Social Work Research Days 2023
Barzoo Eliassi
Associate professor, Linnaeus University

Barzoo Eliassi holds a doctorate in Social Work since 2010 and currently work as an Associate Professor in social work at Linnaeus University, Sweden. Barzoo carried out his postdoctoral research at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University 2011–2014. In 2014, Eliassi was recruited by the International Migration Institute at Oxford University to work within a major research program: Oxford Diasporas Program. He is the author of the first book on Kurdish diaspora in Sweden (Contesting Kurdish Identities in Sweden: Quest for Belonging among Middle Eastern Youth, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). In 2021, he published his second monograph with the title:  Narratives of Statelessness and Political Otherness: Kurdish and Palestinian Experiences (Palgrave Macmillan). Moreover, he has published widely on Social Work, racism, multiculturalism, identity formation, statelessness, diversity, diaspora, and integration.

Barzoo teaches social work at undergraduate, graduate and doctoral level within the field of migration, international social work, nation-state, citizenship and processes of inclusion and exclusion. As a Kurdish refugee, Barzoo grew up in a refugee camp in Iraq where he lived during 13 years before migrating to Sweden in 1993.  In his scholarship and teaching, Barzoo often uses personal narratives and autoethnographical accounts in order to make entry into larger political, cultural and economic contexts that produce different forms of hierarchies and relations of dominance and subordination.

The discomfort of being a racialized subject in a white-centered world: An autoethnographical account

Keynote 16.2. (language: English)

In this talk, as an entry into large political contexts of racialization in everyday life and academia, I will adopt autoethnography to describe and analyze my personal trajectory of otherness as a Kurdish refugee in Iraq and as a non-white migrant in Sweden. I will show that racism is not a deviation from the social order in Sweden but a central part of the everyday life and institutional engagement with members of groups whose presence and perspectival legitimacy are either questioned, denied or rendered as culturally aliens.

Moreover, I will provide examples of the discomfort of everyday life encounters with the members of the dominant constituency and the racialized language of academia regarding the thresholds of belonging and exclusion in a white-centered world, and how the discourses of hospitality and hostility are often present in creating a conditional and unequal place for the Other.

For racialized academics who are engaged in tackling epistemic hierarchies and racist practices, there is often an imminent risk that they become isolated and viewed as a force that undermines the social cohesion of the collegiality at the university. Accordingly, the discourse of diversity and happy faces deployed by different universities does not primarily intend to decenter whiteness and to undo racial order but to retain the privilege of whiteness as the ONE that stipulates conditions and rules of belonging and distribution of resources.  

Markku Jokinen
KM, EO, Executive Director, Finnish Association of the Deaf

Markku Jokinen has been the executive director of the Finnish Association of the Deaf since 2007. Before that, he was involved in the role of project coordinator in creating internationally unique sign language schoolteacher training at the University of Jyväskylä between 1998 and 2005. In his international positions of trust as president of the World Federation of the Deaf (2003–2011) and president of the European Union of the Deaf (2013–2022), he has promoted the strengthening of the linguistic and cultural rights of sign language speakers. Together with Liisa Kauppinen, the organizational counsellor of the honorary president of the World Federation of the Deaf, he was involved in getting obligations regarding the rights of sign language speakers into the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the treaty negotiations at the UN headquarters in New York (2003–2006).

In his various tasks, Markku Jokinen has familiarized himself with e.g. to the theories and practice of bilingual teaching of the deaf, the definitions of the sign language community and its culture, the language policy regarding sign languages and their language guidance, the recognition processes of sign languages in legislation in different countries and also domestically, the UN Convention on Disability's issues regarding sign language and the rights of those who use it, and the wide-ranging monitoring of the rights of sign language speakers. He has received requests for lectures and articles on these topics from different parts of the world. He has served in the Human Rights Delegation from 2012 to 2020 and is currently an expert member of the Human Rights Committee for the Disabled. For his merits, he has been awarded e.g. honorary doctorates from the world's only university for the deaf, Gallaudet University (Washington DC, 2011), and the University of Jyväskylä (2013).

Sign language users as clients and active agents – interpretations and experiences of equality, inclusion, and diversity

Keynote 16.2. (language: Finnish sign language, interpretation into Finnish)

Background and preparatory work on the truth and reconciliation process for historical injustices and rights violations against the deaf and sign language speakers has been carried out in Finland for a few years. This is an internationally unique process. The Japanese Federation of the Deaf has previously promoted a similar process in its own country. The presentation will provide a concise description of the injustices faced by the deaf and sign language speakers and the background work that has been done for the process. This presentation prepares the ground for an examination of decolonization, intersectionality, and social categories (in this presentation, disability, language, and culture) from the experiences of sign language speakers. It will answer questions such as: How are sign language speakers encountered and perceived in different situations and roles? What interpretations and frameworks may be emphasized when sign language speakers are encountered in different situations? Whose interpretation and experience of equality, inclusion and diversity possibly prevail? What conditions should be met for the experience of equal inclusion to be realized? The analysis is not limited to social work but also covers other areas such as education, employment, access to services and information, and social participation. It also briefly describes experiences of how researchers encounter members of the sign language community.

