Research Projects

CEREN researchers lead and work in several national and international research projects.

Life-breaking and Life-making: A research project on social reproduction and survival in times of collapse (LIFEMAKE, 2023-2026) 

Principal investigator: Daria Krivonos

Funding: Kone Foundation

The project deals with the central research question: what makes social life continue when lives are breaking? To address it, we draw on the feminist political economy literature that has centred the labour of social reproduction – activities, attitudes, affects and relationships that go directly into maintaining social life daily and intergenerationally – as fundamental for making life itself possible.

We offer three ethnographic cases: 1. Ukrainian migrant communities in Warsaw, 2. rural minoritised Polish communities in Belarus, 3. volunteer groups hosting Ukrainian refugees in their homes in Finland. Through engagement with multiple ethnographic sites, we examine life-making practices across geographic locations in the times begging for research on invisibilised aspects of reproduction of the life itself.

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Intertextuality of asylum documents in Finland (2021-2022)

Principal investigator: Erna Bodström

Funding: Finnish Cultural Foundation (2021-2022)

Asylum decisions are life changing to those receiving them, as they are literally be decisions of life and death. They also have a wider impact on society, because they are a test to the robustness of the administrative and judicial decision-making system as well as its execution. The decision-making process process materialises in asylum documents, such as interview records, decisions and appeals, and therefore the process can be investigated through the documents. The documents are by nature intertextual; that is, they refer to and are built on other documents. This study examines the intertextual nature of the documents as well as its construction and consequences.

SEPOS: Social exclusion, polarization and security in the Nordic welfare state (2021-2023)

Principal investigator: Helena Blomberg-Kroll

Funding: NordForsk, 2021-2023

In order to maintain and strengthen the welfare state and democracy, the SEPOS project develops a broader, policy-relevant conceptualization of societal security, built on the notion of human security that covers aspects such as social cohesion, trust and drivers for marginalization. Instead of naming new issues as security challenges, the project highlights and intervenes in the unequal distribution of security, particularly among marginalized and racialised groups, studying how the divergence in the lived experience of safety, and the securitizing practices contribute to polarization and social exclusion.

CEREN researchers in the project: Suvi Keskinen (WP3 leader), Markus Himanen, Niko Pyrhönen and Karin Creutz.

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Revolutionary Patience: Migrant Perspectives on doing Politics with the Documentary (2021-2024)

Principal Investigator: Minou Norouzi

Funding: Kone Foundation, 2021-2024

Revolutionary Patience examines documentaries and moving image works by women and non-binary filmmakers from the Middle East/Southwest Asia and North Africa (MENA/SWANA) who are implicated in contemporary and historical waves of migration. The project critiques the social relevance and politics of documentary by locating the critical potential of migrant and diasporic cinemas in strategies of objectification. Migrant perspectives on the strategies of objectification are positioned as critical aesthetic methods and forms of activism that prevent empathic identification as a redemptive act for the viewer. This provokes significant new approaches to thinking about the ethics of documentary.

Ethical debates normally focus on the responsibility of filmmakers. This project shifts these classic debates calling our attention to the obligation of viewers instead. Revolutionary Patience, thus, critiques empathic engagement and offers strategies of objectification, including silences and narrative opacities, as patiently revolutionary methods of doing politics with documentary cinema.

Digital nomadism: Life-style mobilities, nation-state and the mobile subject (2020-2025)

Principal Investigator: Mari Toivanen

Funding: Academy of Finland, 2020-2025.

This project examines the intersections between the emerging life-style mobilities and the changing nature of the nation-state in post-industrial societies. It focuses on digital nomads in Finland, Thailand, Estonia and Scotland through a multi-sited ethnography. Whereas digital nomadism has commonly been perceived as a temporary and a generational trend, such life-style mobilities are gradually becoming a more established and normalised way of life as the direct result of globalisation, increased freedom of movement (for some) and digitalisation. What does it mean for the nation-state when mobile subjects engage in frequent and multi-transitional crossings of national borders with varying durations of stay, and without the eventuality to return to one’s country of origin?

