Building (S)kinship in the Steam Bath – Sauna Becoming in Two Case Studies

Activity: Talk or presentation typesConference presentation


Steam bathing can be found in many cultures in different forms. Both Northern sauna culture and folk healing have strong historical, communal, and mythological connotations as they belong together. The mythology behind sauna culture has its roots in an animistic worldview and later in folk beliefs. Sauna is not just a building; its elements are tied to a worldview which still finds expression through the sauna today. Contemporary sauna practices are researched through its physical effects, including cardiovascular health (Laukkanen & Laukkanen, 2020), which are offered as wellness services within the capitalistic economy. If heritage is a material structure for the ‘accumulation of affect’ (Ireland & Lydon, 2018) what are the affects of it today? How can embodied knowledges be facilitated in sauna? Sauna is a holistic, communal and sensory experience, a space for tangible interdependence with more-than-human and vital materiality. Can sauna be a transcendent place to re- and unlearn through kinship and towards (s)kinship? In this interdisciplinary study, which draws on anthropological and artistic research methods, these questions are analyzed in two case studies. One study looks at the becoming of sauna in a Findian family, while the other focuses on the becoming of sauna ritual(isation) with local plants and soils. The methods used are (sensorial) interviews, observation, practice-based research and artwork, including empathic and intuitive inter-species communication in combination with folk healing.
Period22 Mar 2023
Event titleConference of the Finnish Anthropological Society: Relations and beyond
Event typeConference
Conference number6
LocationRovaniemi, FinlandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational