INEQ Research Seminar Spring 2021

Every other Thursday at 12–14, INEQ holds an interdisciplinary research seminar 'Intersecting Inequalities' (I2) for the Helsinki University based scholars, visitors and collaborators working with projects, issues and questions related to inequality.

During the 2021 spring term, the research seminar sessions will be held online. Participants can attend the seminar with a remote access on Zoom, the link will be distributed on INEQ mailing list. Join us!

February 4: Associate Professor Hisayo Katsui

Disability and embodied inequalities 

Associate Professor Hisayo Katsui (UH), Disability Studies

Inequalities are not only socially constructed but also manifested in embodied experiences of persons with disabilities across different time and space. In the first part of the presentation, I introduce disability studies that is a new academic discipline established in the University of Helsinki by the Finnish disability movement. Disability studies examines disabilities as a social phenomenon with social scientific and multidisciplinary approaches. Disability Studies pays special attention to power, especially inequalities and discrimination in society, and tries to contribute to disability rights realization. Both research process and findings are sensitive to human rights of persons with disabilities.

In the second part of the presentation, I introduce our on-going research project entitled, “Viitotut Muistot: kuuroihin ja viittomakieliseen yhteisöön kohdistuneet oikeudenloukkaukset (in English - Signed Memories: Rights Violation against Deaf People and Sign Community)" (…). This project investigates human rights violation that have taken place against Deaf people and Sign community in Finland since 1900 to date. The results of the research will facilitate the following reconciliation process of the government of Finland to this particular community including official apology and possibly also compensation. 

Discussant: Associate Professor Kris Clarke (UH), Social Work

February 18: Keynote talk by Tine Buffel


This seminar session is replaced with INEQ Guest Talk by Tine Buffel (University of Manchester) on de­vel­op­ing age-friendly communities with older people as co-researchers. 

March 5: Grant-funded Researcher George Forji Amin

NB! This seminar session will be held on Friday instead of Thursday.

On the historical causes of underdevelopment in Africa: Property rights, primitive accumulation, political economy, and international law

Grant-funded Researcher George Forji Amin (UH), Law

What causes poverty and underdevelopment especially in Africa—where the scourge has persisted since independence? Academics have grappled with this question since the end of the Second World War (WWII)—following the attainment of independence by majority of third world countries from colonial rule. From the vast barrage of writings on development studies, three mutually exclusive schools of thought emerged, to wit: modernisation, dependency, and the world systems theory. All three paradigms sought to comprehend the causes of underdevelopment, and formulate efficient solutions through which nations could simultaneously improve the living conditions of their populace, and transition from impoverishment unto modern societies.

Using the Marxist theory of primitive accumulation of capital, also known as original accumulation, this study on the one hand aims at explaining how sub-Saharan Africa was integrated into the world economy as the periphery, and not as part of the center. On another hand, the study underscores the role that international law and political economy played in the integration of the African continent to the world system. The first objective of the study is to interrogate the economic and legal components of the evangelizing, civilizing, and Modernising missions especially the way in which international law introduced two economic institutions that were to shape the economic future of Sub-Saharan Africa for centuries, namely: trade and private property rights. Between the 15th and 18th centuries, international law animated by the logic of the evangelising mission, conceptualized human beings as legitimate private property. Upon invoking and relying on Papal Bull decrees as well as just war doctrines, European powers were able not only to trade Sub-Saharan African peoples as commodities (slaves), but also maintained them in the Americas under conditions of bondage as legitimate goods, marred by grave violation of rights.

The study also underscores that the validation of the concept of “effective occupation” at the 1884-85 Berlin Conference as an acceptable legal standard for European appropriation of colonies on the continent, not only resulted to the partition of the continent to become European protectorates but moreover brought about a pivotal shift in the discipline of international law. The 19th century was accordingly animated by the logic of the civilizing mission—the duty of the civilized to rule and nurture the uncivilized—a modality for preparing them to join the family of nations.

In spite of the promises of progress and economic redemption, each of these schemes/ processes nevertheless resulted to African assuming the trajectory of poverty and underdevelopment in the world system. What explains this paradox?

Discussant: Associate Professor Franklin Obeng-Odoom (UH), Global Development Studies

March 18: Associate Professor Simo Määttä

Theory and reality of language rights in public service interpreting and translation

Associate Professor Simo Määttä (UH), Translation Studies

While the right to interpreting services in the public services is guaranteed by several laws in Finland, the actual achievement of linguistic rights is often problematic due to several constraints characterizing the field of public service interpreting. This talk will start with a very succinct overview of the current situation in the field of public service interpreting and issues identified in recent research in Finland. Subsequently, data excerpts illustrating problematic situations in relation to the achievement of language rights will be discussed. 

Discussant: University Lecturer Eveliina Heino (UH), Social Work

March 31: Research Director Kati Rantala, Professor Anna Valros, Adjunct Professor Laura Hänninen, University Lecturer Anu Katainen and Doctoral Student Veera Kankainen (SILE)

NB! This seminar session will be held on Wednesday instead of Thursday.

