Celebrating international research dialogue – 2nd anniversary of Scientific Coffee Sessions “Human-Forest-Relationship”

Inspiring collaboration between researchers from Finland and Germany gave birth to a series of Scientific Coffees facilitating academic exchange on human-forest-relationships. After 10 sessions with over 200 participants, an international academic online community celebrates – by looking forward to future sessions.

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In 2021, we – a group of researchers from Finland and Germany interested in social science as well as humanities approaches regarding human and societal relations to forests – were eager to deepen our fruitful cooperation. As we were confronted with worldwide travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 crisis, we came up with a way to cooperate and exchange online from our home offices in Jena, Berlin, Tampere, Helsinki, and Savonlinna. Our vision was to create an online space for international, scientific, open, and relaxed discussions on human and societal relations to forests.

Growing interest in forest humanities

This autumn, our Scientific Coffee Session series “Human-Forest-Relationships” (HFR) celebrated its second anniversary with its 10th edition. The Scientific Coffee Sessions HFR contribute to increase the visibility of humanities and (qualitative) social science research relating to forests, their use and the forest industries. The umbrella under which all the diverse topics and research perspectives come together, is the interest in human-forest-relationships. The presentations and discussions dig into various aspects of that complex and contested relationship concerning forest use, protection, politics, and policies. Especially the public and political debates about forestry have been the subject of the Scientific Coffee Sessions HFR as well as questions relating to ownership, foresters, and marginalized positions. The HFR concept enables an overlapping theme and perspective that brings together interested researchers from diverse disciplines, institutions, and countries.

The 10th edition focused on the Sámi in Finland, the only indigenous community within the European Union. Anna Ott, a PhD-researcher at SYKE, the Finnish Environment Institute, talked about the conflicts over reindeer herding, logging, and opposing nature relations between the Sámi and the Finnish state-owned enterprise Metsähallitus as well as private forest owners. Different ontologies shape this conflict that emerges around questions of land ownership and land use. Colonial power relations and the hierarchical dualism of humans and nature that is rooted deeply in modern ontology are challenged by the Sámi narratives, lifestyles, and alternative ontology. After Anna Ott’s insightful presentation on this conflict, a controversial and in some parts very political discussion arose. With over 20 people attending the Scientific Coffee Session HFR, many different perspectives were present and the discussion jumped back and forth between logging in Finland, (de-)colonialism, different definitions of a ‘traditional’ life style, and insights on the situation of the Sámi in Sweden and Norway.

In general, the sessions follow a similar process: the two-hour sessions start with a 30-40-minute presentation by a researcher giving insights into his/her current studies. Quite remarkably, even though plenty of time is allotted for discussion and questions the audience rarely ever seems to be out of thoughts or comments.

Exchange and dialogue at its best!

Join the community and the Scientific Coffee Sessions HFR

The high times of Covid-19 lie behind us and the normal academic life with its travels and international conferences is back, but the Scientific Coffee Sessions HFR outlasted the pandemic. They could establish themselves as a solid element of international exchange and discussion between researchers from Germany, Finland, Estonia, and beyond. So far, over 200 people have participated in the sessions. In every session, both familiar and new faces are present.

The second anniversary this autumn marked a milestone in the international cooperation. The Scientific Coffee Sessions HFR are hosted in a joint effort by the project Mentalities in Flux (flumen) and the Human-Forest Relationship Research Club of the Finnish Society of Forest Science. They were initiated and are still run and moderated by Jana Holz (project researcher and PhD candidate in the project flumen, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Germany), Tuulikki Halla (project researcher and PhD candidate, University of Eastern Finland), PhD Jaana Laine (Faculty Lecturer, Lappeenranta University of Technology) and Reetta Karhunkorva (Senior Forest Culture Specialist, Lusto Forest Museum).

For the coming months, the researchers have planned more Scientific Coffee Sessions HFR as well as various conference presentations.

Will you be the speaker of the first Scientific Coffee Session HFR in 2024?*

If you are interested, come and join our next Scientific Coffee Session HFR: Mónica Hernández Morcillo from Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, Germany, will present on the topic “A Regenerative Approach to Forestry: Insights from the Indigenous Culture Kogi” on 23 November 2023, 1-3pm CET / 2-4pm EST.**

We will see you there – hopefully with your coffee at hand!

* Please contact jana.holz (ät) uni-jena.de or tuulikki.halla (ät) uef.fi for further information on how to present in the Scientific Coffee Sessions HFR or further questions relating to the collaboration.
** Please contact judith.kiss (ät) uni-jena.de for further information and the Zoom link.

Authors: Jana Holz, Maximilian Clemens, Tuulikki Halla