18 August 2023

Writing courses with doctoral students, discussions about burning social issues, collaborations with researchers and conversations with those living in vulnerable conditions. For Susanna Alakoski, her time in the Moa Martinson visiting professorship has been filled with what engages her most: writing and social issues.

Portrait of Susanna Alakoski, author and visiting professor.
Magnus Johansson

Her book Brandtal (“Cry to action”) will soon be released. It is a product of Susanna Alakoski’s time as Moa Martinson visiting professor and, as the title suggests, it consists of calls to action. It gives voice to those working in the social sector: priests, social workers, deacons, voluntary actors and others. She has written the book with professor of social work Magnus Dahlstedt.

It touches on the most topical social issues of our time, from health care, school and police work to climate, culture, poverty and racism.

“On my inauguration as visiting professor, I said that I wanted to add the voice of the city suburbs to the professor’s pen, and that has resulted in this book. The texts in the book all exhibit a belief that what is reality now can be better”, says Susanna Alakoski.

This is not the only book she has been involved in during her time as a visiting professor. She has collaborated with researchers and published texts in the borderland between science and popular writing. These include anthologies that examine the Swedish welfare state and social work, such as Socialt arbete – rörelse, motstånd, förändring (“Social work – movement, resistance, change”) and Bortom systemskiftet: mot en ny gemenskap (“Beyond the change of system: towards a new community”).

And she has continued to work on her own books. She has just finished writing part three of the women’s historical series of novels that follows four generations of women in Finland and Sweden that began with Bomullsängeln (“The cotton angel”) and Londonflickan (“The London girl”). In parallel, she has worked on an anthology about Finnish war children and their descendants.

Language as a tool

Susanna Alakoski is a social worker and acclaimed author, and during her time as a visiting professor she has done what is central to her way of working – used language to describe, give shape to and explore social issues. And she has wanted to share that. Through, for example, writing courses for doctoral students from both LiU and other universities.

What different genres of text can be used in social science? What is academic writing, and how can doctoral students use creative writing? Discussing this with young researchers has been a highlight, thinks Susanna Alakoski.

“Meeting with the doctoral students’ desire to be able to make their theses more “readable” and “alive” and, together with them, to be able to talk about language as a craft, has been stimulating and fun.”

“I hope I’ve sown a few seeds”

There have also been a lot of encounters with people. Susanna Alakoski has met students on the social work programme at LiU, lectured about her books, participated in events such as Norrköping’s culture night and in seminars with researchers at Linköping University.

“An important thing for me personally has been the privilege of meeting great colleagues. To get to learn and be inspired by their thoughts and research. I hope I’ve sown a few seeds, as well.”

One of the seeds she hopes will grow and lead to discussions is the concept of “feel-good research”, which she invented in the heat of the moment at a seminar on the role of researchers today. Is there a concern about publishing uncomfortable research, and what if it leads to research that is too eager to please?

“What would such research do to a university? I think it’s a good word for a visiting professor to leave behind. It gives room for important discussions both within and outside academia. Political and other decisions need to be based on uncompromising and grounded knowledge.”

Now the writing continues

Susanna Alakoski has been the Moa Martinson visiting professor from the autumn of 2021 to the summer of 2023.

As her time as a visiting professor comes to an end, she is continuing her work as an author. However, she is not completely severing ties with Linköping University. She will for example, remain on the editorial board of the social science journal Socialvetenskaplig tidskrift.

“I’ll lecture and work on various projects to do with literature. But I haven’t had time to do everything I want at LiU and therefore hope to be able to reconnect on future book projects about social work.


Department of Culture and Society (IKOS)

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