Immigration, racism and nationalism

Monday, November 30, 2020 at 9:15–16:15

Online research workshop by ESSO, INEQ & CEREN


The organisers of the seminar ”Immigration, Racism and Nationalism” have received some feedback after the event and wish to address the following matters:

The webinar raised a lot of interest and was attended by over 100 persons in Zoom. We wish to thank the two brilliant keynote speakers, whose lectures provided in-depth knowledge about recent scientific discussions on racism, nationalism and whiteness and inspired to critical (re-)thinking. The organisers also want to thank the other speakers at the seminar, who brought important research perspectives from the Finnish context to the seminar. The discussion in the webinar took place in the chat and through presented questions to the speakers. The discussion in the seminar was lively and especially the chat-area was broadly used for it.

The feedback to the organisers has addressed the smaller number of questions and discussion following the afternoon lecture, which in the feedback was interpreted as a lack of engagement with a Black scholar’s work. We acknowledge the need to treat all invited speakers with the same respect and engagement, as well as the responsibility of the organisers to prepare questions and in other ways stimulate the discussion, when needed. In the future, we aim to better prepare for the discussion after all keynote lectures, but especially those given by Black and PoC scholars.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that the discussion in the chat-area was lively also during this lecture. The chat discussion provided comments on the lecture and many people thanked the speaker there.

The online environment may also pose some challenges, especially when discussing white ignorance and racism. The feedback we have received addressed the attendee behaviour related to the afternoon lecture. We regret that the lecture had to be placed at the end of the programme due to time differences and that this may have led to a somewhat smaller number of participants following the programme at this point. We also acknowledge that topics related to white ignorance, violence and racism can be experienced as difficult or uncomfortable by some in the (white) audience. While the organisers cannot control how many attendees decide to leave, we find it important in future events to highlight the need to pay attention to and be respectful towards all speakers, including those presenting at the end of the programme and/or speaking about topics like whiteness and racism.

The feedback to the organisers has also addressed the need to deal with racist trolling in events that focus on racism, nationalism, colonialism and immigration. The organisers took into account the possibility of trolls seeking to disturb the event through several means and discussed the risks in their meetings. The organisers have not found evidence of racist trolling during the event, in the chat discussion or in the presented questions. In future, more detailed instructions to the moderators will be developed and we will also request the Conference Services at the University of Helsinki to ensure that instructions and guidelines are available for all conference and seminar organisers.


Online Research Work­shop: Im­mig­ra­tion, Ra­cism and Na­tion­al­ism

What kind of patterns are evident in anti-immigration and far-right rhetoric? How do media represent multiculturalism in the contemporary context? What kind of affects are attached to these circulating meanings. What are the possibilities for resistance towards exclusionary orientations?

The workshop brings together scholars from social psychology, media and communication studies, sociology and political science to join in discussions on challenges of representing immigration, racism and nationalism. Presentations will discuss rhetorical, visual, and affective dimensions of communicating these topics. They will tackle the adoption, circulation, normalisation and resistance of anti-immigration and far-right views both in online and offline contexts, among political actors as well as the general public.

In addition to addressing the actual challenges of communication, the workshop aims to strengthen interdisciplinary dialogue and to take stock of recent theoretical and methodological developments. How can insights from different fields of study be mutually beneficial? How can we enhance interdisciplinary efforts to integrate different kinds of knowledge into multidimensional and nuanced understanding of these complex issues?

The research workshop is organized by the ESSO-group (Social Psychologists studying Ethnic Relations at University of Helsinki), Helsinki Inequality Initiative (INEQ), and the Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism (CEREN).

Registration has closed!

Zoom link and further details will be sent ONLY to registered participants closer to the event.