The project examines mobile subjects’ experiences and perceptions related to their life arrangements (work, family, social relations, leisure) as well as the structural factors shaping their social and professional lives on the move. It unravels how mobile subjectivities are intersectionally constructed, positioned and valued along processes of social stratification in the post-industrial economies. Drawing from a multi-sited ethnographic approach, the collected data consists of interview and observation data of digital nomads in co-working spaces, and of online material (survey and data from social media platforms). This project argues that the emerging life-style mobilities are leading to new forms of mobile subjectivities that are shaped by the local, national and global aspects of intensifying digitalisation. This is not only producing new meanings for work and leisure, but also exposing the norms and values attached to “desirable” life based on sedentariness in post-industrial nation-states.

Racism, mental health and young people of colour (RaMePOC) (2020-2023)

Principal Investigator: Tuuli Kurki

Funding: Academy of Finland, 2020-2023

This research project examines the interconnectedness of racism and mental health, with a special focus on young people of colour (POC). By utilising feminist postcolonial and critical race theory as a theoretical approach, it critically examines mental health policies and practices and their consequences in the lives of young POC.

Through empirical data produced in Finland and the UK, including collection of policy documents and statistics, ethnographic observations as well as interviews with mental health professionals, practitioners and young POC, the project draws attention to societal and political contexts where the idea of mental health as an individual problem becomes created and sustained. At the heart of the project is thus the de-stigmatisation of both racism and mental health by identifying the societal norms that create and replicate structural racism and the stigma of mental distress. The project also aims to consider what antiracism in mental health work would be like.

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The Trials of Transnational Death: Migrants' Funeral Practices and Emergent Politics of Belonging (2019-2022)

Principal investigator: Linda Haapajärvi

Funding: Kone Foundation, 2019-2022

The main objective of this research is to understand how (trans)national belonging is negotiated at the event of death and in the context of migration. The project sets out to explore migrants’ conceptualizations and strategies of anticipation of “good” death, transnational funeral practices, and the political and bureaucratic responses to the former in Finland and France. The case of transnational death calls into question the modern paradigm of belonging built on the “container model” of nation-states that turns a blind eye to the possibility of simultaneous belonging. The project questions this paradigm through a three-layered research design that interrogates transnational death from the complementary perspectives of the individual migrant, migrant communities, and nation-states.

This project produces novel research knowledge on what I call “transnational burial chains” and on emergent forms of politics of belonging. It is based on a multi-sited ethnographic study of actors, contexts, and practices involved in resolving the trials of transnational death. It develops theoretical understanding of emergent forms of politics of belonging by analysing the pragmatic challenges migrants and their communities face when death bells ring. However, as the case of migrant deaths has a unique capacity of making such nation-building projects visible, this research also shows these debates do not limit themselves to the mobile population, but also embed national actors, institutions, and citizens in a transnational form of life.

The Yellowsphere: Glocalisation of the Yellow Vests in Finland (2019-2022)

Principal investigator: Gwenaëlle Bauvois

Funding: The Ella and Georg Ehrnrooth Foundation (2019-20) and the Finnish Cultural Foundation (2021-22).

The Yellow Vests movement started in France in November 2018 and spread all over the world. These different movements have often been grouped under the same - somehow vague - Yellow Vests banner - with the assumption that they are echoing with each other, however they also have roots that are purely national making them more glocalised than globalised. This project departs from the view that this movement is merely exported from one national context to another but instead actors navigate between ‘local’ and ‘global’ and instrumentalise these two dimensions in a modular way.

A Yellow Vest movement developed in Finland with streets demonstrations and especially online activism - bearing some resemblance with its French counterpart while being strongly rooted in its own national context. This project is set out to investigate how and why the Yellow Vests movement was spread and adapted to Finland. To what extent the ‘crisis’ narratives on the Yellow Vests are domesticated from France to Finland? How do Finnish grassroot Yellow Vests mobilize themselves and what is the role played by social media and countermedia in this mobilization?

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Border Crises in Two Languages. Mediatized Politics and Solidarity Activism in the Wake of the 2015 Asylum Migration (2019-2022)

Principal Investigator: Suvi Keskinen

Funding: Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland 2019-2022

This project sets out to investigate the mediatized politics of the experienced crisis at the Finnish-Swedish border during and after autumn 2015. Firstly, we examine the transnational influences between the Finnish and Swedish media, with a special focus on the role of the Swedish-language media in Finland in circulating and producing discourses on migration, crisis and political mobilizations. Secondly, the project analyses the media coverage of anti-immigration and solidarity mobilizations, investigating the interaction between news media and social media when reporting on the activities and views presented by these groups. Thirdly, the project examines the understandings of “crisis” in the solidarity activism that developed to support the newly arrived asylum seekers.