Satu Ranta-Tyrkkö
YTT, Docent, Senior Lecturer, University of Jyväskylä

Satu Ranta-Tyrkkö's academic career is marked by an interest in cross-border, global, and local relations, post-colonial theory, and the interfaces and confluences of social work and art, as well as social work and environmental issues. Her award-winning dissertation (2010) dealt with the socially engaged theater of the Natya Chetana (Theatre of Consciousness) theater group operating in Odisha, India, as popular social work. Since then, as a researcher and teacher, she has focused especially on issues of social and ecological sustainability. In her post doc research (Academy of Finland 2014–2017), she focused on the effects of mining on local communities and the social work done with them, as well as more broadly the responsibilities and roles of social work in tackling environmental issues. Since then, she has aimed for promoting the adoption of the eco-social framework in social work (e.g. Ranta-Tyrkkö and Närhi 2021), and the development of social work's crisis preparedness and global and future ethics in relation to climate change and other global systemic risks. In addition to her social work duties, she is currently working part-time as a university lecturer responsible for the themes of social sustainability in the Polku 2.0 project, coordinated by the University of Jyväskylä, which produces phenomenon- and learner-oriented sustainability studies for different educational levels and working life needs in central Finland. 

Colonial Finland and Social Work, aka Why Decolonising Concerns Finns and Finnish Social Work

Shared keynote 17.2. (language: Finnish)

Professional social work and social work as a discipline developed in a world characterized by imperialism and colonialism. Although colonialism and imperialism as formal political control and economic exploitation are largely a thing of the past, their multiple legacies live on strongly in politics, economy, culture, and knowledge structures. This is also the case in Finland, where colonialism and the ideologies and practices intertwined with it, such as racism and the othering of certain groups of people, have been discussed relatively little and recognized – and acknowledged – poorly until these days.

In the power and knowledge structures and practices of social work, the legacy of colonialism can be seen, among other things, in what and whose knowledge and experiences are given space and value: what kind of global and national narrative about the development of the field is attached to, to what extent there is the ability and desire to intervene in the discrimination experienced by various racialized groups, how the economic, political and welfare differences between the so-called developing and developed countries is discussed (if discussed at all), and what is nature and human’s relationship with it. Assumptions and power structures inherited from the days of colonialism cannot be dismantled unless they are recognized. Recognition does not remove previous complicity in supporting colonial power and knowledge structures, but it makes room to act differently now and in the future. 

Anni-Kristiina Juuso (Ánneristen Juuso)

Anni-Kristiina Juuso (Ánneristen Juuso in mother tongue Northern Sámi) is reindeer herding Indigenous Sámi, Actress,Lawyer Trained on the Bench, Ph.D. in law Candidate living in northernmost Sweden and northwestern Finland in Karesuando area, in the Heart of Sápmi. Besides acting as her Number One Career, as a Lawyer she concentrates in Indigenous and Human Rights Law. 

She has worked with matters concerning Truth and Reconciliation Commissions since 2017 both in Norway and Finland. Her PhD research concentrates on TRC as an institution and whether such commissions really contribute, and if, how, to the realisation of Indigenous Peoples jus cogens the right to self-determination.

From fear to light – Understanding and together towards the future of everyone 

Baluin čuvgii – Ipmirdeamiin ja ovttas buohkaid boahtteáigái

Shared keynote 17.2. (language: Finnish)

The Indigenous Sámi reside Sápmi as one people in four countries; Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia (Kola Peninsula). There are nine Sámi languages alive, all of them are considered as endangered languages. There are approximately 100 000 Sámi individuals. The Sámi People are a heterogenous people and a Sámi individual is strongly connected with one’s family and home territory. Those who have taken care of the Tomorrow for The Sámi are the Earth as the Mother and the Sun as the Father, as well as the Nature and the deep connection with it. Coping.

In 1995, Finland implemented an amendment of fundamental rights and, in conjunction with that, the basic rights of the Sámi people as Indigenous people were added in the Constitution Act ( 17.07.1919/94). These rights are also included in the current Constitution Act ( 11.6.1999/731) which entered into force in 2000. Provided in the Constitution Act section 17 subsection 3 , the Sámi as an indigenous people, have the right to maintain and develop their own language and culture. Provisions on the right of the Sámi to use the Sámi language before the authorities are laid down by an Act ( the Sámi language Act 15.12.2003/ 1086). Provided in section 121 subsection 4 in the Constitution Act, the Sámi have linguistic and cultural self-government in their native region, laid down by an Act ( Act on Sámi Parliament 17.7.1995/974)

In Finland, the existence of Indigenous Sámi people is given protection in the Constitution. But are the rights of the Sámi fulfilled in real life - how does for example Finnish social work recognise the rights and needs of the Sámi? And how to navigate in a structural pyramid where the State is on the top, the executive institutions on the other level and the individual on the third level? Is it at all possible to overcome fears that are based on lack of knowledge and prejudices and to progress towards light and harmonious coexistence? Is it fruitful to talk about decolonisation anymore - the breakdown of the white supremacy so that those not in power would equally gain access to justice and their fundamental rights? Or is it nevertheless so that that is is impossible to get rid of the old habits and prejudices, and those who would have benefited from it, are already gone?