Doctoral researchers


Agnese Bankovska, M.A.

Email: agnese.bankovska(a)

My doctoral project explores everyday politics and economies of food practices among the actors of the food movement of ‘tiešā pirkšana’ in Latvia. I seek how they are affected by bigger scale change in the food politics both locally and globally. Simultaneously as a junior researcher in the TRANSLINES project I look how different food practices serve as strategies for ‘doing family’ and help to overcome inequalities encountered by transnational Latvian-Finnish families.

My PhD project on an alternative food movement of ‘tiešā pirkšana’ is supervised by Dr. Katja Uusihakala and Prof. Sarah Green. The TRANSLINES project is funded by Academy of Finland and lead by Prof. Laura Assmuth, UEF.

I have obtained a master’s degree in anthropology at the Riga Stradins University in 2013. Previously I have been working in media and advertising for more than 10 years.

Key words: food research, family and kinship, gender, ethical eating, food systems, value(s), time, post-socialism, non-verbal methods

Tero Frestadius, M.Soc.Sc.

Email: tero.frestadius(a)

I am interested in the interface of poetics and politics at the margins and gaps of urban polities. My current research project concerns the way person, places, things, and ideas get entangled in poor neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

Grace I-An Gao,  M. Soc. Sc.

Email: an.gao(a)

Grace’s research concerns institutional analysis of long-term care policies and self-determination of Indigenous peoples in everyday lives. Her dissertation, titled “Long-term care and the Indigenous Peoples: Critical reflection between Finland and Taiwan”, examines cultural, social and political claims of the Sámi in Finnish Sápmi and Tayal in Taiwan. Through examining the quality and the character of long-ter care, she unravels the depth of self-determination and decolonization in these nation-states. Her research interests and experience are in developing sustainable quality-of-life care systems, decolonization, and the social, cultural and political rights of Indigenous people. Grace has published in areas of self-determination and the resiliency of Indigenous peoples.

Grace (or Wasiq Silan, her Tayal name) is Tayal from the northern region of Taiwan. She is currently living and studying in Helsinki, Finland. Grace holds a MA in politics from the University of Helsinki in 2014. Her research is financially supported by the Finnish Cultural Foundation.



Saana Hansen, M.A.


In my Doctoral research I use the return migration of Zimbabweans from South Africa as a lens to examine how returnees seek belonging in their social and structural surroundings. A central concern is to understand what crisis-driven displacement has done to the economies of care in Zimbabwe. I have recently conducted ethnographic fieldwork primarily in the city of Bulawayo, and I am currently in the process of writing. My research works analytically at the intersection of the anthropological discussions of state-making and family-making, and I am trying to develop empirically grounded understandings of how these processes are mutually co-constituted and contested within actual everyday interactions and relationships between different actors. The study is part of a research project ”Postliberal governance and popular claim-making in Southern Africa” that is funded by the Academy of Finland. It is supervised by Professor Jeremy Gould (University of Helsinki) and Professor Amanda Hammar (University of Copenhagen).

I hold a MA from the University of Sussex and a BA from the University of Tampere. Before joining the faculty at the University of Helsinki, I have worked on issues related to displacement and migration in the public and NGO sectors.

Key words: Displacement, Documents, Economies of Care, Family and Kinship, Migration, Southern Africa, State-making, Uncertainty, Zimbabwe.

Katri Hirvonen-Nurmi, M.A.


Katri Hirvonen-Nurmi’s doctoral thesis is a study on the knowledge production of the Wixarika, a Mexican Indigenous people. Through commenting anthropologically on critical and community-based museology, the thesis produces new knowledge on how arts institutions can be developed in order to enhance citizens’ creativity and communal engagement. The Wixarika community museum Hirvonen-Nurmi cooperates with in her research project intends to enhance intergenerational knowledge that is often considered pertaining to the restricted spheres of ritual specialists or families, but accepted into the school curriculum by the movement of intercultural schools. Her practice as a teacher of museology in a Wixarika high school, included teaching hands-on museum practices and co-researching meanings of heritage items with the students. Hirvonen-Nurmi documents the making of the museum in her PhD thesis through the manifold social relations that form the lives of the Wixarika people. The thesis presents Viveiro de Castro’s perspecitivism as a way to understand Wixarika rituals, whilst at the same time taking on a critical lens to his theory through Terrence Turner’s writings. Katri Hirvonen-Nurmi has 20 years of work experience as a museum professional specialised in research and documentation of collections, in Helinä Rautavaara ethnographic museum, an ethnographic gallery in Espoo, Finland. In the past she has studied the history and present forms of civil-religious hierarchy among the Maya Tzeltal people of Chiapas. L


Annastiina Kallius, M.A.

Email: annastiina.kallius(a)

In my doctoral research I look at coexisting understandings of the location of Hungary in Europe. I approach this topic more specifically through the lenses of migration and citizenship, and will particularly look at what kind of value systems and structures of dependency are in place when determining the location of Hungary as central or peripheral. In addition, I am also engaged in research of Hungarian asylum and migration policy as an expression of EU border regime and externalization. I hold a BA in Politics and Development studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, and an MA in Sociology and Social Anthropology from Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. My research is funded by the Doctoral School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Helsinki.

