Rural Generations on the Move. Cultural History of Rural Youth, 1950–2020


Project description

Rural Generations on the Move focuses on one of the most profound, yet overlooked social changes that Finland has encountered during the last century: the drastic transition from a predominantly agrarian society into an urban society. This cross-disciplinary project regenerates methodologies of history, youth studies, and rural studies in order to track the legacy of rural roots from World War II up until the present.

Important cultural and social shifts in the construction of rural youth and rural identity formation will be identified through three generations: 1) contemporary youth (b. 2000–2004), 2) the middle-aged (b. 1970s) and 3) the baby boomers (b. 1945–1955). The study focuses on the life-long meanings that rural roots have had in the life course of different generations. How do the individual interpretations and cultural meanings of rural youth shift over time, from youth to old age and from one generation to another? How is history present in the lives and choices of contemporary rural young people?

Today many Western societies face similar challenges concerning rural areas, as the economic recession has further accelerated regional differences, depopulation and migration after 2008. Young people are an especially vulnerable group in the eye of the turmoil. Generations on the Move contextualizes the current development in a longer historical perspective. A central goal is to advance dialogue between historical research and contemporary studies. The project combines accumulative participatory data and longitudinal study design with oral history sources, autobiographical material and statistical data. As a result, the project contributes to the theoretical and methodological development of both history and rural youth studies.

Rural Generations on the Move is an Academy Research Fellowship project (Academy no  323105). The project starts in September 2019. The project builds upon an earlier pilot study Youth in Time (Finnish Youth Research Society, 2015–17), funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.

Project coordinator

University of Oulu

Project results

  • Essi Jouhki & Kaisa Vehkalahti: Reconstructed Landscapes of Northern Youth:  Reading the Autobiographies of Finnish Youth, 1945–1960. In Reconstructing Minds and Landscapes. Silent Post-War Memory in the Margins of History. Ed. by Marja Tuominen, Timothy G. Ashplant & Tiina Harjumaa. Routledge Studies in Cultural History. Routledge: New York–London 2020. 
  • Sinikka Aapola-Kari & Kaisa Vehkalahti: Jatkuvuutta, resursseja ja neuvottelua: nuoret puhuvat perheestä. Teoksessa Nuorten perhe- ja läheissuhteet sekä seksuaalisuus. Nuorten elinolot -vuosikirja 2020. Toim. Tiina Valkendorff & Ella Sihvonen. THL, Helsinki 2020.


  • Sarka – The Finnish Museum Of Agriculture
  • Professor Unn-Doris Bæck, Sociology, UiT Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø
  • Associate Professor Hernan Cuervo, Melbourne Youth Research Centre, University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Senior Lecturer David Farrugia, School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle, Australia
  • Professor Anna Larsson, History of Science and Ideas, University of Umeå, Sweden
  • Professor Leen Van Molle, History, University of Leuven, Belgium
  • Associate Professor Maria Rönnlund, Applied Educational Science, University of Umeå, Sweden
  • Professor Rachel Seidman, Director of the Southern Oral History Program, University of North Carolina, US

Research groups

  • LAPANEN Northern Research Group for History of Childhood and Education


Kaisa Vehkalahti

Kaisa Vehkalahti

Academy Research Fellow