INEQ Research Seminar Autumn 2020

INEQ holds biweekly on Thursdays at 12–14 an interdisciplinary research seminar Intersecting Inequalities (I2) for the Helsinki University based scholars, visitors and collaborators.

During the 2020 fall term, the research seminar sessions will be held mostly online. Participants can attend the seminar with a remote access in Zoom, the link will be distributed on INEQ mailing list.

September 10: Professor Juho Saari

Post-pandemic social inequality 

Professor Juho Saari (TUNI), social and health policy

Discussant: Professor Anu Kantola (UH), media and communication

September 24: Associate Professor Dorota Gozdecka

Unequal visually therefore unequal in rights - the link between the idea of justice and visual representation of migrants.

Associate Professor Dorota Gozdecka (UH), law 

This presentation analyses the dominant visual imagery of refugees and migrants and examines its relationship with increased securitization of migration law. The presentation interrogates the visual power of such images, and their relationship to law, its interpretation and development. By focusing on the frames with which migrants are represented it unpacks the processes of aesthetic and social framing that legitimates and justifies continuous tightening of legal rules on migration and narrowing of the access of migrants to rights. This analysis utilizes the theory of law and the image rather than empirical or statistical analysis of images.  By examining selected figures recurring in visual discourse on migration it shows their impact on legitimacy of the ever-stricter measures in the area. 

Discussant: Associate professor Mervi Pantti (UH), media and communication

October 8: University Lecturer Johannes Kananen

Creative Social Policy: The Collective Emancipation of Human Potential

University Lecturer Johannes Kananen (UH), social policy

Creative social policy departs from the notion that every human being has a creative potential and that this potential may be realised individually in various ways during the life course. Creativity is not just the characteristic of distinguished artists, such as established composers or painters or a ‘creative class’ of workers. Creativity is about finding ones place in a community, gaining a sense of self-understanding and purpose and flourishing as a human being.

Arguing that states can engage in the liberation of human creative potentials, this book outlines a novel concept of creative social policy. It criticises mainstream notions of social policy, which have, as argued in the book, conformed with neoclassical economics and a technocratic way of policy making resulting in rising inequality and contributing to the current crisis of liberal democracy. The book argues it is time to look at each member of society as an individual and as an end in itself in order to create structures for people to realise their goals and aspirations. The book also urges to take the development of societies more seriously than hitherto. It presents Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a possible future application of creative social policy and proposes to reform existing social security schemes to include entrepreneurs and self-employed people, complemented by new forms of organising work and schemes that channel credit to start-up companies.

Discussant: TBA

October 29: Postdoctoral Researcher Marja Peltola

School and Social Inequalities 

Postdoctoral Researcher Marja Peltola (UH), sociology, educational sciences

As urban segregation has been shown to be an existing and increasing phenomenon in urban Finland – parallel to urban areas in many European countries – there is a growing concern on whether or not the schools located at socioeconomically less advantaged areas are able to offer high-quality basic education to the student bodies that do not comply with the education system’s middle class and white norms.  

Social Studies in Urban Education (SURE) is a research group located at the Uni. Helsinki and focused on issues of urban segregation and educational (in)equality. One of its projects is Local Educational Ethos – a study of well-performing comprehensive schools in disadvantaged areas (LEE), that focuses on everyday life in schools located at less advantaged residential areas in metropolitan Helsinki, especially the lived consequences of and ways to tackle urban segregation in schools. LEE draws from ethnographic and interview data produced in three lower secondary schools with students, school staff and parents. In the presentation, preliminary findings of the LEE project, focusing on the students’ perspective to the social boundaries and their classed and ethnicised dimensions in the schools’ everyday life are discussed.  

Discussant: Post-doctoral Researcher Anna-Leena Riitaoja (UH), educational sciences

November 5: Associate Professor Roman Yangarber

Linguistic inequalities, the challenges they pose, and addressing them via language technology and educational data science.

Associate Professor Roman Yangarber (UH), digital humanities

On the wide spectrum of linguistic inequalities, we focus on two kinds that may be addressed via novel technological solutions.  One is the case of migrants/immigrants, who need linguistic competence to adapt socially in their new environments.  Another is the case of speakers of endangered languages, or speakers in diaspora, who try to maintain their language in families and communities, in the presence of a dominant language.

Crucially, in both cases we are aiming for high levels of proficiency — learning at the elementary levels only is not relevant, since it is not sufficient to address the fundamental problems.

We discuss how recent advances in language technology and educational data science can be leveraged to create novel approaches to these problems, by building machines that can help people learn effectively.  We present our approach, which tries to simulate a good teacher, by modeling and assessing the learner's state and progress.  An important aspect of our approach is allowing the user to learn from any content — arbitrary authentic texts, chosen by the users themselves.  The approach relies on collecting data from learners about the learning process — about typical patterns of mistakes, paths of progress, etc., to continually improve the teaching ability of the system.

Discussant: Postdoctoral Researcher Ulla Buchert (UH), sociology

November 19: Associate Professor Kris Clarke

Policing the Park: Sex Panic, Surveillance and Neoliberal Urban Governance 

Associate Professor Kris Clarke (UH), social work

This study explores how a police sting that targeted men soliciting sex with other men around public park toilets in Fresno, California led to an increase in the jurisdictional authority of and resources for local law enforcement. These municipal changes included the installation of a surveillance system that stretched well beyond the park toilets and into poor Black and Brown neighborhoods. By analysing the trajectory of local decision-making about the policing of public parks, we argue that law enforcement and other officials stoked sex panic about same sex erotic activity to cloak other vested interests. Namely, law enforcement invented a criminal threat to enhance  its own profession through fiscal and bureaucratic expansion. Sex panic demobilised and delegitimised opposition to these law enforcement efforts even among more liberal public officials. As a result, the sting fueled ongoing law enforcement practices that targeted poor neighborhoods of colour. Our conclusion considers how exploiting the public’s fear of perilous social disorder distorts the priorities of city government while also strengthening racial and class segregation. 

Discussant: Associate Professor Marianna Muravyeva (UH), law, Aleksanteri Institute

December 3: Academy research fellow Johanna Ylipulli

Digital inequality in smart cities

Academy research fellow Johanna Ylipulli (Aalto), cultural anthropology

How inequality is connected to the digitalization of cities? Are smart city areas providing quality of life but only for few – those who are affluent, techno-savvy and privileged in other ways? How this kind of development could be tackled or even reversed? The research project Digital inequality in smart cities (DISC), funded by the Academy of Finland and running from September 2020 to August 2025 intends to answer these questions. The presentation charts why the topic of digital inequality is crucial for Finnish cities and how it can be approached from design anthropological perspective that enhances understanding but can also provide potential solutions.

Discussant: Professor Sami Moisio (UH), social and economic geography