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Political Temporalities (POLTE)

Political Temporalities: Narrating Continuity and Change in the Finnish Parliament from the Cold War to Covid-19 (POLTE) studies the uses of political temporalities in the Finnish Parliament from 1976 until today, a period commonly viewed as witnessing a major transformation in culture, politics and society. We focus on how narratives organize events and explain and predict motivations to drive political action. Storytelling is a powerful means to construe temporal sequences that justify the speaker’s point of view, as narratives organize time into storylines of continuity and change. Conventional narratives of historical change as a basis for continuity have today lost their explanatory power in the face of unexpected global phenomena and the fragmentation of political ideologies. Outside of the conventional and the paradigmatic, narrative as a sense making operation helps us organize time with the sequential and causal logic of stories.

POLTE turns from theoretical accounts of the changes in political temporalities to concrete empirical findings – politicians’ temporal rhetorics in the Finnish parliament. Two large datasets comprising Finnish parliamentary records of plenary sessions (1976–2021) and the Library of Parliament oral history collection of veteran MPs' interviews (1988–2020) have been fully digitized, grammatically parsed, and enriched with metadata to detect prevailing and emergent phenomena. POLTE combines theoretical approaches from transdisciplinary narrative studies, political science and conceptual history with computational modeling based on linguistic features. These insights are examined based on contextual metadata evaluation, detailed local analysis and explorative data mining of the large political material of parliamentary talk.

POLTE asks how politicians generate narrative trajectories of change and continuity for political use. Three major temporal orientations are considered in all the questions: the present as the motivation for all temporal ordering, the past as material for retellings and the future as envisioned possibilities. POLTE expects the past to be made relevant and the future imagined for the purpose of promoting action in regard to today’s issues. This also means that the present projected as either crisis or stability instructs the sense of urgency or deliberation in the talk. With the multi-method analysis of our grammatically parsed and metadata-enriched data, we expect to redirect the study of political temporalities and highlight their importance in parliamentary rhetorics.



Research Council of Finland

Narrare research centre

Narrare advances the internationally renowned and interdisciplinary work that our team in literary studies and social sciences has been doing for more than two decades.