The core group of INEQ is comprised of the office staff and six professors whose work is focused on inequality from different angles and who work in their own disciplines at the different faculties at the University of Helsinki. On this page, you can find ways to contact the INEQ team.

Moreover, INEQ brings together already more than 300 scholars from a variety of disciplines within the university. If you are interested in becoming a member of the INEQ community, please see below for more information on how to join us.

INEQ Staff

Meri Kulmala, Director of INEQ

Meri Kulmala, is a sociologist and Docent in Social and Public Policy (University of Eastern Finland) and in Russian and Eurasian Studies (University of Helsinki). She has studied post-socialist civil society and welfare and led several interdisciplinary and international research projects on child welfare in Russia and carried out peer-research with young adults transitioning into independent living from different forms of care. The outcomes of this research have been published as an edited book ‘Reforming Child Welfare in Post-Socialist Space: Institutional Change in Russia’ by Routledge in 2021 and as numerous peer-reviewed articles in different journals, including Europe Asia Studies, Demokratizatsiya, Laboratorium, Governance, Global Social Policy. Currently she is a principal investigator in two research projects: one focusing on young people, mental wellbeing and peer support in the context of social media (TUBEDU), another on linguistic vulnerability in social work (SOSKIELI). Both projects involve elements of co-research. She is a founding member of the Finnish Co-research Network and an editor of the recently published, first Finnish speaking text book on co-research ‘Kanssatutkimus: Ihanteet ja käytännöt’ [Co-research: Ideals and Practices] by Tampere University Press (2023).

Vuorikatu 3, room 206

Peter Holley, Project Planner

Peter Holley is a Doctoral Researcher at the Department of Social Research (Sociology) at the University of Helsinki. His doctoral research focuses on migration related issues and the social construction of self and identity. At INEQ his responsibilities include assisting in research funding applications (e.g. Horizon Europe), international collaborations and other INEQ activities. Peter also organises the INEQ Reading Circle. Please contact Peter if you are interested in an international research collaboration with INEQ.

Vuorikatu 3, room 223

Anna Koivisto, Research Assistant

Anna Koivisto is a master's student in sociology at the University of Helsinki. She is currently working as a research assistant at INEQ. Anna works in TUBEDU project which focuses on young people, mental wellbeing and peer support in the context of social media. She is also working on her master's thesis on young people's mental health capital and social media. 

Vuorikatu 3, room 223

Sanna Spišák, Conference Coordinator for the 7th European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry

Sanna Spišák (PhD, University of Turku) is a Conference Coordinator for the 7th European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry and a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Intimacy in Data-Driven Culture (IDA) project, funded by The Strategic Research Council (SRC) at the Academy of Finland. Her research interests include mediated sexualities, sexual rights and ethics, sex education, and young people's intimate practices in digital media. Her work in this field theorises that the potential impact of any type of media should be considered against the very particulars of young people’s experiences which derive from their specific social and cultural milieu, and recognises that educational efforts must go beyond simply mitigating risk and harm, as moralistic and shame-inducing materials can contribute to sexual discrimination, marginalisation, social inequality, and negative impacts on young people's sexual well-being. Dr Spišák is a sought-after lecturer on media effects, theory, and research, particularly in sexology, youth work, education, and healthcare. She has acted for seven years as a board member of the Finnish Society on Media Education (FSME), for which the past two years as a vice chair of the society. Her membership in the Finnish Youth Research Society, FOHN - Finnish Oral History Network and Co-Research Network Finland underscores her extensive interdisciplinary research networks. She has published in international journals such as Sexualities, Sex Education, YOUNG, Childhood and Social Media and Society, and she is an editor of the recently published first Finnish textbook on co-research ‘Kanssatutkimus: Ihanteet ja käytännöt’ [Co-research: Ideals and Practices] by Tampere University Press (2023).  


Pia Bäcklund 

INEQ Associate Professor of Regional and Urban Inequality Pia Bäcklund ( (Department of Geosciences and Geography; Docent in spatial planning), is a human geographer whose research interest covers especially strategic spatial planning and politics. Her latest research project JustDe (2018-2022) targets the issue of how new agreement based spatial planning practices gives new form and direction to justification of societal decision making in the context of Nordic Welfare state.

