Kone Foundation granted funding to visiting researcher of the Arctic Centre Francis Joy

13.12.2023 13:08

Post-Doctoral Researcher Francis Joy, member of the Arctic Anthropology research group of the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland, and John Ryan, University of Oulu, were awarded a 2 year research grant of 218,600 € for project “Gifts from the Sentient Forest: Communication and Collaboration between Trees and People in Northern Finland”.

‘Gifts from the Sentient Forest’ will develop an innovative approach to Northern Finland’s forests. The project will foster new perspectives on the region’s plants and the cultural heritage surrounding them through insights from the natural and social sciences, humanities, and arts. 

The idea of ‘forest sentience’ signifies the capacity of plants for communication, memory, and other qualities linked to intelligence. What are the creative, educational, social, and health-related implications of recognising plants as sentient? 

Researchers suggest that engaging diverse audiences in experiencing forest sentience can transform longstanding perceptions of trees as mere commodities. The project will endeavour to understand how recognising the botanical world in contexts other than exploitation can illuminate ways in which plant life rejuvenates human-nature relationships and sustains the Earth. 

The research and art project will investigate forest sentience as groundwork for cultivating communication and collaboration that, in turn, inspires a transformation of spirituality, awareness, and values. The research will facilitate participants’ experiences of forest sentience at sites near Oulu and Rovaniemi. Original songs, poetry, stories, artworks, photography, and performances will result from seminars, lectures, workshops, exhibitions, and publications. 

The project will bring together the expertise of Francis Joy and John C. Ryan. While Joy’s method of engaging trees focuses on spiritual dimensions, Ryan’s approach explores the potential of sensory engagement with plants. 

Towards these aims, the programme will involve two concurrent components: Joy and Ryan’s creative work as established artists and writers collaborating with plants; and activities supporting others in deepening their connections to nature through spiritual and sensory modalities. To enhance the programme’s ecological emphasis, activities will be structured around Northern Finland’s eight seasons.

More information:

Francis Joy
Postdoctoral researcher
Arctic Anthropology, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland