#8 Gender, Institutions and Power

Parallel sessions on Friday 25.11. at 15.00-16.15
Location: Room 8, Metsätalo

Johanna Kantola (University of Helsinki) – Power, institutions, and gender: The role of national delegations in the European Parliament

The European Parliament (EP) constitutes a prime site of contemporary party politics in Europe and represents both supranational and national interests. This paper suggests that the relationships between the EP political groups and the national delegations they consist of are at the heart of the tensions between supranational and national politics in the EP. Studying national delegations taps into questions about the potential for and challenges to European party politics, and European integration and democracy. Previous research has addressed the role of national delegations in parliamentary politics and in the internal politics of the political groups, aiming to understand where the power lies within the EP. Yet, there is little research about the informal institutions shaping their role, soft forms of power such as networking, and constructions about national delegations, each best captured with qualitative approaches.

This paper fills these gaps by generating new knowledge about the formal and informal institutions and power relations which shape the roles of national delegations and exploring how these are gendered. Our research questions are: How do the MEPs and staff construct the institutions and power relations which regulate the relationships and politics between national delegations and political groups? How are the institutions and power relations gendered? Our unique research material consists of 140 elite interviews with MEPs and group and EP staff and ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Brussels, Strasbourg and online between 2018-2022. It allows us to analyze political actors’ constructions of the role and power of national delegations and shed light on informal institutions as well as on soft forms of power.

Larisa Shpakovskaya (Aleksanteri Institute) – Gendering coloniality: women from Russia in Finnish universities

Talking about career success I explore the experiences of female migrants from Russia in Finnish academia. I am interested in the social positions of young women who are studying at Finnish universities at the Ph.D. and post-doctoral levels. I look at how these women describe themselves when they talk about their careers and professional plans. I examine this subject through the lens of postcolonial theory of knowledge and gender production. Gender works as a tool of coloniality by ordering human lives and cultures into Eurocentric hierarchies through the narrative of the West as the most progressive place for gender equality and sexual freedoms. Another aspect of coloniality lies in the global system of knowledge production that privileges European/western knowledge and lead to the inequalities in the devision of academic labour (Quijano, 2000).

Russia as a region is on intersection of different coloniality narratives, considering itself as anti-modernizing power and subjecting to the global colonial order (Tlostanova and Mignolo, 2012; Etkind 2023). I also regard the Finnish academy as an example of a Western neoliberal global academy, but also as a regional academy involved in the production of national elites and values (Pietilä, 2019). I look at how female narratives about professional success are built through the dilemmas East/West, modern/traditional, gender equality/patriarchy. I try to understand how complex layering of institutional rules/cultures and individual perceptions structure female career pathways and gender subjectivities. The presentation is based on the biographical interviews with women form Russia studying in Finnish universities. The data were collected between April 2021 and February 2022. My presentation is an attempt to reconsider them in light of military Russian invasion to Ukraine, but it doesn’t directly analyse how the war affected the research field.

Katariina Mäkinen & Eetu Mäkelä (Tampere University, University of Helsinki) – A reserve army of labour and care: Positioning mothers in family policy journalism

In this presentation, we interrogate how women – in particular, mothers of small children – become positioned when issues around family policy are discussed in journalistic news media and in the context of the welfare state reform in Finland. The purpose is to shed light on how the changing relations of state, local governance, and market play out in the traditional news media, and how they construct and shape the contours of respectable citizenship for mothers.

We build on a case study that concerns child home care allowance (a cash-for-childcare benefit). With both quantitative and qualitative methods, we have traced Finnish mainstream news stories concerning home care allowance over a twenty-year period from 1998 to 2018. Based on our analysis, we argue that child home care allowance has functioned (and continues to) as one of the prime instances of negotiation around mothers’ citizenship in the context of family policy in Finland.

Our theoretical attention is on how mother’s citizenship, as it becomes constituted and negotiated in news journalism on family policy, relates to regimes of labour and care. As shown by Ylöstalo (2022) the ongoing Nordic welfare state reform involves the intensification and exploitation of women’s productive and reproductive labour. Our aim then is to dissect the conditions and contradictions involved in these processes of intensification and exploitation, and the contradictions in the ways in which women become located, proceeding from the empirical question of positioning women within news journalism. Thinking with the concept of reserve army, we show how women’s political citizenship shifts and eradicates in news journalism, as women become simultaneously constructed as worker citizens, and located as mobile economic objects, caught between contradictory local and national childcare policies.