Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena

Dr Łukasz Sommer

Fellow Łukasz Sommer

October 2013 - September 2014
Mail: lukaszsommer(at)gmail(dot)com

Łukasz Sommer has been a fellow at Imre Kertész Kolleg from October 2013 till September 2014. Since 2007, he has been working as an assistant professor in the Finnish Studies Program within the Department of Hungarian Studies, University of Warsaw. He has defended a doctoral dissertation in sociology (UW, 2007), obtained an MA in philosophy (UW, 1999) and was for some time a student of Baltic Studies (UW, 1998/1999). He collaborates with the Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences as a participant of the research project "Specificities of historical development in Poland and Central Europe: an analysis of historical debates on national and regional exceptionalism".

Research project at the Kolleg

Between Scandinavia and the Urals: ideologies of Fenno-Ugricity

The planned work is a comparative study examining the notion of Fenno-Ugric kinship and its various uses for identity-building in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. "Fenno-Ugricity", just like "Slavicity" or "Indo-Europeanness", is a language-based concept of kinship whose range of meaning and usage was broadened and utilized to (re)construct, strengthen or preserve collective identities. The study focuses on Finland and Estonia, where the Fenno-Ugric idea has been particularly influential in the shaping of national self-images. The central problems of my planned study could be summarized up in two points. First, there is the idea of kinship applied to language. The early development of Fenno-Ugristic studies as a field in linguistics closely followed that of Indo-European studies; both were affected by the romantic language philosophy as well as by the parallel rise of European nationalisms which employed various forms of romanticized linguistics in their political agendas. In analyzing concepts of Fenno-Ugric ancestry, I want to reflect on 1) the way the organic metaphors of language have been integrated into comparative linguistics by becoming metaphors of language families, and then politicized under the label of kin peoples; 2) the way the romantic idiom has remained effective in shaping popular notions of language and identity, even after it has fallen out of scientific usage. The other set of questions has to do with the categories of center and periphery, power and cultural prestige. In the 19th-century academic discourse which often conflated language, culture and race into one identity packet, the Fenno-Ugric heritage ranked low. Nevertheless, it has successfully served as a point of reference that offered both Finns and Estonians symbolic emancipation from dominant cultures - Swedish in Finland, German and (Soviet) Russian in Estonia. This transformation of unprestigious labels, cultural or linguistic, into effective instruments of prestige building is a process which involves both the transfer of ideas and discursive patterns from center to periphery, and adaptation that allows to disarm some of their "orientalizing" (or, as one should perhaps say in this case, "borealizing") aspects.

Main areas of research

  •     Intellectual History
  •     Cultural History of Finland and the Baltic Region
  •     History of Linguistic Thought
  •     Nationalism Studies

Positions and memberships

  •     assistant professor at the Department of Hungarian Studies, University of Warsaw


Mowa ojców potrzebna od zaraz. Fińskie spory o język narodowy w pierwszej połowie XIX wieku [An urgent need for a forefather's tongue: Finnish national language debates in the first half of the 19th century], Warszawa: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego 2009 (446 p.)


"Dialect struggles and linguistic propaganda (some examples from across the Baltic)", in Miroslav Kouba, Dagmar Magincová, Ivo Říha (eds.), Kontexty propagandy, Pardubice: Univerzita Pardubice 2012 : 71-78.
"Ugrofińskie pogranicza nordyckości" [Fenno-Ugric borderlands of the Nordic world], Przegląd Humanistyczny no. 1 / 2012: 73- 83.

"A step away from Herder: Turku Romantics and the question of national language", Slavonic and East European Review, January 2012: 1-32.

"Finland and the Baltics: patterns of national identity-building" in Bożenna Bojar (ed.), Czas, pamięć, tradycja. Materiały konferencji [Time, memory, tradition: conference proceedings], Warszawa: Katedra Hungarystyki Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego 2010: 69-79.



Barbara Szordykowska, Historia Finlandii, Warszawa: TRIO 2011 in Kwartalnik Historyczny 3/2013.

Derek Fewster, Visions of Past Glory: Nationalism and the Construction of Early Finnish History, Helsinki 2006] in Kwartalnik Historyczny nr 1, 2008: 113-116.

Sakari Ollitervo, Kari Immonen (eds.), Herder, Suomi, Eurooppa, Helsinki 2006) in Historisk Tidskrift för Finland 2/2007: 351-356.

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