Facebook event


30.11.2020 at 9:15–16:15 (Finnish local time, UCT+2h)

Location: Online via Zoom

09:15–09:30 Opening and introductions by Professor Risto Kunelius (INEQ), Professor Inga Jasinskaja-Lahti (ESSO), and Professor Suvi Keskinen (CEREN)

09:30–10:30 Keynote 1: Professor Diana Mulinari (Lund University): Theories on the flesh: The geopolitics of academic white fragility

10:30–10:35 Short break

10:35–11:15 Presentation 1: Katarina Pettersson & Emma Nortio: The far-right discourse of multiculturalism in everyday talk: Reproduction and contestation in the Nordic region

11:15–11:20 Short break

11:20–12:00 Presentation 2: Minna Seikkula: The figure of the racist in antiracist advocacy

12:00–12:45 Lunch break

12.45–13:25 Presentation 3: Gwenaëlle Bauvois & Niko Pyrhönen: The "multiculturalist enemy"? Unpacking the repertoires of othering in the lay discourse against multiculturalism

13:25–13:30 Short break

13:30–14:10 Presentation 4: Salla-Maaria Laaksonen, Mervi Pantti & Gavan Titley: Finnish anti-immigration actors on YouTube: Movement building and personal branding

14:10–14:15 Short break

14:15–14:55 Presentation 5: Satu Venäläinen: Discourse and affect(s) in the circulation of meaning-making around gendered violence and immigration

14:55–15:00 Short break

15:00–16:00 Keynote 2: Professor Shirley Anne Tate (University of Alberta): Love for the dead: Sambo and the libidinal economy of 'post-race' conviviality

16:00­– Conclusions and closing the seminar


Keynote1: Professor Diana Mulinari (Lund University): TBA

Presentation 1: Katarina Pettersson & Emma Nortio: The far-right discourse of multiculturalism in everyday talk: Reproduction and contestation in the Nordic region

In this talk, we will present our ongoing book project that deploys a discursive psychological (DP) perspective on the topic of how far-right discourse on issues related to multiculturalism becomes received, interpreted, adapted and contested in everyday talk in both online and offline contexts. Scholarly interest in these issues has been increasing for instance within sociology and media studies, where the circulation of far-right messages in the era of digitalization and the ‘hybrid media system’ have been at the focus of attention. However, and although DP has a long tradition of studying both political and lay discourse pertaining to multiculturalism, research bringing these two fields together remains scarce.

We present the book that consists of 8 empirical chapters investigating both political and institutionalized rhetoric (news media material, political debates, blogs, social media and party websites) and grassroot-level everyday talk in online as well as offline settings. The materials are approached from a DP perspective in combination with insights from media and communications research, sociological media studies and critical discursive psychology. In so doing, the book aims to contribute methodologically to DP research on online communication, to promote interdisciplinary research initiatives in the field, and to offer theoretical and empirical knowledge on the discourse of multiculturalism in contemporary Western (Nordic) societies.

Presentation 2: Minna Seikkula: The figure of the racist in antiracist advocacy

The presentation introduces critical race and whiteness studies perspectives on discussions on immigration, racism and nationalism. Drawing on empirical data on activists’ narratives on grassroots antiracist engagement, the presentation analyses of antiracist mobilisation narratives against anti-immigration racism and the far and extreme right in Finland. More specifically, th presentation discusses ways in which racism is intelligible in antiracist discussions through a figure of the racist that bears certain characteristics. Through an analysis of a heuristic distinction between ‘extreme whiteness’ and ‘whiteness as ordinariness’, the presentation discusses the limitations that the figure of the racist produces to antiracist discussions.

Presentation 3: Gwenaëlle Bauvois & Niko Pyrhönen: The journalism of hate? Hybridized mediatization of dystopic narratives on multiculturalism in right-wing populist political mobilization"

In this presentation, we explore how mainstream discussants articulate their objections to multiculturalism and narrate dystopias of diversity when discussing news events featuring radical right talking points. We focus particularly on the lay discourse on intergroup relations - “Us” vs “them”.

