Focus of Research

The research project “Making Spaces of Justice Across the East-West Divide” focuses on two particularly pressing questions that are debated in and profoundly affect both Finnish and Russian societies: (1) migration and multiculturalism; (2) politics of gender and sexuality.

Migration and multiculturalism
There are grounds to believe that migration will be a defining issue of the 21st century. The global dynamics of migration, the current refugee crisis included, are touching both the Finnish and the Russian society in a profound way and entailing changes in our social and cultural fabrics.

While migration is a shared issue, it is experienced and structured quite differently in Finland and Russia.

Finland has traditionally been a rather monocultural society. However, the number of migrants and asylum seekers is increasing, which has prompted both new expressions of solidarity and compassion as well as hatred and violence.

Russia, for its part, is a multiethnic society which hosts the world’s second largest immigration population but also exhibits xenophobic and racist tendencies.

Similarities and differences in the dynamics of migration thus push us to think through and investigate the conditions of social justice, solidarity and equality.

Sexual and gender politics
Sexual and gender politics are also a highly debated issue in both societies.

In Russia, feminism and LGBT activism have been attacked by the state and conceived of as Western ‘vices’, threatening ‘Russian’ moral and family values. The Pussy Riot affair and the so-called homo propaganda laws are the most well-known manifestations of this. However, despite the increasing pressure, there is plenty of feminist and LGBT artistic, activist and political work being carried out in Russia.

Sexuality and gender politics are also highly politically-loaded questions in Finland. Gender equality has been a crucial element of Finnish self-understanding and national identity. In public discourse, Finland has often been represented as a ‘forerunner of equality’ and equality has been repeatedly mobilized as a symbolic vehicle to draw boundaries between ‘us’ (‘native Finns’) and ‘them’ (‘immigrants’) and demarcate the Finnish ‘community of value’. This naturalization of gender equality as something ‘already achieved’ has effectively blocked the articulation of gender injustice and discrimination. However, in recent years, diverse forms of feminist engagements have been proliferating in Finland questioning the success story of equality and politicizing, for example, gendered violence and the prohibitive transgender legislation.

The project is funded by the Kone Foundation.