Beyond the Sociological Imagination

Pekka Sulkunen, Professor of sociology at the University of Helsinki since 2000, is retiring from his post in July 2016. In honour of his remarkable work as a professor and researcher, his friends, colleagues and former students have edited a festschrift which pieces together personal recollections, methodological observations and theoretical insights from different parts Pekka’s long and diverse research career. Continue reading “Beyond the Sociological Imagination”

Invitation for Contributions: Addiction – What Is The Added Value Of The Concept Today?

This is an invitation for contributions for a thematic issue on Addiction: What Is The Added Value Of The Concept Today? based on the thematic meeting of the Kettil Bruun Society organized at Majvik, Finland, in October 2012 by the University of Helsinki Colloquium of Advanced Studies and the Centre for Research on Addiction, Control and Governance (CEACG). The issue will be published in the International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research, a journal published on behalf of the Kettil Bruun Society.

We welcome contributions from both the participants of the meeting and others, discussing the ways in which addiction can be understood in view of the knowledge available. What does the concept of addiction contribute with? Why is it useful or insufficient? We are looking for critical and careful analysis of evidence, reflection on the moral and practical implications of the concept in different contexts, and the way forward needed to be given to a proper and free space of interchange between different points of view. For more information about the background of the conference, please view

All manuscripts will be peer-reviewed; their publication relies on their quality and relevance. Articles should be no longer than 3000 words, exclusive of references, tables and figures. Manuscripts exceeding this word limit should make a convincing case for an article to be longer, and be approved by the editorial team. Abstracts should be no longer than 250 words.

The timetable is as follows:

Abstract submission by15th of March 2013 to

Manuscript submission: by15th of August 2013.

Guest editors:

Anita Borch, National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO), Norway

Varpu Rantala, Centre for Research on Addiction, Control and Governance (CEACG), Finland

Anna Leppo’s PhD defence: ’Precarious Pregnancies – Alcohol, drugs and the regulation of risks’

Anna Leppo defends her PhD thesis on February 10 2012 at 12 pm at the University of Helsinki main building (Fabianinkatu 33), lecture room 5.

Since the 1970s alcohol and drug use by pregnant women has become a target of political, professional and personal concern. The present study focuses on prenatal substance use and the regulation of risks by examining different kinds of societal responses to prenatal alcohol and drug use. The study analyses face-to-face encounters between professionals and service users at a specialised maternity clinic for pregnant women with substance abuse problems, medical and political discourses on the compulsory treatment of pregnant women as a means of FAS prevention and official recommendations on alcohol intake during pregnancy. Moreover, the study addresses the womens’ perspective by asking how women who have used illicit drugs during pregnancy perceive and rank the dangers linked to drug use. The study consists of five empirical sub-studies and a summary article. Sub-study I was written in collaboration with Dorte Hecksher and Sub-study IV with Riikka Perälä.

Theoretically the study builds on the one hand, on the socio-cultural approach to the selection and perception of risks and on the other on governmentality studies which focus on the use of power in contemporary Western societies. The study is based on an ethnographic approach and makes use of the principles of multi-sited ethnography. The empirical sub-studies are based on three different types of qualitative data: ethnographic field notes from a maternity clinic from a period of 7 months, documentary material (medical journals, political documents, health education materials, government reports) and 3) interviews from maternity clinics with clients and members of staff.

The study demonstrates that the logic of the regulation of prenatal alcohol use in Finland is characterised by the rise of the foetus , a process in which the urgency of protecting the foetus has gradually gained a more prominent role in the discourses on alcohol-related foetal damage. An increasing unwillingness to accept any kinds of risks when foetal health is at stake is manifested in the public debate on the compulsory treatment of pregnant women with alcohol problems and in the health authorities decision to advise pregnant women to refrain from alcohol use during pregnancy (Sub-studies I and II). Secondly, the study suggests that maternity care professionals have an ambivalent role in their mundane encounters with their pregnant clients: on the one hand professionals focus on the well-being of the foetus, but on the other, they need to take into account the women s needs and agency. The professionals daily encounters with their clients are thus characterised by hybridisation: the simultaneous use of technologies of domination and technologies of agency (Sub-studies III and IV). Finally, the study draws attention to the women s understanding of the risks of illicit drug during pregnancy, and shows that the women s understanding of risk differs from the bio-medical view. The study suggests that when drug-using pregnant women seek professional help they can feel that their moral worth is threatened by professionals negative attitudes which can make service-use challenging.

CALL FOR PAPERS: Addiction – What is the added value of the concept today?

Colloquium of the University of Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies.  Thematic Meeting of the Kettil Bruun Society.

Conference Hotel Majvik, Helsinki, Finland 14-17th October 2012


Addiction is a concept that has relatively recently – within two or three decades – become a common expression that covers no longer only traditional substance use but a wide and growing range of behaviours like gambling, gaming, internet use, even eating disorders, shopping, shoplifting, sexual behaviour and others. The increasingly widespread use has been observed in the public media, in expert discourses, in popular culture, in the world of commercials, and even in everyday talk. The concept of addiction is being introduced in the international classifications of diseases, and addiction is the topic of many research and prevention programmes today.

The Colloquium and Thematic meeting provides a platform for discussing the usefulness of framing consumption risks as addictions, or even as different aspects of a singular phenomenon. Critical and careful analysis of evidence, reflexion on the moral and practical implications of the concept in different contexts, and the way forward need to be given a proper and free space of interchange between different points of view. It might be envisioned that some sort of consensus emerges that could be useful for policy-makers, but this CFP is not foreseeing that as necessary.


The conference will be organized by the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies in collaboration with The Kettil Bruun Society, The Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Studies and the National Institute of Public Health.


16.04.2012 Registration and abstract submission (matias.karekallas(at)

01.05.2012 Letter of acceptance of the registration

30.06.2012 Payment of early bird registration fee 300 euros

16.09.2012 Payment of regular registration fee 400 euros

16.09.2012 Free cancellation ends

More information about the meeting