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Post-Foundational Discourse Theory in Humanities and Social Science Research

Tuition fee


EARLY BIRD prices valid until 28.2.2017
NORMAL prices after 28.2.2017

Expenses for Special Courses
Environmental Impacts of catchment from Headwaters to the Sea, expenses 1 140,00 €
Introduction to Modern Atmospheric Science I 190,00 €



The Trump phenomenon, spreading political violence, refugee crisis, and, for example, the French attempts to ban the use of burkini can all be seen as questioning the social and political grounds that have until now been taken for granted. Does politics any longer make sense in this context? How to get an angle on these phenomena?

This course explores the ways in which post-foundational political thought can be useful for the social sciences and humanities to tackle such issues. Post-foundational political thought shifts the focus from taking political concepts at face value, to the ways in which the meaning-making takes place through contingent concepts, discourses and structures we inhabit.

Through in-class discussions, group work, excursions and guest lectures, the course will enable the participants to start using insights from this strand of continental political philosophy in the study of contemporary political issues. The students will learn about different forms of post-foundational thinking, and get to explore the ways in which it can be combined with various research techniques. The course will introduce the works of authors such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Claude Lefort, Jean-Luc Nancy, Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau, as central to this approach.

The overall goal of this intensive course is to provide a consistent frame of thought for students to approach some of the most pressing questions of our era. These include democracy, populism, political violence, economic violence, gender, climate change and identity politics. Teaching will be composed of lectures and seminars as well as workshops with researchers at the University of Helsinki.

Learning objectives

The course introduces post-foundational thinking and the related perspectives of conceptual analysis, post-structural discourse theory, interpretive political analysis and discourse theory. The broader aim is to learn how to use a theoretical approach in research in social and political sciences. As the outcome of the course, students will learn how to use post-foundational theory in actual research contexts, whether engaging with theoretical or empirical research. The students will be able to establish the differences between these approaches within the field of post-foundational theory, and assess their usefulness in particular research projects. With the help of teachers on the course and the final project they will also accumulate more in-depth knowledge on their chosen approach and topic of research.

Course format and teaching methods

The course combines lectures by leading experts and active learning methods, particularly group work and workshops. The course organises learning cafes with researchers on particular perspectives and methods. The course involves getting familiar with relatively demanding texts. The students will submit short assignments before and during the course to engage and facilitate learning. By the end of the course the students will submit a final project demonstrating the use of this methodology. Supervision is provided during the workshops, the learning cafes and through clinics by key teachers during the final week. During the excursion and on the evening out on the second week, the students will also engage with their peers and some of the teachers. Peer learning is encouraged through active learning and social engagement.

Target students

MA/PhD level students. BA or previous knowledge of research methods and research practice required.


Emilia Palonen (responsible teacher),
Taavi Sundell (coordinator),
You may contact the course coordinators with questions concerning the course content.

With any other questions concerning Helsinki Summer Schoool or the application process, please contact

Not available for applying at the moment

Application deadlines apply to citizens of: United States