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Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of TampereFaculty of Social Sciences

Semi Purhonen

Semi Purhonen

Professor of Sociology

Faculty of Social Sciences, Kalevantie 5 (Linna 5056), 33014 University of Tampere, Finland

Phone: 050 318 7313
Room: LINNA 5056

Office hours: please contact by e-mail: semi.purhonen (at)


I am a sociologist of culture, yet equally interested in themes of stratification, inequality, social change, generations and comparative research. As a scholar, I take versatile and wide-ranging approaches and use both quantitative and qualitative methods. My aim is to carry out first-class empirical social research with a strong theoretical emphasis. In other words, along with being interested in empirical research, I am also deeply engaged in discussions of conceptual issues and sociological theories.

I was trained in sociology at the University of Helsinki in the 1990s and early 2000s. My dissertation (2007) was about generations and generational experiences of the baby boom cohort in particular. I started doing empirical cultural sociology, broadly inspired by Bourdieu, already before earning the PhD, in a project on cultural capital and tastes in Finland. I continued with the theme in my personal postdoctoral project, in which the focus was on cross-national comparative work between Finland and the UK. In 2014, I completed, together with a group of researchers, a comprehensive study of cultural distinctions and hierarchies in Finland. Since 2013, I have directed a research group studying the relationship between social and cultural stratification from a longitudinal and cross-national perspective, for which I was awarded a personal Academy Research Fellowship and which has also attracted other external funding. I started at the University of Tampere as an associate professor of sociology (tenure-track position) in fall 2014. In December 2018, I became a full professor of sociology.

The project ‘Cultural Distinctions, Generations and Change’ (CUDIGE) explores the changes that have taken place in the classification and social valuation of culture and the arts over the past 50 years. The core of the project focuses on the post-1960s cultural change through the lens of a specific institution in the field of cultural production: the culture sections in European quality newspapers. More precisely, by employing a multi-method research design combining both quantitative and qualitative content analysis, the project involves a comprehensive study of newspaper coverage of culture and the arts in six European countries – Finland, France, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the UK – between 1960 and 2010.

Albeit the earlier project on cultural capital and tastes is ‘officially’ over, I continue with the study of cultural consumption, participation and tastes, often from the comparative and longitudinal angle. My other ongoing areas of interest include comparative study of elites, and, most recently, ‘cultural cartography’ using computational methods of text analysis. The work done in CUDIGE and other previous projects lays the ground for my latest research project, entitled ‘The Dynamics of Cultural Stratification: How Cultural Classifications, Hierarchies and Tastes Change’.

I am a member of the editorial board of Poetics, the premier journal of cultural sociology.

The core of my current teaching at Tampere includes running Master’s thesis seminars and organizing lecture courses on the themes of my reseach (e.g. the course targeted to all students in social science program titled "Social Change" to be held in spring semester 2019). I am interested in supervising students (both undergraduate and postgraduate) working on topics related to my research interests. More information about my thesis supervision and available topics can be found (in Finnish) at


“The Dynamics of Cultural Stratification: How Cultural Classifications, Hierarchies and Tastes Change” (DYNAMICS). This project started in September 2017 and is funded by the Academy of Finland (2017–2021); the project website can be found at

“Cultural Distinctions, Generations and Change: A Comparative Study of Five European Countries, 1960–2010”. This project started in 2013 and is funded by the Academy of Finland (2013–18), Kone Foundation (2013–16) and the University of Helsinki research grants (2013–15); the project website can be found at

“Cultural Capital and Social Differentiation in Contemporary Finland”. This project was ongoing between 2005 and 2013, but is still active in terms of publications etc.; the project website can be found at

Selected publications:


Purhonen, Semi, Heikkilä, Riie, Karademir Hazir, Irmak, Lauronen, Tina, Fernández Rodríguez, Carlos J. & Gronow, Jukka (2019) Enter Culture, Exit Arts? The Transformation of Cultural Hierarchies in European Newspaper Culture Sections, 1960–2010. London and New York: Routledge. (274 p.)

Purhonen, Semi (with a research team: Gronow, Jukka, Heikkilä, Riie, Kahma, Nina, Rahkonen, Keijo & Toikka, Arho) (2014) Suomalainen maku: kulttuuripääoma, kulutus ja elämäntyylien sosiaalinen eriytyminen [The Finnish taste: Cultural capital, consumption and the social differentiation of lifestyles]. Helsinki: Gaudeamus Helsinki University Press. (461 p.)

