Emilia’s Reflections on HEPP in 2023/2024

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The 2023 was quite a dense year for HEPP, we prepared the extremely inspiring and successful HEPP4 conference with more than 200 participants. Also in the beginning of 2023 we took part in two horizon bids, which both were successful, and we have been preparing for the launches of the CO3 and PLEDGE. This means that we will be able to sustain the research group until 2027 at least and fix dates already for HEPP5 for March 2025 themed with the social contract and HEPP6 for May 2026 themed with emotional politics. We welcome panels and papers in both, and hope to have as excellent time and engage in exciting discussions also in the future years, with Working Paper publications to follow up.  

The HEPPsters host conferences, but importantly this is an active research group. The HEPP research team has been having weekly hybrid meetings with steady programme, which is reflected on our social media for the autumn 2023 thanks to our active trainees Duong and Karolina, master’s students at the University of Helsinki. The presentations are by HEPPSters and guests, and the programme has been quite exciting. Some of these sessions we will be able to open for guests.  

Thinking back on the 2023, we have been working hard on several projects. One of them was the Deradicalisation in Europe. We organised a D.Rad Hub on Ethnonationalism in Europe as part of the HEPP4 conference. The final session of the conferene introduced the D.Rad project research – particularly in urban settings, including the screening the D.Rad film trailer. There were over thirty HEPPsters and friends embarking the night train to Rovaniemi, for a post-conference symposium in Lapland and a selected few for a post-conference workshop and open event at the Pyhä-Luosto National Park. We discussed contemporary challenges across Europe, more of this will follow. 

My keynote in Rovaniemi and welcome addresses in Helsinki dealt with the binary of the darkness and light. As Derrida has explained the binaries we use are false, but relevant in meaning-making. They are an imagined simplification. Organising the HEPP4 in the darkest time of the year in December, after the HEPP3 that was held at the period with the longest days in June, enabled people to realise how in snowy Helsinki the nights are not dark as light gets reflected through the white surfaces.  

Going to the North, we realise that Helsinki is not actually North – or that from the perspective of the Sápmi, the land of the Sámi, Rovaniemi, the largest city and capital of the Finnish region of Lapland is actually a southern city. And this is reflected in the practices. Meanings are relational and they are performed.  

Space and time has a lot to do with the performance of meanings, which we have been exploring in the Kone Foundation funded Now-Time Us-Space project, which just like D.Rad is coming to an end in 2024 finally. We plan to do more dissemination on these two projects which were starting during the pandemic. In addition, Juha Herkman’s POHU project is exploring political humour also funded by the Kone Foundation. 

We also are studying the pandemic through social media data in an ENDURE project, developing methods for comparative research, gaining from the HSSH expertise for data and methods. The biggest challenge for 2024 is the European parliamentary elections, which we will be investigating in several international consortia through multimodal audiovisual analysis, large datasets, and AI-assisted light ethnographic research, as we call it in one of the horizon projects. The kick-offs for the CO3 and PLEDGE are taking place in February. Stay tuned for more.  

For me, being able to be surrounded by the inspiring researchers and other colleagues at HEPP has been wonderful and I am happy to be able to continue work now in 2024. Many of us are currently at the UNPOP conference organised by Cristiano Gianolla and colleagues at the CES in Coimbra. The show must go on.  

What I learned in 2023, is that methods developed in the social forum movement such as fishbowl’s we used in Pyhä-Luosto National Park or world cafés used at the University of Lapland are actually useful to facilitate academic discussions. Another world is possible also in the academia.