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Coming of age in indigenous communities (SAMI CARE) (2019-2022)

Project leader: Mai Camilla Munkejord

Funding: NORCE – Norwegian research centre

This project examines ageing, quality of life, and home-based care among two indigenous peoples: Sámi in Norway and Atayal in Taiwan. we will combine perspectives from culture-sensitive nursing, human geography and indigenous studies to disclose gendered and generational expectations and experiences of ageing and care. This will help us understand how cultural and spatial aspects of care related to family networks, cohabitation patterns, distance and climate may shape the everyday lives of older indigenous women and men in specific locations. Overall, this project has decolonizing ambitions, and aims at bridging indigenous ways of knowing and Western perceptions and policy building.

Researcher: I-An Gao (Wasiq Silan).

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Intersectional Border Struggles and Disobedient Knowledge in Activism (KNOWACT) (2018-2022)

Principal investigator: Suvi Keskinen

Funding: Academy of Finland, 2018-2022

Questions of gender, migration and racism have become central matters in current welfare states, providing challenges to national identities developed around perceived homogeneity and universal treatment of citizens. Combining feminist intersectionality studies with critical border studies and decolonial studies that question and reconfigure ideas of material and cultural borders, the project aims to contribute to a shift from methodological nationalism to a view of society as a site for construction and challenging of different kinds of borders.

The project examines everyday border struggles and collaborative knowledge production in antiracist and migrant rights activism, with a special focus on how these struggles are shaped by gender, ethnicity, race, class and age. The project investigates theoretically and empirically the emergence of ‘disobedient knowledge’ from encounters in social movements and from the incorporation of the knowledges of migrants and minorities living their life at the border. By doing so, it aims to identify alternatives to exclusionary nationalism and the now embattled liberal multiculturalism of the public sphere.

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SIMA – Seamless Inclusion of Migrant Students into Working Life: A comparative study of ”best practices” from integration educations in Canada and Finland (2018–2021)

Principal investigator: Sanna Saksela-Bergholm

Funding: Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland, 2018–2020

How can integration educations facilitate the more seamless integration of migrants into working life? At present, this process is time-consuming, and many migrants assert that they lack opportunities of participating in working life before having completed years of language studies. The objective of the project is two-fold. Firstly, we aim to analyse integration education programs’ “best practices” aimed at worklife inclusion of adult migrants into the Finnish and Canadian labor markets. Secondly, we will develop a worklife integration model based on these best practices which will be pilot tested within the partner education programs. For students integrating in a country’s minority language, this integration into institutions of the national minority is of additional importance as the dominant environment is generally constructed around the majority language.

While integration education programs generally include components of language teaching, developing societal competences and work life education including short practice placement periods these are often not well connected and do not sufficiently correspond to students’ previous professional expertise and competences. Our project will create a more cohesive interface between these components by surveying educators, employers and migrants' experiences of worklife integration and include their development proposals to identify best curricular and extra-curricular practices. Based on these best practices we will create a worklife integration model to be pilot tested in existing courses within the participating schools. This research is a comparative study between the Swedish Adult Education Institute's (Arbis) tailor-made integration model in Helsinki, Community College Kvarnen’s Social Integration Program in Kronoby (Ostrobothnia) and NorQuest College’s Portfolio-Based Language Assessment Model in Edmonton, Canada.

Socio-economic Status and Access to Higher Education: A Cross-cultural. Approach to Understanding the Experiences of Immigrants in Finland (2020)

Researcher: James Anyan

Funding: Finnish Cultural Foundation

Finland is gradually transitioning from, historically, a country of emigration to an immigrant one. Against this backdrop, it is important to assess how young immigrants, fare in an educational system generally reputed as excellent, and a society regarded as egalitarian in terms of their preparation for, survival (persistence) and success in the higher education (HE) system. This multidisciplinary and cross-cultural project, therefore, investigates this under-researched but policy-relevant subject matter.