Keywords: borders, location, migration, citizenship, postsocialism, modernity profile

Anna Klimova, M.A.

Email: anna.klimova(a)

My doctoral research is focused on transition into parenthood and mechanisms of social construction of family ties in the situation of foster care in urban society of modern Russia. The research is a part of a multi-disciplinary project “A child’s right to a family: deinstitutionalization of child welfare in Putin’s Russia”, led by Dr. Meri Kulmala (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki; see:

Since 2010s, Russia has been implementing a national-level child welfare reform which aims to increase the number of domestic adoptions, develop national foster care system, and implicates promotion of family-based care. In my research, I analyze biographical narratives, family stories, and various forms of family narratives in the framework of moral, gender, everyday social interaction, and relevant practical and institutional circumstances in order to trace values, meanings, and cultural imperatives which underlay the meaning of parenthood and kinship inmodern urban culture in Russia.

Keywords: narrative analysis, medical anthropology, digital ethnography, modern rituals, invented traditions, life scenarios, applied anthropology, self and identity, kinship, parenthood, family narratives, person and the state profile

Minna Kulmala, M.Soc.Sc.

Email: minna.m.kulmala(a)

My research interests are on the area of religious anthropology. I am specializing in new religions and millennial movements, conversion, commitment, communality, and sacred spaces in post-Soviet Russia.

Maija Lassila, M.Soc.Sc.

Email: maija.lassila(a)

My doctoral research is about large scale mining projects and how they intersect with national trajectories of politics, history and identity, people’s own environments, landscapes and their expectations for the future. My research is related to discussions of resource extraction, the state, identity and changes of place.

I have recently done fieldwork in New Caledonia but I aim to extend my work into a comparative approach that consists of different localities.

I have always been interested in how humans engage with their environments, other species and in exploring what is ‘nature’.

Samuli Lähteenaho, M.Soc.Sc.

Email: samuli.lahteenaho(a)

In my doctoral research I am exploring the changing role of the coastline in Beirut and the relationship of the city with the sea. Through my ethnographic research focusing on the contested notions of public space and  privatisation on the Beirut littoral, and changing perceptions of the sea, I discuss the changing relative value and meaning of these locations. More specifically my research looks at changing understandings of the coastline and the sea as related to environmental concerns and the notion of public in Beirut through work with civil society groups engaged in maintaining and advocating for the coastline, as well as other lay interlocutors in the city. I am also incorporating work with the real estate business in Beirut to understand the role of changing land value in transformations on the coastline. My approach suggests that infrastructure, legal frameworks, and financing are important regimes partaking in recalibrating the multiple meanings and values of the coastal landscape.

My doctoral research is part of the ‘Crosslocations – Rethinking relative location in the Mediterranean‘ research project, and my work is being supervised by Dr. Carl Rommel and Prof. Sarah Green. I hold a MSocSc from the University of Helsinki.

Keywords: public space, location, neoliberalism, value, urban change, infrastructure, sea, littoral

Jenni Mölkänen, M.Soc.Sc.

Email: jenni.molkanen(a)

Tel: +358 50 4484271/ (0)9 191 23841

My PhD study in Social and Cultural Anthropology, The Politics of Conserved and Cultivated Natures in Northeast Madagascar, discusses about rice and vanilla cultivators in Northeast Madagascar in the context of large scale land transformation and natural resource use. I describe the intersection of recently established conservation landscapes and eco-tourism with the subsistence (rice) and cash crop cultivation (vanilla) that is a colonial crop associated with the tastes of foreign consumers. The question addressed in this research is what kinds of relations underlie the production of nature as an object of consumption and what kinds of relations are created in the current processes of environmental conservation and agricultural production. With an ethnographic focus on the Tsimihety, an ethnic group with a history of fleeing from state space but who are central in vanilla production and ecotourism supported by the Malagasy state and international organizations, I trace the historical creation of natures that have become emblematic of Madagascar – known both as a hotspot of endemic biodiversity and as the world’s largest vanilla producer – and the enactment and change of these relations in the context of neoliberal resource politics. The material has been collected during all together 13 months fieldwork between January-April 2011 and September 2012-August 2013 in four different villages situating near Marojejy National Park entrance as well as in archives in Antananarivo, Madagascar. The work has been a part of a larger project, Environment, Changing Land Use and Global Natural Resource Economy, directed by Timo Kaartinen and the study has been funded by Finnish Academy, Kone Foundation and Oscar Öflund’s Foundation.

Hanna Rask, M.Soc.Sc.


In my doctoral project I will explore understandings of legacies of past assimilation policies on indigenous children in Canada and conceptions of intergenerational responsibility for past injustices. My research focuses on social remembering of silenced and contested histories and relates to discussions on temporal dimensions of politics of apology and reconciliation, collective and political responsibility, and integration of silenced aspects of history into public memory.

My doctoral research is supervised by Dr. Katja Uusihakala and Prof. Timo Kaartinen. I hold a M.Soc.Sc. in anthropology (2018) from the University of Helsinki.

