the two main components of the study are intersectionality, defined here as a focus on the mutual histories and effects of discourses of gender, sexuality, race and nation; and transnational history as a way of exploring the ways that both nations and sexual subjects are embedded in global relations of power. The analysis proceeds by way of contextual and intertextual readings of various sources. Part one, centering on the Olympics, involves a campaign mounted by certain women’s organizations before the Games in order to educate young women about the potential dangers of the forthcoming international event as well as magazine and newspaper articles published during and after the Games concerning the encounter between young Finnish women and foreign, especially “Southern,” men. It places the debates during the Olympics within the framework of wartime understandings of women’s sexuality; the history of the concept of decency (siveellisyys); post-war population policy; the intersectional histories of conceptions pertaining to race and sexuality; and finally, the post-war concerns over women’s migration from rural areas to the capital city and their potential emigration abroad. Part two deals with the persona of Armi Kuusela and the public reception of her world tour and marriage, based on material from both Finland and the Philippines (newspapers, magazines, advertisements, books and films). It examines the persona of Armi Kuusela as a figure of national import in terms of the East/West divide; the racialized images of different geographic climates and Oriental “Others;” the meaning of whiteness in the Philippines; the significance of class and colonial history for the domestication of sexual and racial transgressions implied by an unconventional transnational marriage; as well as the cultural logics of transnational desire and its possible meanings for women in 1950s Finland.

The study develops two arguments. First, it suggests that instead of being purely oppositional to national discourses, transnational desire may also be viewed as a product of these very discourses. Second, it claims that the national significance of both the Olympics and the persona of Armi Kuusela was due to the new points of comparison they both offered for national identity construction. In comparison with the sexualized Southern men at the Olympics and the racialized Orient in the representations of Armi Kuusela’s travels and marriage, Finland emerged as part of the civilized North, placed firmly within the perimeters of Western Europe. As such, both events mark a “whitening” of the Finnish people as well as a distancing from their previous designations in racial hierarchies. At the same time, however, the process of becoming a white nation inevitably meant complying with and reproducing racial hierarchies, rather than simply abolishing them.
Bidragets översatta titelTransnational relations: 1952 Summer Olympics, Miss Universe and transnational history
Tryckta ISBN978-952-92-7922-7
Elektroniska ISBN978-952-10-6449-4
StatusPublicerad - 2010
MoE-publikationstypG4 Doktorsavhandling (monografi)


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