The project examines the experiences and motivations of young immigrants in Finland relative to their native Finnish counterparts. It seeks to understand the pathways young immigrants in Finland take, following the completion of general and vocational upper secondary education. What factors determine the choice of either vocationally-oriented HE as offered by the universities of applied sciences (polytechnics) or the academically-oriented programmes in the traditional universities? Of specific importance to the study, are the aspirations and experiences of prospective entrants to HE, those currently enrolled in HE, as well as those who choose directly to enter the labour market after the second-cycle education.

The Children’s Library (2017-2020)

Principal Investigator: Katarina Jungar

Funding: Kone foundation 2017-2020

THE CHILDREN’S LIBRARY is a participatory action research project comprised of researchers from gender studies, literature, art and art curating. The project focuses on creating spaces and communities for counter-narratives through different methods and practices in and outside the academy.

The project uses artistic methods such as curating, creative writing, memory work, and photography (photovoice) to explore and make visible certain experiences that often has been silenced in the public sphere. We started with memory work and continued working with artistic methods like photography and creative writing. Working with artistic methods, and in a way flirting with the idea of a refusal of classic ethnographic methods, and rather with the aim of creating a space for solidarities, a space for study, we have continued to ask questions in relation to co-writing, power, participation, ethics, research, activism and how to live and study together.

Research team: Katarina Jungar (PI), Ahmed Al-Nawas, Pauline Hortelano, Faith Mkwesha, Christopher Wessels.

Whose interests? A comparative study on trade unions' responses to migration and migrants in Finland, the United Kingdom, and Portugal (2017–2020)

Principal Investigator: Rolle Alho

Funding: Academy of Finland, 2017–2020

Migration is an increasingly complex issue that is on the agenda of most societal actors, including trade unions. Trade unions are key non-state actors that influence labour market policies and immigration processes in Europe; it is therefore important to understand how they respond to migration. This project provides a qualitative and comparative in-depth study on trade unions’ responses to migration and migrants in Finland, the United Kingdom, and Portugal. The core question the project seeks to answer is whether the unions’ responses to migration and migrants promote ethnic/national equality in the labour markets – or vice versa. The selected unions represent the healthcare sector and restaurant, cleaning, and hotel work. The project innovatively combines many types of research material: interviews with union representatives, union programmes and websites, and data collected at union conferences.

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Postethnic Activism in the Neoliberal Era. Translocal Studies on Political Subjectivities, Alliance-Building and Social Imaginaries (2014-2019)

Principal investigator: Suvi Keskinen

Funding: Academy of Finland, 2014-2019

This research project examines the conditions, forms and possibilities of postethnic activism in the wake of neoliberal changes and retreat from multiculturalism. Current Nordic countries are characterised by the rise of neo-nationalism and the framing of especially Muslims and non-western minorities as problematic ‘others’ drawing on racialised, gendered and sexualised discourses. Profound changes have simultaneously occurred in the conditions for political action. The neoliberal political rationality implies an emphasis on individualisation and entrepreneurialism, whereby race, gender and class-based inequalities are constructed as individual failures instead of social processes. Political subjects seen to embody diversity are increasingly entering the public sphere but in doing so are also confronted with the racialised and class-based power relations of it.

Through translocal studies in Denmark, Sweden and Finland this research explores how political subjectivities, activities, alliances and social imaginaries are created in postethnic activism. It examines the ways that neoliberal political rationalities shape the contours of activism and how such rationalities are negotiated, made use of, questioned and resisted by activists. Moreover, it analyses the social imaginaries of gender, belonging, nation, history, community and solidarity elaborated in the activities.

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The Stopped - Spaces, Meanings and Practices of Ethnic Profiling (2015-2019)

Principal investigator: Suvi Keskinen

Funding: Kone Foundation, 2015-2019

The project The Stopped – Spaces, Meanings and Practices of Ethnic Profiling examines ethnic profiling in Finland with a focus on its prevalence, forms and interpretations of (1) people experiencing profiling and (2) the police. The project analyses also the practices and logics that lead to ethnic profiling. The aim of the project is to enhance understandings of the phenomenon and to make it visible in the society through the means of research, art and journalism.

The research produces knowledge of the ethnicised, racialised, gendered and generational distinctions and practices related to profiling. It also develops understandings of the effects of ethnic profiling for those who are targeted by it. The project analyses the strategies of people who experience being profiled as they seek for means to act in situations of and contest exclusionary practices. The research combines several kinds of quantitative and qualitative methods and data: individual and focus group interviews, participatory observation, and survey questionnaires.

