The research group members have distinct personal academic proficiencies.

To maintain strong links between research and teaching in both bachelor and master level degrees, research group members take actively part in teaching.

Sami Moisio

Leader of the research group

Professor of Spatial Planning and Policy

Professor Sami Moisio works on the interface of regional studies, human geography, spatial planning and political economy. Sami’s research interests include state spatial transformation, political geographies of Europeanization, city-regionalism, political geographies of economic geography, and knowledge-intensive capitalism. Much of his current research is concerned with the ways in which different places, regions, spaces (such as the “global”) and human subjects are constituted, transformed and re-worked in political-economic processes and struggles, including knowledge production. Sami’s recent book Geopolitics of the Knowledge-based Economy won the Regional Studies Association Routledge Best Book Award 2019. He serves as an external faculty board member of the Gran Sasso Science Institute: School of Advanced Studies (Italy).

Sami in TUHAT database

Email: sami.moisio[at]

Pia Bäcklund

Leader of the research group
Vice-head of the Department of Geosciences and Geography

Professor of Urban and Regional Inequalities
Adjunct Professor in spatial planning

Dr Pia Bäcklund, is a human geographer whose research interest covers especially strategic spatial planning and politics. She sees planning not only as a question of how to better develop cities, but as an example of governmental practices. Political agencies and citizens’ roles in urban development projects, in the context of democracy theories, have been her specific interests. Pia has also been involved in developing domestic and international multidisciplinary research projects within these themes (eg. Her latest research project JustDe (funded by Academy of Finland 2018-2022, led by Pia) targets the issue of how new agreement based spatial planning practices gives new form and direction to justification of societal decision making in the context of Nordic Welfare state. Key collaboration universities within this project are University of Stockholm and NMBU (Norway). Other ongoing projects are DECARBON-HOME and SEISMIC-RISK.

Pia in TUHAT database (under construction!)

Pia in Google Scholar

Email: pia.backlund[at]

Juho Luukkonen

Dr Juho Luukkonen is a University lecturer in spatial planning and policy. Juho’s research interests involve state spatial transformation, Europeanization, regional and urban planning, and the political (re-)constitution of territories. Juho is currently working on urban planning and on the role of state in regulating regional and urban planning practices.

Juho in the Research Portal of the University of Helsinki.

Juho in the Google Scholar data base.

Email: juho.luukkonen[at]

Gi­ac­omo Bottà

Giacomo Bottà is a postdoctoral researcher in the JustDe project. He received his PhD in comparative studies from the Libera Università di Lingue e Comunicazione IULM Milan. He is a docent in urban studies at the University of Helsinki and in music research at the Tampere University.

In his career he has aimed at determining how cultural expressions, and music in particular, can be used to better understand space and spatiality on the one hand, and communities and societies on the other. He developed projects in relation to urban cultures and scenes, urban branding, interculturalism, creative cities, cultural planning and the urban night and worked with various qualitative methods. 

Beside Helsinki, he held research and teaching positions at the University of Freiburg, University of Strasbourg, Karlsruhe Music University and Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences. In 2011- 2012 he was Von Humboldt Foundation experienced researcher in Freiburg.

Giacomo in the Research Portal and in Wordpress.

Uula Saastamoinen

Uula Saastamoinen is a PhD student in the Doctoral Programme in Political, Societal and Regional Change at the Department of Geosciences and Geography. Their research interests include spatial and environmental governance and policy, the ways in which governance is constructed, power relations between state actors in spatial planning in the face of conflicting land use interests, the post-politicisation of the growth narrative and its impact on environmental and spatial policy, and the institutionalisation of knowledge production as a way of legitimising governance. Besides their doctoral research, Uula works as a researcher at Finnish Environment Institute SYKE.

Email: uula.saastamoinen[at]

Ida Roikonen

Ida Roikonen is a recent graduate from the Master's programme in Geography. She is currently working at the Department of Geosciences and Geography in the SEISMIC-RISK project, examining citizen involvement in geothermal energy projects. Ida’s areas of interest are mainly within urban and human geography, including themes such as citizen participation and urban democracy. In her master’s thesis, Ida examined citizen participation in Helsinki and how vulnerable groups of people are considered in decision-making processes.

Noora Pyyry

Leader of the research group

Dr Noora Pyyry is Assistant Professor of Geography Education. Her own work and research group, Affective Geographies and Politics of Education, deals with human subjectivity, knowledge creation, learning and educational politics, as well as with issues of young people’s participation and spatial justice in the city. She is interested in what counts as knowledge, and how learning takes place with(in) various geographical and ideological landscapes. Inspired by her participatory research on young people’s practices of hanging out, she approaches learning as an ongoing and non-linear geographical process that does not begin or end with humans. She uses feminist posthuman and non-representational theorisation to study the multiple forces that are at work in the various encounters from which knowing, participation and everyday affective politics emerge. At the core of her research on learning, is the re-organizing power of enchantment, a radical encounter that makes it possible to ontologically re-think the world. She argues that creating “pedagogical spaces of enchantment” in education is critical for transformative encounters and learning in the Anthropocene.

Noora in the Google Scholar data base.

Noora in the Research Portal of the University of Helsinki.

