Inequality debates at Fiskars

After a long period of online communication, four INEQ (associate) professors and the office staff had a possibility to meet in person in the picturesque Fiskars village. During our two-day meeting in June, we elaborated various scholarly and disciplinary approaches to inequality and developed strategies and planned future activities for INEQ.

The two-day workshop started with the presentations of the INEQ professors. In their presentations, the professors introduced their current research activities and discussed the various ways their work contributes to the interdisciplinary inequality studies. These presentations covered a wide range of topics revolving around the inequality related issues, including health inequalities and their interconnections to social contexts as well as language barriers and consequent linguistic inequalities. Also, issues of unequal representation and participation in the policy-making processes as well as marginalization, polarization and segregation of different regions were brought onto the table. Thus, the presentations pointed to the multifaceted questions of regional inequalities at the different levels of contemporary societies.  

Yet, much was discussed about the weight of history in understanding contemporary inequalities. How, for example, the most recent and critical debates concerning a nation state as an analytical unit changes not only our understanding of inequalities, their roots and causes, but also more widely theory building in social sciences and history. These discussions were inspired by the INEQ keynote by Professor Gurminder K Bhambra. Many other more or less dominant social scientific scholarly debates and related intellectual trajectories on inequality were brought under our collective considerations and debated in the light of a need for a wholly new paradigm of inequality studies that Mike Savage is proposing in his new book The Return of Inequality: Social Change and the Weight of the Past (2021). Savage will come to discuss the ideas presented in the book in INEQ’s Inequality Talks keynote series on September 27, 2021.  

The group ended up having long talks related to such concepts as hierarchy, subordination or asymmetry, and the distinction between inequality and differences in opportunity, for instance. It became quite clear that such discussions - with enough space and time - are very much needed even among the INEQ core group. All the professors and staff come from such different theoretical and methodological traditions that creating shared understandings requires a safe place for open-minded discussions and debates. We are very much looking forward to a next chance to continue these debates after the summer break. 

Alongside the tough and serious intellectual debates, we were able to make big plans for the future and relax a bit thanks to good food and great company, and a fascinating and artistic experience of glass blowing.  

INEQ’s plans for the new academic year 2021-22 are well on the way. The first guest talks in Inequality Talks series have been confirmed and the research seminar program for the autumn term is nearly finalized as well and will be published closer to the start of the term. Keep an eye on our website and social media for updates.  

INEQ team wishes you all happy mid-summer celebrations and a wonderful summer!