We analyze the radical right’s rhetorical practices for outgrouping not only the ethnocultural Other but also ‘the internal enemy’, evaluating the extent to which these practices for constructing an outgroup overlap and diverge. We focus on the lay discourse in social media, in particular Facebook discussions that address the news coverage of two high-profile media events in Finland. In the first case study, we analyse the debates revolving around the emergence of the far-right vigilante group Soldiers of Odin (SOO) in January 2016, while the second case examines the discussion on the election of Jussi Halla-aho (HA) as the chairman of the radical right populist Finns Party in June 2017.

Presentation 4: Salla-Maaria Laaksonen, Mervi Pantti & Gavan Titley: Finnish anti-immigration actors on YouTube: Movement building and personal branding

Across Europe, the increase in people seeking asylum has provided a key opportunity to consolidate new kind of anti-immigration movements, engaged in hybrid movement practices. This paper examines the YouTube presence of two major anti-immigration movements active in Finland since 2015—Close the Borders! (Rajat kiinni!; RK) and Finland First (Suomi Ensin; SE)—as well as the key figures associated with them. It discusses how the emergent groups and individuals following the so-called refugee crisis utilized YouTube for movement building, and how specific platform affordances shaped their self-mediation practices. We identify three central strategies of YouTube activism: movement building through documentation, discursive controversy generation, and personal branding practices. Our findings highlight the need to integrate a microcelebrity perspective into the study of mediated movements. In the algorithmic environment of YouTube, microcelebrity is a political and a platform-specific practice that can channel attention and make the movement endure over time.

Presentation 5: Satu Venäläinen: Discourse and affect(s) in the circulation of meaning-making around gendered violence and immigration

Research focusing on discursive dimensions, and in particular the rhetorical devices and strategies used in nationalist and far-right mobilization as well as meaning-making around immigration more generally, is constantly increasing and diversifying. While different disciplinary orientations guide toward a plurality in research interests, the conceptualizations as well as analytical tools employed in such research, there are also signs of increased inter- and transdisciplinary dialogue in the research field. One area of both dialogue and distinctions is found in research that attempts to integrate an interest in affective dimensions into discursive analyses. In my presentation, I will discuss these integrative research endeavors, with particular interest in the impact of different theoretical and methodological frameworks guiding them. I will specifically focus on the mobilisations and the background assumptions of Sara Ahmed’s as well as Margaret Wetherell’s theorisations. Both of these theorisations appear as useful frameworks in research highlighting the interplay of affective and symbolic dimensions, while simultaneously they differ regarding the ways they position human actors in relation to the circulation of affective-discursive meanings. My presentation illustrates and interrogates their utility with specific focus on examples from research into meaning-making around gendered violence and immigration. I argue that both of these theoretisations fruitfully enable gaining insight into the relational, complex and dilemmatic dynamics that characterise discussions around the topic, and that setting them into dialogue gears reflection toward how we see the affectiveness of human agency on the one hand, and social forces, on the other, in the circulation of meanings that enact social and societal separations.

Keynote 2: Professor Shirley Anne Tate (University of Alberta): Love for the dead: Sambo and the libidinal economy of 'post-race' conviviality

This talk is about a boy. We think he was born in Africa, taken to the West Indies (Caribbean) and enslaved. We think he arrived in 1736 with his master, a sea captain for whom he was cabin boy and died in an inn near Sunderland Point where he was buried in an unmarked grave on unconsecrated ground. What could have been his grave was finally marked in 1795 when Reverend Watson raised money, wrote and signed the epitaph to ‘Samboo’. We do not know if that was his name given to him by his parents or his enslavers or indeed by Reverend Watson. We do not know his age at death, where he was born, who his parents were or why he died, but the nation has Sambo's Grave as a memorial to a sanitized disappearing of the trauma, dispossession and genocide of British enslavement. Sambo’s Grave is commodified through contemptible commemoration by tourist pilgrims whose gifts profess love to enable the myth of the UK’s 21st century white ‘post-race’ conviviality to continue.