Dorota Gozdecka

INEQ Associate Professor of Law, Security and Privacy Dorota Gozdecka ( (Faculty of Law) is a legal theorist and her research focuses on how law creates and maintains otherness. Her current project uses the theory of law and aesthetics to examine how images of migrants impact on the understanding of what is legitimate in the regulation of migration flows. Her forthcoming book ‘Visual Power, Representation and Migration Law’ (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming) analyses how these perceptions of legitimacy exacerbate growing crimmigration and securitization of migration law.

Henrietta Grönlund

INEQ Professor of Urban Theology Henrietta Grönlund ( (Department of Practical Theology; Docent of Church and Social Studies) is a sociologist of religion who specializes in questions of civic engagement and welfare, especially the role of religion and values in relation to these themes. Her current research interests include the ways in which religion manifests in urban contexts and interacts with urbanity, especially in relation to questions of inequality and wellbeing. She currently leads two projects related to the roles of civic engagement, third sector organizations, and religious communities in promoting community resilience and support for people in the most vulnerable position during the covid-19 pandemic.

Johanna Rainio-Niemi

INEQ Associate Professor of Contemporary History Johanna Rainio-Niemi ( (Political History, Faculty of Social Sciences) is a historian who specializes especially on smaller states’ modern political systems and on issues of welfare state development, social / national security states, consensus-orientated democracy and state-society relations in comparative and international perspective. Her most recent and on-going projects deal with the ‘defence’ of democracy and the constitutionalist tradition in 19th and 20th century Finland, the emergence of modern national and international social politics and the international histories of the idea of neutrality.

Karri Silventoinen

INEQ Professor of Social Inequalities in Health Karri Silventoinen ( (Population Research Unit, Faculty of Social Sciences and Faculty of Medicine) has background in demography and epidemiology. His major research interests cover social and global health inequalities, physical and mental development of children and risk factors of metabolic diseases. International comparisons and analyses of biosocial interaction have been important part of his research.

Roman Yangarber

INEQ Associate Professor of Linguistic Inequalities and Translation Technologies Roman Yangarber ( (Digital Humanities; Leader of the Research Group in Computational Linguistics, UH). His current research is on how Artificial Intelligence can assist humans in learning languages.  Specific focus is on "high-stakes" learners – committed to learning the language to a high level of proficiency, including migrants and "heritage" learners trying to sustain their language. The goal is to support these learners in navigating their environments – to lower linguistic barriers and reduce inequalities.

Mandira Halder

Mandira Halder ( is a doctoral candidate in Educational Sciences at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics from Nantes, France. Born in West Bengal, India, Mandira is multilingual and fluent in English, French, German, Bengali and Hindi. She also has Polish, Norwegian, and Rumanian notions. Before coming to Finland for research, she worked as a foreign language teacher educator and course coordinator in Lausanne, Switzerland. Currently, she is conducting a study on second language choices in Finland during spring 2022 with a doctoral mobility grant from the University of Geneva.

INEQ Affiliated Scholars

Researchers affiliated with Helsinki Inequality Initiative (INEQ) are listed in the University of Helsinki Research Portal. The affiliate community has just over 300 members from variuous faculties across the university.

Would you like to join the INEQ community? See instructions below.

Join the INEQ Community!

INEQ affiliate scholars join the growing, internationally networked research community of scholars at University of Helsinki.  The membership is freely open for all Helsinki University scholars who have completed the Doctoral Degree or are members of the Helsinki University based doctoral programs and work with projects, issues and questions related to social and cultural inequalities and their consequences. INEQ is a multidisciplinary, cross-faculty initiative that aims for methodological diversity and welcomes different theoretical approaches.

INEQ affiliate scholars will be able to

  • identify with the Initiative with a double affiliation  
  • fully participate in the new interdisciplinary research community and its activities
  • apply for fellowship and visitors’ program and seed funding 
  • benefit from the contacts both nationally and internationally.

Criteria for INEQ affiliate scholars

  • A doctoral degree and affiliation with the University of Helsinki, OR
  • A membership in a doctoral program of the University of Helsinki
  • Ongoing research interest on inequality studies
  • Plans for future research work, project and application in the field of inequality research
  • Evidence of past and ongoing research (publications)

The affiliate scholars will be notified about the acceptance with some further instructions to join the INEQ community and its activities. The affiliates will be automatically added to the INEQ mailing list and research community on the UH Research Portal (where affiliates can select which of their activities are labelled as an part of the work of the INEQ community).