Thesis defence in the University of Oulu

Doctoral Candidate

MA Essi Jouhki

Faculty and research unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Humanities, History

Field of study


Date and time of the thesis defence

21.2.2020 12:00

Place of the thesis defence

University of Oulu, Linnanmaa, auditorium L6

Topic of the dissertation

Generations of Student Associations. An Oral History Research on School Student Movement in Finnish Upper Secondary Schools in the 1950s–1970s


Professor Laura Kolbe, University of Helsinki


Professor Tiina Kinnunen, University of Oulu

Generations of Student Associations. An Oral History Research on School Student Movement in Finnish Upper Secondary Schools in the 1950s–1970s

As nearly 50 years ago, the end of the 2010s will be remembered as the decade of youth activism. During the last few years, the World has witnessed as school-aged children and young people around the world have marched at the forefront of the global climate movement.

The doctoral dissertation at hand opens up the ever so topical discussion on youth activism and demonstrates how youthful practices and visions are handed down from one generation to another. The study focused on the history of Finnish school student activism and employs it as a prism to understand, for example, the ever so topical climate activism.

This dissertation studied Finnish upper secondary school students’ associational life from the 1950s to the 1970s. Through a large body of memory-based sources, this study focused on the student generations of that time as well as their memories of participation in local student associations. Student associations were a traditional form of secondary school students’ spontaneous activity that boosted their sense of community and offered a platform to execute important issues. Local student associations were organized under a central organization, The Finnish Union of Secondary School Students, which was an acknowledged representative and political advocate for secondary school students.

The study portrays how, during the ’60s, student associations grew into a national-level school student movement. At the same time, school students exemplified as socially and politically active, even radical, young people. Furthermore, the dissertation proposes that school student activism can be seen as a sedimentary generational movement: the tradition affected large masses of school students during four different decades.

This study demonstrates that the history of youth radicalism and activism has a long and multigenerational history. By pointing this out, the research helps to understand the mechanisms of modern phenomena. The school student movement of the past has had long-reaching influence both on the lives of students and in Finnish society: student associations prepared its’ actives into taking responsibilities in the cultural, political and economic spheres of the society. In consequence, this has inflected on how modern social and political culture is understood and explained. However, until now, the impact and significance of student associations have been widely neglected.

The research was done by conducting autobiographical interviews with previous members of student associations. The interviewees recollected their personal experiences and memories of their school-time activities. In addition, the history of the school student movement was perceived through archival sources and newspapers. However, personal and subjective memories and narrative interpretations of historical documents were at the core of the research method.


Last updated: 12.2.2020