Postdoctoral Researcher and Lecturer
Fellow at the Institute for Public Knowledge, New York University
- social theory
- relational sociology
- local bonds and fabrics of life
- personal relationships, family, intimacy
- webs of belonging and community
- social and sociological categorizations
- qualitative and relational analysis
I work as Post-Doctoral Researcher in Sociology at the Department of Social Research.
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 being communities where people know each other, do things together and help each other out, but how dense are such local bonds and where are their boundaries? How do bonds and communal goods form? Who can and who cannot belong? How collective or differentiated are people’s local and other belongings, especially 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 is 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 communal city blocks of Helsinki and Madrid. I’m am the principal investigator at the fields in Helsinki, but my research partner Professor Victoria Gomez (Universidad de Carlos III de Madrid) is the PI in Madrid.
I have just finished first periods of fieldwork in Kumpula, Helsinki and Malsaña, Madrid and currently doing fieldwork in Park Slope, Brooklyn – all of which are progressive, active neighborhoods with vibrant local life. The study is cross-cultural, rather than strictly comparative, each field contributing to the understanding of how similar focus on the local are acted out differently under different cultural, social, material, local and 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 culture, dependency on the state is not a desirable option. 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.
On top of the fieldwork, I am also finishing up several papers: ’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 the review process), ’Estranged Family Relationships and the Social Dynamics of Family’ (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), ’The Relational Self, Bonding and Individuality’ (working paper), ”Developing a Notion of Belonging for Rethinking ’Community in Social Research” (working paper), 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. If you’re visiting our department or Helsinki and have something interesting to present, feel free to contact me! 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 organize 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.
I teach social theory and qualitative analysis to Master’s students and advise five Master’s theses and the doctoral thesis Atte Vieno.
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.