Purhonen, Semi, Hoikkala, Tommi & Roos, J. P. (Eds) (2008) Kenen sukupolveen kuulut? Suurten ikäluokkien tarina [To whose generation do you belong? The story of the baby boomers]. Helsinki: Gaudeamus Helsinki University Press. (319 p.)

Purhonen, Semi (2007) Sukupolvien ongelma: tutkielmia sukupolven käsitteestä, sukupolvitietoisuudesta ja suurista ikäluokista [The problem of generations: Essays on the concept of generation, generational consciousness, and baby boomers]. Helsinki: Department of Sociology, University of Helsinki, Research Reports No. 251. (377 p.)

Purhonen, Semi & Roos, J. P. (Eds) (2006) Bourdieu ja minä: näkökulmia Pierre Bourdieun sosiologiaan [Bourdieu and I: Perspectives on Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology]. Tampere: Vastapaino. (298 p.)



Peer-reviewed articles:

Purhonen, Semi, Lauronen, Tina & Heikkilä, Riie (2018) Between legitimization and popularization: The rise and reception of U.S. cultural products in culture sections of quality European newspapers, 1960–2010. American Journal of Cultural Sociology. DOI: 10.1057/s41290-018-0064-z (OnlineFirst 30 October 2018; the article can be read here:

Lauronen, Tina, Heikkilä, Riie & Purhonen, Semi (2019) Cultural globalization on the printed page: Stability and change in the proportion of foreign cultural products in European quality newspapers, 1960–2010. Acta Sociologica 62 (2): 211–227.

Fernández Rodríguez, Carlos J., Heikkilä, Riie & Purhonen, Semi (2018) ¿Hacia una mayor apertura cultural? Un análisis de la cobertura de artículos sobre música en la prensa de referencia de cinco países europeos (1960–2010). Revista Internacional de Sociología 76 (2): e092. (

Heikkilä, Riie, Lauronen, Tina & Purhonen, Semi (2018) The crisis of cultural journalism revisited: The place and space of culture in quality European newspapers from 1960 to 2010. European Journal of Cultural Studies 21 (6): 669–686.

Wainikainen, Jaakko & Purhonen, Semi (2018) Kielitaidon sosiaalinen eriytyminen nyky-Suomessa: Kuka puhuu ja kuinka montaa kieltä [Social stratification of foreign language competence in contemporary Finland]. Yhteiskuntapolitiikka 83 (3): 245–257.

Kallunki, Jarmo & Purhonen, Semi (2017) Intergenerational transmission of cultural capital in Finland. Research on Finnish Society 10: 101–111.

Karademir Hazir, Irmak & Purhonen, Semi (2017) Kültürel Açılım, Hepçillik ve Seçkin Sanatın Düşüşü: Türkiye-Avrupa Karşılaştırması [Cultural opening, omnivore and the decline of the highbrow: A comparison of Turkey and Europe]. İLEF Dergisi – İLEF Journal 4 (1): 29–58.

Purhonen, Semi & Heikkilä, Riie (2017) Food, music and politics: The interweaving of culinary taste patterns, "highbrow" musical taste and conservative attitudes in Finland. Social Science Information 56 (1): 74–97.

Purhonen, Semi, Heikkilä, Riie & Karademir Hazir, Irmak (2017) The grand opening? The transformation of the content of culture sections in European newspapers, 1960–2010. Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media and the Arts 62: 29–42. 

Purhonen, Semi (2016) Zeitgeist, identity and politics: The modern meaning of the concept of generation. In: Ivor Goodson, Ari Antikainen, Pat Sikes & Molly Andrews (Eds) The Routledge International Handbook on Narrative and Life History. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 167–178.

Gronow, Jukka, Heikkilä, Riie & Purhonen, Semi (2016) Legitimacy of taste and "good" taste. In: Kirsti Jõesalu & Anu Kannike (Eds) Cultural Patterns and Life Stories. Tallinn: Tallinn University Press, pp. 393–427.