Silent agents affected by legislative measures

Research Director Kati Rantala (UH), Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy; Professor Anna Valros (UH) and Adjunct Professor Laura Hänninen (UH), Production Animal Medicine; University Lecturer Anu Katainen (UH) and Doctoral Student Veera Kankainen (UH), Sociology

This project addresses the need to broaden the knowledge base of legislative drafting to include the perspectives of 'silent agents’ as consultation typically involves established lobbyists, whereas regulatory impact assessments emphasize economic aspects and calculations. Most of all people are silent agents in the regulatory context since we hardly take part in the consultation proceedings of law-making. Yet many of us have the ability to do so directly or through organizations in matters that concern us. This project focuses on those silent agents whose social position arouses morally charged tensions and who are often affected by specific measures of support or control but scarcely have the means to participate in the knowledge production of the underlying legislation due to social, health-based, cognitive, legal or biological restrictions. Research has proven that legislation may cause them unforeseen harm if their circumstances, or mechanisms of impact formation, are not sufficiently taken into account. Among these silent agents are, for example, children in care, offenders and ‘precarious’ residents, and people who suffer from severe mental-health problems, the excessive consumption of harmful substances or consumer indebtedness. Animals are also included as an extreme example of silent agents affected by legislation. Thus, others speak of these silent agents and for them.

The project examines 1) the extent to which and how the position of silent agents (as described), and their wellbeing and rights, are recognized and framed in the epistemic struggle of knowledge production for legislative processes, and what type of knowledge is mostly valued in the final proposals; 2) the main impacts of enforced legislation on silent agents, and the mechanisms involved; and 3) the implications of Covid 19 on legislative processes regarding silent agents, and the subsequent impacts. The ultimate aim is to acquire generalizable knowledge of the structural factors affecting the position of silent agents in legislative processes and its social implications. With interaction partners, including silent agents, the project will generate new knowledge and working methods to facilitate the building of inclusive and transparent legislation that is socially and ethically sustainable. The purpose is to improve literacy among all parties concerning legislative processes, and to empower silent agents and give them platforms from which to make an impact. The main data consist of legislative documents, interviews and encounters with interaction partners, as well as statistical data. Qualitative and quantitative methods are applied, as well as legal analysis. The project explores uncharted research territory, which is surprising given that the topic is pivotal to the democratic legitimacy of Western legal systems.

Discussant: Research Coordinator Pekka Mäkelä (UH), Practical Philosophy

April 15: Professor Tea Lallukka

The contributions of mental health and pain to work participation: A special focus on person-oriented methods and social disadvantage

Professor Tea Lallukka (UH), Public Health

In her talk, Tea Lallukka will summarize results from several of her projects within social epidemiology. She will show examples of both ongoing and published studied addressing mental health, sleep, and pain, and subsequent work participation trajectories as indicated mainly by sickness absence and disability retirement. The studies have been done using repeated survey data, as well as linking survey data with administrative records. The data are e.g. from Finland and Sweden. The results highlight person-oriented methods such as group-based trajectory modelling, cluster analysis, repeated measure latent class analysis, and mixture Markov models. A special focus is on social determinants.

Discussant: University Lecturer Elina Einiö (UH), Sociology

April 29: Professor Minna van Gerven and Senior Researcher Paula Saikkonen

Lost in equality: The politics of the digitalisation of the last resort social assistance in Finland

Professor Minna van Gerven (UH), Social Policy; and Senior Researcher Paula Saikkonen (THL)

Social Assistance is the temporary financial support for the poorest in the society, and the last resort safety net of the welfare states. It includes means-tested benefits and essentially includes services that aim at guaranteeing basic human rights for individuals who reside in Finland. In the 2017 social assistance reform, the basic social assistance benefit was transferred from the administration of the municipalities to the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela). With the reform, the electronic access to the last resort benefits were to be improved and harmonized nationwide. The national guidelines and a single digitalised processing system were thought to provide equal opportunities. The reform was major step in the digitization of the Finnish social security, but in this presentation, we ask what were the foreseeable and unforeseen consequences of the digitization of basic social assistance scheme?

The aim is to find out how the expectations for the reform and the implementation correspond to each other and what were the politics and the consequences for the recipients of digitalised welfare support. Our data consists of two parts: The Government's proposals and related documents describe the initial situation. Furthermore, we make use of empirical studies and surveys on income support in 2017–2020, describing the situation after the reform. We compare the expectations of the initial situation with the actual outcomes of the reform. Our findings indicate that the digitalisation of social assistance, the last resort safety net for the weakest in the society, seems to have significantly shaped social security system and social services, partly in an unforeseen way. Equality in theory seems to be adhered to, but what about equality in practice?

Discussant: Professor Helena Blomberg-Kroll (UH), Social Policy

May 20: Docent Camilla Nordberg, Assistant Professor Maija Jäppinen, University Lecturer Hanna Kara and Research Coordinator Anna-Leena Riitaoja (MigraFam)

Power asymmetries and agenda setting in social service encounters with migrant families

Docent, Senior Lecturer Camilla Nordberg (ÅA, Social Policy), Assistant Professor Maija Jäppinen (UH, Social Work), University Lecturer Hanna Kara (UH, Social Work) and Docent, Research Coordinator Anna-Leena Riitaoja (UH, INEQ)

This presentation contributes to an identified need for more systematic research on the workings of power in welfare institutional practice with the politicised category of “migrant families”. We draw from ethnographic data constituting observation diaries and interviews in relation to street-level bureaucratic encounters between social workers and migrant background families in four social work offices in the Helsinki capital region. We discuss the ways in which power asymmetries are put into practice through specific agenda-setting practices and social bureaucratic categorisation that are intimately linked with broader issues of recognition, redistribution and participation.

Discussant: Senior Research Fellow Marja Peltola (TUNI, Youth Work and Youth Research)