Iida Pyy defends her PhD thesis on political emotions, democracy and education on 27 May

What are political fear, anger, hope and compassion, and why should they be discussed in the context of education? DEMOPOL researcher Iida Pyy’s PhD study tackles these questions from the viewpoint of educating for a democratic way of life and touches upon movements that have been successful in mobilising young people politically in the recent years, such as Black Lives Matter and Fridays for Future.

Pyy’s PhD thesis Evolving Emotions: The relevance of Martha Nussbaum's theory of political emotions in Education will be presented for public discussion with the permission of the Faculty of Educational Sciences of the University of Helsinki, in Auditorium 107, Athena Building (Siltavuorenpenger 3A), on the 27th of May, 2022 at 2 pm (EEST), 11 pm (GMT). It is also possible to join the event remotely via Zoom: https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/62294023103 Webinar ID: 622 9402 3103 

About the study

The PhD study scrutinizes Martha Nussbaum’s philosophical work on political emotions – a perspective that has not yet been comprehensively examined in the field of education. The study aims to explore both the tensions and the possibilities involved in education for political emotions with respect to constructing and pursuing collective political aims and addressing various social and political challenges. 

In pursuit of these aims, the study employs the methods of philosophical research. The work consists of three interrelated studies that approach the relevance of Nussbaum’s work to education from different angles. Through the studies, Nussbaum’s work is discussed in three frameworks of political education: global citizenship education, democratic citizenship education, and human rights education.  

This PhD study offers several central findings, ranging from the problematic consequences that negative political emotions can have for the political culture and educational policy-making, to the insight that the political, in citizenship education, should be understood as a collective striving towards shared goals, supported by constructive political emotions, rather than as a conflictual relation between ‘us’ and ‘them’. The study also takes the first steps in envisioning a ‘Nussbaumian pedagogy’, suggesting different ways in which political compassion and narrative imagination could be reflectively practised in classrooms when teaching and learning about human rights issues.  

As a whole, this PhD study offers new perspectives and ways to explore the relationship between politics, emotions and education. It articulates some constructive and hopeful suggestions for education that can be argued to be much needed in the present times that have been considered by some researchers as exceptionally dark. 


This PhD thesis is based on the following original publications that are available online:  

Pyy, I., Leiviskä, A., & Mansikka, J-E. (2020). Contesting the Politics of Negative Emotions in Educational Policymaking: A Ban on Asylum Seekers’ School Visits in Finland. Global Discourse, 10(2–3), 371–390. https://doi.org/10.1332/204378920X15802968112372

Leiviskä, A., & Pyy, I. (2020). The Unproductiveness of Political Conflict in Education: A Nussbaumian Alternative to Agonistic Citizenship Education. Journal of Philosophy of Education. 55, 577– 588. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9752.12512

Pyy, I. (2021). Developing political compassion through narrative imagination in human rights education. Human Rights Education Review, 4(3) 24–44. https://doi.org/10.7577/hrer.4482   


The thesis summary will be made available online approximately a week prior to the public examination and can be accessed here: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-51-8122-0