People & Research: Anniina Leiviskä focuses on theories of democracy, global justice and democratic and global citizenship education

The AGORA Research Centre brings together a wide diversity of researchers and research groups interested in current issues of social justice and equality in education. Here we will present their research. This time, we introduce PhD, University lecturer Anniina Leiviskä.

What are your research topics?

My research focuses on theories of democracy and global justice and democratic and global citizenship education. I have particularly addressed issues related to the normative foundations of democratic education, the different understandings of “the political” in theories of democracy, and the relationship between education and the current political phenomena of contemporary democracies, such as political polarisation and identity politics.

Tell us something about your current research?

I am currently the Principal investigator of the research project “Democratic Education and Political Polarisation in the Era of Global Crises” (KONE foundation, 2021–2023), which focuses on the question, how education can contribute to resolving global crises through collective political action in today’s societies that are increasingly characterised by political polarisation and identity-related differences, conflicts and inequalities. Our interdisciplinary research project involves scholars from the fields of education and philosophy (Tarna Kannisto, Iida Pyy, Tuija Kasa and Ivan Zamotkin). In addition to leading the project, I am responsible for one of its subprojects, “The concept of ‘the Political’ and the normative foundations of democratic and global citizenship education”. This subproject continues the line of research of my Academy of Finland funded postdoctoral research project, “Democracy, Education and the Challenge of Inclusion: Reconstructing a Theory of Citizenship Education for Contemporary Democracies” (2017–2020).

How does your research relate to issues of social justice and equality?

Issues of social justice and equality in education are at the core of my research. The purpose of our current research project is to study how education can contribute to the creation of such novel forms of social and political communality that can help reduce inequality and structural injustices in society while also supporting the construction of a healthy democratic culture. In my previous research, I have particularly focused on the role of immigrant students in the school system and examined, among other things, how democratic education can intervene with such structural and epistemic forms of injustice that the members of marginalised groups encounter in the school system and in society more generally. I have also studied right-wing populism and extremism, and hate speech and racist discourses, as normatively intolerable forms of political participation and communication in democratic societies.

What kind of discussion would you like to initiate with your research?

I would especially like to initiate discussions on social and political inequalities and the current state of democratic politics. I am worried about the increasing political polarisation of the political culture in many Western democracies and people’s increasing lack of trust in the workings of democratic politics and institutions. I am also deeply worried about new forms of territorialization and polarisation on both global and local political scales (e.g. nationalism and the construction of strong political frontiers within democratic politics). These developments hamper the possibilities of effective political intervention on issues and political problems of a global scale, including the climate crisis.

Published 23.4.2021