Email: noora.pyyry[at]

Fran Trento

Fran Trento (they/them) is an artist-researcher and currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki, within the Academy of Finland-funded research project ´Enchantment in young people's technoscientific urban landscape: Encounters of difference and the opening of politics in the post-social city´. Fran worked as a postdoctoral researcher at The University of The Arts Helsinki, where they led projects that investigated academic ableism and neuroqueer intimacies and taught critical disability studies. Fran’s research interests are neurodiversity, anti-ableism, and the pedagogies for neurodiversity, in connection with an investigation into how young people may perceive and stigmatise these questions in the use of technology. Fran is a translator who translated several works into Portuguese, such as Brian Massumi’s “What Animals Teach Us About Politics”. Fran is also a social sustainability coordinator at Frame Contemporary Art Finland. Their background is initially in media studies, but they have worked with critical disability studies, process philosophy and neurodiversity studies for several years.

Raine Aiava

Raine Aiava is a PhD student in the Doctoral Programme in Political, Societal and Regional Changes at the Department of Geosciences and Geography. Working in the field of human geography, he is part of the research group, Affective Geographies and Politics of Education, where his research explores the politics of difference in eventual encounters and emphasizes non-representational and more-than-human perspectives. His current work examines the affectual and political potential of enchantment, love, and learning as re-ontologizing encounters. In this way, his work examines the diverse modes of subjectification and knowledge creation mobilized within and through landscapes of education. Aiava’s previous training was in the Philosophy of Aesthetics which continues to influence his work. He has Masters of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design, and is a co-founder and board member of the Museum of Impossible Forms in Kontula, Helsinki, a cultural center funded by the Kone Foundation.

William Smolander

William Smolander is a PhD student in the Doctoral Programme in Political, Societal and Regional Changes at the Department of Geosciences and Geography. His research deals with more-than-human geographies and education beyond the human. By rethinking geography education, William wants to probe the traditional separation between humans and Earth, upheld by fixation on representation and the autonomous human subject in today’s education. By exploring experimental educational processes, his goal is to find new ways for geography education to attend to our co-dwelling with Earth and face the problems of the Anthropocene. William works in the research group of Affective Geographies and Politics of Education.

Email: william.smolander[at]

Christina Ruth

Christina Ruth is a PhD student at the Department och Geosciences and Geography, in the the Doctoral Programme in School, Education, Society and Culture (SEDUCE). Her research focuses on the Matriculation Examination in geography. She has a 25 year teaching experience in geography in the upper secondary school. She has written several textbooks for upper secondary school geography education and has been an associate member of the Finnish Matriculation Examination Board since 2002. Currently she works as a geography teacher at Tölö gymnasium in Helsinki. Christina works in the research group of Affective Geographies and Politics of Education.


Mingliang Lin

Mingliang Lin is a PhD student in the Doctoral Programme of Political, Societal and Regional Changes at the Department of Geosciences and Geography. His research focuses on the relations of young people’s geographies and urbanization in China, exploring the daily life and placemaking practices of young people in urban villages of Guangzhou, China (in Chinese: 城中村, meaning the villages located in the center of cities), through participatory research. The work thus contributes to young people’s geographies from the perspective of the Global East by examining how young people act and engage with the rapid urbanization of China. His work utilizes non-representational theories, digital geographies, and place branding. Mingliang works in the research group of Affective Geographies and Politics of Education.

Email: mingliang.lin[at]

Sanna Rautio

Sanna Rautio is a PhD student in the Doctoral Programme in Political, Societal and Regional Changes at the Department of Geosciences and Geography. Her research explores the affective landscapes emerging through young people’s playful engagements with mobile phone video sharing applications. Her work focuses on probing the affective micro-atmospheres and momentary breaks in the often adult-dominated landscapes that emerge from young people’s playful action. In her work, she uses playful and experimental methods to explore human and non-human relations to understand how mobile phone video apps shape our worlds. Sanna works in the research group of Affective Geographies and Politics of Education. 

Email: sanna.m.rautio[at] 


Dr. Tomas Hanell: Tomas has for over two decades been engaged in urban and regional development research in the EU, the Baltic Sea Region and the Nordic countries. His methodological focus lies on quantitative analysis, both at aggregate as well as at micro levels. Tomas worked as a postdoctoral researcher partaking in the JustDe project, now he works as Senior Research Fellow at the Migration Institute of Finland.
- Tomas in the Google Scholar data base.

Dr. Miliza Ryöti: Miliza’s research focuses on the practices of producing and visualizing information on social sustainability and the use and interpretations of such information in a complex regional agreement-based planning process. Miliza worked in the JustDe project, currently she works as a specialist at the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) producing regional information on housing and social sustainability.

Dr. Ilppo Soininvaara: Ilppo’s research focus on urbanizaton and urban politics. Ilppo works as a consultant of regional development at MDI Public Oy.
- Ilppo in TUHAT database

Dr. Johanna Tuomisaari: Johanna’s research interests include strategic urban planning, planning conflicts and urban nature. She worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the JustDe project, from where she moved on to the University of Jyväskylä.
- Johanna in the Google Scholar data base.

Dr. Heikki Sirviö: Heikki’s research interests include state theory, the concept of politics, spatial dialectic and spatial structures, materialist geopolitics, and political ecology. Heikki was part of the research group "Affective Politics and Geographies of Education" and now he works as Regional Development Manager at Regional Council of Pohjois-Savo. He is also editor of Alue & Ympäristö, a Finnish peer-reviewed journal of regional and environmental issues.
- Heikki in the ResearchGate portal