Purhonen, Semi & Toikka, Arho (2016) “Big datan” haaste ja uudet laskennalliset tekstiaineistojen analyysimenetelmät: esimerkkitapauksena aihemallianalyysi tasavallan presidenttien uudenvuodenpuheista 1935–2015 [The challenge of “big data” and new computational methods for text analysis: An example from a topic model of new year’s speeches of Finnish Presidents, 1935–2015]. Sosiologia 53 (1): 6–27.

Purhonen, Semi (2016) Generations on paper: Bourdieu and the critique of "generationalism". Social Science Information 55 (1): 94–114.

Purhonen, Semi, Lauronen, Tina & Heikkilä, Riie (2015) Into the great wide open? A comparative study of the contents of newspaper culture sections in the UK and Finland, 1970–2010. Research on Finnish Society 8: 5–18.

Purhonen, Semi & Gronow, Jukka (2014) Polarizing appetites? Stability and change in culinary tastes in Finland, 1995–2007. Food, Culture and Society 17 (1): 27–47.

Purhonen, Semi & Wright, David (2013) Methodological issues in national-comparative research on cultural tastes: The case of cultural capital in the UK and Finland. Cultural Sociology 7 (2): 257–273.

Wright, David, Purhonen, Semi & Heikkilä, Riie (2013) Comparing “cosmopolitanism”: Taste, nation and global culture in Finland and the UK. Comparative Sociology 12 (3): 330–360.

Purhonen, Semi, Gronow, Jukka & Rahkonen, Keijo (2011) Highbrow culture in Finland: Knowledge, taste and participation. Acta Sociologica 54 (4): 385–402.

Purhonen, Semi (2011) Televisionkatselun sosiaalinen eriytyminen ja yhteiskunnalliset seuraukset nyky-Suomessa [Social stratification of television watching and its social consequences in contemporary Finland]. Yhteiskuntapolitiikka 76 (6): 599–619.

Purhonen, Semi (2011) Televisio ja kulttuuripääoma: ohjelmagenrejen ja mieliohjelmien sosiaalinen eriytyminen nyky-Suomessa [Television and cultural capital: Social differentiation of programme types and favourite programmes in contemporary Finland]. Sosiologia 48 (2): 96–116.

Purhonen, Semi, Gronow, Jukka & Rahkonen, Keijo (2010) Nordic democracy of taste? Cultural omnivorousness in musical and literary taste preferences in Finland. Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media and the Arts 38 (3): 266–298.

Purhonen, Semi (2009) Haljennut habitus: Bourdieun viimeisiksi jääneet omakohtaiset teokset englanninkielisinä käännöksinä [Cleft habitus]. Tiede & edistys 34 (3): 141–155.

Purhonen, Semi, Gronow, Jukka & Rahkonen, Keijo (2009) Social differentiation of musical and literary taste patterns in Finland. Research on Finnish Society 2: 39–49.

Media coverage (some examples):

"Tutkimus tarjoaa lohtua taidekritiikin tilasta huolestuneille – vaikka sosiaalinen media uhkaa sen asemaa, laatulehdet eivät ole hylänneet sitä" ("A study provides consolation to those worried about the current state of art criticism"). A newspaper article based on the book Enter Culture, Exit Arts? (written by Heikki Hellman), Helsingin Sanomat 29 December 2018.

"1960-luvun lapset nappasivat vallan suurilta ikäluokilta – katso, millainen Suomi oli, kun sinä tai läheisesi synnyitte" ("Children of the 1960s took the power from baby boomers"). An interview on the theme of generations (written by Heli Saavalainen), Helsingin Sanomat 25 December 2018 (e-supplement).

"Populaarikulttuuri vyöryi sanomalehtien sivuille" ("Popular culture avalanched into the newspaper pages"). An online newspaper article at the University of Tampere's website on the book Enter Culture, Exit Arts? (written by Heikki Laurinolli, 16 November 2018).

"Yhteiskunnan aistit: maku" ("Senses of society: Taste"). A video of the panel discussion (chair: Hanna Ylöstalo; the other panelist: Katriina Järvinen; total length almost 80 minutes) on the social significance of taste at the Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies, 28 March 2018.

"Kalle Haatanen: Suomalainen maku" ("Kalle Haatanen: The Finnish Taste"). A radio interview on the book Suomalainen maku (interviewer Kalle Haatanen, total length about 50 minutes, originally broadcasted by YLE Radio 1, 11 October 2014).

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Last update: 21.5.2019 0.46 Muokkaa

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