RENÉ GOTHÓNI
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Biography

1. Concise curriculum vitae
René Gothóni (b. 10 April 1950 in Helsinki, Finland) is a scholar in the Study of Religions and a Doctor of Theology. He was the first to be appointed Professor in the Study of Religions at the Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki in 2001. His scholarly reputation was initially related to his fieldwork studies in Sri Lanka among Sinhalese-Buddhist monks during the academic year 1974-75. On the basis of his field material he authored the first doctoral thesis about Buddhism to be written in Finland, entitled Modes of Life of Theravada Monks. A Case Study of Buddhist Monasticism in Sri Lanka (1982), and became Doctor of Theology in 1983. He wrote and edited a few books about Buddhism during the mid-eighties, before he began to study Orthodox monks and pilgrims on the Holy Mountain of Athos, which he first visited in September 1984. Since then he has returned to Athos regularly twice a year, as both a scholar and an Orthodox pilgrim, thus deepening his knowledge of the spiritual life of the Athonites. He wrote the following books based on this second collection of field material: Paradise within Reach. Monasticism and Pilgrimage on Mt Athos (1993), Tales and Truth. Pilgrimage on Mount Athos Past and Present (1994) and Det heliga berget Athos (2006).
As a distinguished scholar in the Study of Religions René Gothóni is also a specialist on hermeneutic, methodic, epistemologic and theoretic questions, which he elaborates in his books Attitudes and Interpretations in Comparative Religion (2000) and Words Matter. Hermeneutics in the Study of Religions (2011).
René Gothóni was a founding member of Mythos, the Student Association of the Study of Religions at the University of Helsinki, established in 1972. He was also a founding member of the Finnish Society of the Friends of Mount Athos in 2006, and has been its president ever since.
Professor Gothóni is known for his documentary films Buddhalaisuus singalilaisessa kulttuurissa (“Buddhism in Sinhalese Culture”), which was shown on Finnish MTV on 3 September 1977 and Yleisradio TV 1 on 18 September 1979, and for his video films Buddhalaisuus tänään (“Buddhism Today”; Kirjapaja 1985) and Paratiisin portilla. Kuusi kirjettä Balkanilta ja Athosvuorelta (“At the Gate of Paradise”; Kirjapaja 1996). Mikaela Weurlander made a documentary programme in Swedish about his fieldwork on the Holy Mountain of Athos entitled Till Athos med René Gothóni (“To Athos with René Gothóni”), shown by FST5 four times in 2011.
He is familiar to a wider audience on account of his fictive books Tuntematon pyhiinvaeltaja (2000), Nainen tiennäyttäjänä (2001), Sanat kuin peili (2001) and The Unknown Pilgrim. The Soul’s Journey to God and to the Holy Mountain of Athos (2006), and the reference book Ajattelun aarteet (with Raili Gothóni 2007).
René Gothóni has many strings to his bow and has during his life engaged himself in filming, music composition and song writing in accordance with his hermeneutical view of life. He was a camera operator at the Finnish broadcasting company MTV during the years 1979-81. He has written songs in both English and Swedish, and has released two CDs:  René Gothóni Nostalgic 1966-1971 (2010) and Glimtarna är livet (2011).

1. Elected memberships in scholarly societies
· The Finnish Anthropological Society; Member of the Board 1984-1999
· The Finnish Society of Comparative Religion; Member of the Board 1985-1989
· The Finnish Society for Byzantine Studies; Member of the Board, Editor-in-Chief 1991-01
· Finnish Institute in the Middle East; Member of the Board 1994-1997
· The Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters; Member of the Board 1996-07
· The Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters; Secretary of the humanities section 1996-
· The Delegation of the Finnish Academies of Science and Letters; Member of the Board 1998-
· Representative of the Delegation of the Finnish Academies of Science and Letters at the meetings of the European Science Exchange Program and the European Exchange Scheme in the Humanities and Social Sciences 1999-03
· Chair of the Board of the Publications Centre of the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies 2003-
· Representative of the Delegation of the Finnish Academies of Science and Letters at the meeting of the International Union of Academies, Brussels, May 2006
· Representative of the Delegation of the Finnish Academies of Science and Letters at the meeting of the International Union of Academies, Brussels, May/June 2008

2. Research awards, honours and major stipendiary support
· Scholarship for field research in Sri Lanka from the World Council of Churches, 1974-75
· Research Allocation, University of Helsinki, 1986
· Senior Scientist’s Grant from the Academy of Finland, 1988-89
· Finnish Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge, U.K. 1989-90
· Life Member of Clare Hall College, Cambridge, U.K. 1990-
· Life Member of the Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters, 1992-
· Senior Scientist’s Grant from the Academy of Finland, 1993-94
· Research Allocation for a Finnish-Greek project from the Academy of Finland,1993-96
· The Oskar Öflund Foundation’s main prize, 1998
· Member of the Board of Advisors: Helsinki City Museum of Arts, the Athos exhibition, 2004-06
· Patron of the Friends of Mount Athos (Oxford), 2005-
· President of the Finnish Society of the Friends of Mount Athos, 2005-
- First Class Medal of the White Rose of Finland 2011

3. Editorial board memberships / editor
· Member of the editorial board: Temenos, 2004
· Member of the Board of Advisors: Literature of Travel and Exploration.  An Encyclopaedia in three volumes, edited by Jennifer Speake; New York and London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2003
· Editor-in-Chief of Byzantium and the North. Acta Byzantina Fennica (Yearbook). Helsinki: The Finnish Society for Byzantine Studies, 1991-01
· Editor-in-Chief of Comparative Religion. Helsinki: Publications of the Department of Comparative Religion. University of Helsinki, 1997-

 

 

René Gothóni on the Holy Mountain of Athos conducting fieldwork among Orthodox monks, 1985
(Photo © Antonios Vasiliadis)

René Gothóni in Sri Lanka conducting fieldwork among Buddhist monks, 1974
(Photo © Raili Gothóni)
 
 

 

© René Gothóni 2011-12