I am a Professor in Global Political Economy in the Department of Global Development Studies at Queen’s University, Canada. My relationship with the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies began in 2015 when I was awarded the Jane and Aatos Erkko Visiting Professorship in Studies on Contemporary Society to focus on the housing crisis in Europe for the 2015-2016 academic year. Since then, I have had the honour of becoming a permanent Docent Professor in the Department of Global Development Studies at the University of Helsinki in 2021. A year later, I was elected as a Fellow to the Canadian Royal Society, which is one of the top prizes available to Canadian Social Scientists. I thank the HCAS and the Erkko Foundation for playing an indispensable role in allowing me to design and realize my research project on which these awards are based.
As political economist, my research has been concerned with how policymaking has sought to address questions of social precarity and inequality at overlapping scales of governance from local to global. This interdisciplinary research is demonstrated in my latest book – Urban Displacements – based on detailed empirical case studies of low-income housing in Berlin, Vienna, and Dublin. The Erkko Professorship and the stimulating environment afforded by the intellectual exchanges at the HCAS were instrumental writing this book, which was awarded the prestigious IPEG Book Prize in 2021. Building on Urban Displacements, my current project explores the ecological, social, and economic tensions between transport infrastructure and city logistics in Europe, North America, and Southeast Asia. Among other stakeholders, I intend to work closely with faculty and students at the University of Helsinki and the HCAS.
As I have repeated to countless colleagues over the years, for me HCAS has been as close to an academic paradise as it gets. Even if there might no longer be free massage for Fellows as there was during my full-time affiliation in 2014-2015, it maintains a special feeling of community also when one visits as an alumnus. A space of learning together with colleagues from various fields, in a cordial and open atmosphere is what it was and still seems to be.
In my permanent job as a professor of World Politics at the University of Helsinki, I have often relied on transdisciplinary connections and insights gained at HCAS. I am a social scientist. One of my current projects is related to the history of the hooked cross, sometimes known as the Swastika. HCAS networks include many historians from whom I can keep learning both on the substance and on the ways to use historiographical methods. The uses of the symbol also open complicated legal questions. How and why have some forms of the hooked cross been criminalized? Luckily, the HCAS community also includes wonderful legal scholars with whom I can reflect upon such matters.
Since I was recently appointed Chair of Finnish National Commission for UNESCO, I have increasingly appreciated also the multiple fields of arts and humanities present in HCAS. One sometimes hears of UNESCO that it deals with things that make life worth living. These include cultural heritage, wonders of science, pleasures of peace education. A wide array of things, yet nicely interconnected, a bit like HCAS and life itself.