Postdoctoral Researcher and Lecturer
Fellow at the Institute for Public Knowledge, New York University
- social theory, relational sociology
- social bonds and everyday life
- belonging and local community
- family, friendship, intimacy
- life vulnerability, illness and suffering
- social and sociological categorizations
- qualitative and relational analysis
For the past three years after finishing my doctorate, I’ve been studying how personal lives are intertwined with wider configurations of belonging with families, friends and other intimates, and how structural aspects and agency together contribute to the unfolding of the ways in which people are related to others. I have written papers on family relations, intimacy and the relational organization of close relationships; and theoretical and methodological work on sociological categories, relationality and belonging. The realization of how fragmented and differentiated the settings for many people’s significant relations and safety nets were, got me interested in studying localities as settings for significant bonds. Some neighborhoods make strong claims about ”the local” and the sense of community, but does it mean in the practice? Do people know each other, do things together and help each other out? How dense or differentiatied along the social categories are such local bonds and where are their boundaries? How do bonds and communal goods form? Who can and who cannot belong? What does ”local” mean in the context of urban diversity? Does local belonging protect people in vulnerable phases of lives?
My current research project is about Everyday Life and Belonging in Progressive Neigborhoods of Helsinki, Madrid and Brooklyn. It is part of the Vulnerable Lives – research project (2012-2016) consisting of Professor Marja-Liisa Honkasalo, Dr. Anna Leppo and myself and funded the Academy of Finland. The wider project investigates life vulnerabilities, ambiguous agency and more in depth the ”cures” that contemporary societies offer as solutions for life vulnerability. Community is one of them. The study is also part of a cross-cultural research project studying the everyday life and belonging in active neighborhoods of Helsinki and Madrid. I’m am the principal investigator in Helsinki, but my research partner Professor Victoria Gomez (Universidad de Carlos III de Madrid) is the PI in Madrid.
I have done first round of fieldwork in Helsinki, Madrid and Brooklyn, NYC in 2013 and continue it thgrough 2014. The chosen neighborhoods are all progressive, active neighborhoods with vibrant local life and sense of pride. Moreover, they are historic, gentrifying neighborhoods that have become very desirable for affluent, educated people who are looking for a nice, local atmosphere. The study is cross-cultural, each field contributing to the understanding of how a similar focus on the local is acted out differently under different cultural, social, material, local and historical dynamics. One interesting axis is the way in which people’s lives, informal community practices and the role of the state are interconnected. In Finland the generous welfare benefits have enabled more individualized lives and less dependency on people around you than in Spain, for instance, while in the American mindset, dependency on the state is not a desirable option, which places more weight on the individual and informal relationships. Studying these different places in depth I hope to find out how our local lives and belonging are shaped by us and those around us, definitely, but also by wider social, material and cultural dynamics that are less visible. How does a a sense of community evolve in the context of urban multiture of possibilities and how does is change in face of rapid neighborhood change.
I am also writing several papers: ’Belonging-work: Making Bonds and Crossing Boundaries in Everyday Life’ (with Atte Vieno), ’The dilemma of the Capable Agent” (Ketokivi, K. & Meskus, M., first version presented at ASA in Denver, 2012), ’Studying complex dynamics of family relationships – A Figurational Approach’ (Castrén, A-M & Ketokivi, K, in progress), ’Belonging, stigma and ”the social” in family relationships’ (in the review process), ’Deepening the Notion of Relationality for Rethinking Personal Lives’ (Ketokivi, K & Roseneil, S, in progress, presented at BSA in April 2012) and ’Sidoksen kysymys sosiologisessa ajattelussa’ (in English: The question of the social bond in sociological thinking). See the list of my existing publications here.
I organize and chair the departmental Sociology Research Seminar for the faculty and staff. The seminar presents new and ongoing research, promoting general sociological conversation across different paradigmatic volcabularies. With Prof. Petri Ylikoski we also organize a Cross-Sociological seminar where faculty, staff and graduate student present others’ work that has intrigued them.
At the Institute for Public Knowledge, New York University where I am a Fellow, I have organized a Working Group ’Belonging Today’, that brings together social scientific discussion across different thematic interests, methods and theoretical angles, examining the ways, forms and tensions of belonging today. The group meets for intensive workshops twice a year. Often also public conversations with wine and cheese are organized. In December 2013 together with Lena Näre and Atte Vieno we started a sister group ’Belonging Today – Helsinki’ with a similar idea. We meet four times a year.
I teach social theory and qualitative analysis to Master’s students and advise five Master’s theses and the doctoral theses of Atte Vieno (’Working to Belong’, on the struggle to belong after being laid off) and of Ulla Tikkanen (on the practice state supported family care of the elderly).
I am a member of the editorial board of Sosiologia, the journal of The Westermarck Society, the sociological association of Finland. Outside university I write research-based popular articles and columns for wider audiences and train social and health professionals and practitioner.
My doctoral dissertation The Relational Self, the Social Bond and the Dynamics of Personal Relationships. A Sociological Analysis (2010, Fulltext pdf) was published by the Department of Social Research and can be purchased from me or the sociology office