In this series, we introduce the researchers of the Centre of Excellence in Law, Identity and the European Narratives.

Laura Sumari started as a PhD student in EuroStorie’s subproject 3, Migration and the narratives of Europe as an "Area of freedom, security and justice" in the beginning of May. Her main interests go hand in hand with subproject 3, as they include for instance security, mobility, postcolonial theory and power relations. On a wider scale, she has always been intrigued by global problems, inequality and helping those in need. Laura graduated from the University of Helsinki in 2016, Area and cultural studies as her main subject, with a focus on Europe and its’ relations with different ‘others’.

When it comes to studies, Laura’s path has been a relatively variegated one. Originally, Laura began her studies in 2009 at the University of Turku, French philology as her major. It took her some years and trying out different subjects before she found an intellectual home in Area and cultural studies at the University of Helsinki, as it offered an interdisciplinary approach with versatile courses and combined various interesting things related to human and social sciences. Laura has also been studying in the Master’s program in Social and public policy, but the thesis is remaining. 

Laura wrote her bachelor’s thesis on experiences of living in a multicultural environment on the French Riviera, where she also lived for two years after finishing high school. The thesis discussed cultural identities and borders from an intersectional perspective, analyzing experiences of foreigners living on the Côte d’Azur. In her master’s thesis she examined the views and experiences of Finnish exchange students regarding safety and security during the exchange. She surveyed how security related matters influence the exchange experience and what kinds of threats and fears the students had encountered. According to her, the fear of terrorism was often felt in big European cities, whereas those who had travelled outside Europe would have needed more security related information from the destination universities, regarding health and criminality for instance.

Between graduation and starting her doctoral thesis in EuroStorie, Laura has been involved in various different things. She worked for example at the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra as well as the Finnish Media Federation, FinnMedia. At Finnmedia, she surveyed how media functions in different countries in critical situations. Laura also worked as an intern for the United Nations Development Program in Geneva, where she was part of the Crisis Unit. The unit’s aim is to coordinate the Global Cluster for Early Recovery, which functions as a bridge between humanitarian aid and development aid regarding humanitarian crises. Laura worked especially on topics relating to migration, mobility and safety – topics that she had found interesting for a long time.

These same topics play a central role also in Laura’s research in EuroStorie. Her intention is to examine refugees’ ideas and experiences of Europe from a security perspective. She wishes to find out, how European security is envisioned and experienced by refugees entering Europe, and how refugees socially construct Europe as an area of human security, freedom and justice. She seeks to investigate these themes throughout the displacement process, which means that not only will she concentrate on how refugees experience Europe and its security once arrived here, but also, what sorts of ideas and narratives do they connect with them already before entering Europe. In order to examine these themes, she will utilize ethnographic research methods and spend time in refugee camps observing and interviewing.

According to Laura, the purpose of her study is to give voice to refugees and hear about their hopes and dreams as well as fears and worries when it comes to European security. ”I also want to investigate, how the refugee experience corresponds to more official narratives of Europe as an area of human security, consisted of democracy, human rights and the rule of law and what kinds of possible similarities and discrepancies exist between the refugees’ singular experiences and the official narratives produced by the European Union.”  This is also, what strongly links her research to EuroStorie’s general aim – bringing out new and alternative narratives of Europe in contrast to the traditional and uncritical ones. 

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