Maija-Elina Sequeira


In my doctoral research, I will use a cognitive anthropology approach to explore how children learn and enact inter-personal hierarchies. I am interested in how the models of hierarchies that children are exposed to in their socio-cultural environments shape their emerging cognitive capacity to reason about hierarchy. I will carry out my fieldwork on the Caribbean coast of Colombia in 2021, and will use both ethnographic and experimental methods. My supervisors are Anni Kajanus and Toomas Gross. I am currently funded by the SYLFF foundation grant.

Marko Stenroos, M.Soc.Sc.

Email: marko.stenroos(a)

My doctoral project elaborates the Finnish Kaale Roma politics as an example of minority politics in the modern (Nordic) state. In this study the focus is in the processes of implementation and appropriation of the Roma policy. Cultural and socio-economic factors influencing the processes will be scrutinized. Roma policies are emphasizing the aims for the social inclusion and integration of the Roma people, and this raises the questions of who are those supposed to be integrated, from where they are integrated and to what they are meant to integrate?

This ethnographic study will explore the inner group dynamics of the Roma community – paying attention to the power mechanisms and relations, gender and age hierarchies and to the social spaces as an arena for micro-level political processes.

I have obtained a master’s degree in social and cultural anthropology at the University of Helsinki in 2014.

Keywords: Roma, minority politics, anthropology of policy, anthropology of multiculturalism


Sonja Trifuljesko, M.A.

Email: sonja.trifuljesko(a)

I am a fourth-year doctoral candidate in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Helsinki, supervised by professors Sarah Green and Timo Kaartinen. I hold previous degrees in Art History and Ethnology & Anthropology from the University of Belgrade, Serbia.

My doctoral project investigates contemporary transformation of Finnish universities. Using an emic understanding of ‘internationalization’ as my starting point, I focus on university’s internal and external changing relationships.

I conducted a long-term ethnographic fieldwork at the University of Helsinki, and am currently in the process of writing. I am particularly interested in language politics, as well as in politics of representation and relations, which will probably find a place both in my thesis and in separate journal articles.
My project received initial funding from the University of Helsinki’s Funds (SYLFF grant), after which it started being most generously supported by the Kone Foundation. This support continues to this date.

Research interests: university, higher education, knowledge production, reform, neoliberalism, economy, exchange, value(s), politics, power relations, policy, internationalization, globalization, nationalism, transnationalism, mobility, migration, body, Europe.

Pilvi Vainonen, M.A.

Email: pilvi.vainonen(a)

Research interests: material culture studies, museum collections, missionary work, Himalayas, South Asia

Curator at the ethnographical collections, Museum of Cultures / National Museum of Finland

Museum of Cultures


Mari Valdur, M.A.

Email: mari.valdur(a)

My PhD project looks at health services, particularly reproductive health in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I am asking why does a woman have an abortion in Ulaanbaatar; and why are some abortions carried out by informal rather than by legalised means. I am interested in induced abortion in connection to personhood, in other words the possibilities and impossibilities of making of persons from embryos and fetuses, using medical terms, and mothers from women. This research is funded by the Doctoral School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Helsinki.

The project is supervised by Prof. Sarah Green and Dr Toomas Gross. Prior my studies in Helsinki, I have completed a BSc (Hons) in Ecological Science degree from the University of Edinburgh and MA in Social Anthropology from SOAS, UK.

Keywords: medical anthropology, post-socialism, gender, reproductive health, urbanisation, space and time

Sanna Vellava, M.Soc.Sc.


My doctoral research explores the use of scent detection dogs in medical scientific research and cancer diagnostics. It has been observed that dogs are able to smell cancer and other health conditions through samples, and this ability is now being researched also in Finland. Through multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork my research asks how dogs are emerging as, or made into new kinds of actors in medical science, how expertise and knowledge are constructed through and with dogs, and how this relates to the already established fields of medical research and diagnostics.

The project is supervised by Assoc. Prof. Minna Ruckenstein and Prof. Sirpa Tenhunen, and funded by the Doctoral School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Helsinki.

I hold a master’s degree in social and cultural anthropology, from the University of Helsinki.

Jenni Viitala, M.Soc.Sc.


My research focuses on transnational mineral production and is based on multi-sited fieldwork in Finland and in Ecuador. I am interested in questions of social, economic and environmental benefits, responsibilities and rights, especially from a legal anthropological perspective. I completed my Master’s degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Tampere in 2017. My previous research projects have focused on resistance against a gold mining project in Peru and on corruptive practices of state-funded indigenous leadership in Colombia. I am currently an external member of a fellowship group at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, which brings together anthropologists and legal scholars. My supervisors are Reetta Toivanen and Anu Lounela, and I am funded by the HYMY doctoral school.


Satu Ylisaari, M.A.

Email: satu.ylisaari(a)

I joined the Social and Cultural Anthropology unit in 2015. My MA is from SOAS where I focused on gender and politics in West Africa. I have worked in civil society strengthening and electoral projects, including as an elections observer, in Mozambique and in Guyana.

Most recently, I have worked at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine on public health research projects in sub-Saharan Africa. I am currently engaged in research on global health policy and the delivery of primary health care in Tanzania.