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Mobilizing 'the Disenfranchised' in Finland, France and the United states. Post-truth public stories in the transnational hybrid media space (2017–2018)

Principal investigator: Karina Horsti

Funding: Helsingin Sanomat Foundation

The research project compares how countermedia outlets in Finland, France and the United States seek to mobilize people politically as “disenfranchised” and to facilitate erosion of trust in mainstream news reporting. The project collects, compiles and analyzes data on mainstream and countermedia news outlets’ coverage of polemic and polarizing public events. The project operationalizes a multidisciplinary mixed methods approach, utilizing qualitative tools from media research and political sociology, as well as quantitative big data tools such as algorithmic natural language processing. The main research output consists of scientific, peer-reviewed articles on narrative practices and mobilization strategies harnessed by the transnational countermedia.

Researchers: Gwenaëlle Bauvois and Niko Pyrhönen.

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Evaluation of the Common European Asylum System under Pressure and Recommendations for Further Development (2017–2019)

Since 2015, migration to and within Europe has challenged the adequacy of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). This has affected the implementation of both the CEAS and national asylum systems and called further harmonisation into question. Harmonisation is not a fixed term but incorporates varied meanings and practices. In legal terms, harmonisation has been explained as an approximation process towards minimum standards. In political terms, harmonisation focuses on policy convergence, of which legal harmonisation is only one of many mechanisms of convergence. CEASEVAL will determine what kind of harmonisation and solidarity is possible and necessary.

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Ordering the ‘Migrant Family’: Power Asymmetry Work and Citizenization in Welfare Professional Bureaucracies (2017–2021)

Principal investigator: Camilla Nordberg

Funding: Academy of Finland 2017-2021

The research draws on a collective ethnographic, strongly team-based approach, to examine how institutional power asymmetries are linked to migrant citizenization in the Helsinki capital region. It is a response to an identified need for more systematic research on the workings of power in welfare institutional practice with the politicized social category of the ‘migrant family’. Exploring culturally scripted power asymmetries and the ways they are put into practice is intimately linked with any project aiming at improving the possibilities for agency, counteracting misrecognition and maldistribution, and ultimately enhancing the living conditions for newcomers. The multidisciplinary base of the research team is used to advance the theoretization of the power asymmetry work – citizenization nexus. We examine power asymmetry work in the intertextual context of (1) institutional practice, (2) professional knowledge base, and (3) public discourse. Moreover, we expand the so far predominantly Anglo-Saxon scholarship on institutional practice with migrant service users by highlighting the specific nature of social work in a Nordic context marked by stronger discretionary power. Finally, the research pay specific attention to how the managerialist individualization of society at large is redefining the normative basis of Nordic social work and its encounters with human complexity.

Citizenisation in the Local Welfare State: Migrant Mothers' Everyday Life in Restructuring Urban Settings (2013–2019)

Principal investigator: Camilla Nordberg

Funding: Academy of Finland 2013–2018 (extended until 2019 due to parental leave)

Contemporary welfare state transformation, shaped by the politics and ideology of neoliberalism, is arguably manifested in street-level bureaucratic practices, here conceptualized as the ’local welfare state’. Gendered, ethnicized and racialized implications of welfare state austerity and restructuring have been commonsensically assumed but not systematically researched from a long-term perspective of the every-day life of migrants. Drawing on longitudinal, institutional ethnography, the research serves two key objectives: Firstly, to explore the migrant-based notions of citizenization by examining the ways in which newcomer mothers conceptualize, experience and negotiate their own and their family members’ paths to citizenship. Secondly, the research analyses the system-based notion of citizenization, by examining how the transforming welfare and migration policy framework is enacted in institutional encounters and what the impact is of institutional encounters on the citizenization process of newcomer mothers. The analysis draws on citizenship theory in general and on a perspective of subjectivity and agency in particular, developing a conceptualization of acts of citizenship in every-day life. The ethnographic study uses in-depth interviews, participatory observations related to street-level institutional encounters, reflective focus groups and analysis of policy documents. It spans over a period of four years, accounting for the unique methodological and ethnical challenges posed by conducting research among so called ‘hard-to-reach’ populations. Field work is carried out in the metropolitan city of Vantaa in Finland (major site of field work) and in the City of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.