Panel A

Positionality of the Researcher in Open and Restricted Settings and Research at the Time of Conflict


Tiina Hyyppä: Objectivity and Positionality in Conflict Research

Objectivity is considered an inherent part of scientific research. As researchers we examine people or phenomena as outsiders and afterwards explain the world based on the findings. This thinking is challenged when researching conflicts and conducting fieldwork in conflict-affected societies. People who have experienced violence and loss can not be researched as mere study objects who give the researcher information. Moreover, it is often not easy to “leave” the field – in a connected, online world it tends to follow the researcher everywhere. In this paper I will share reflections of my own PhD research that focuses on civil actors in the Syrian war. I have not managed to be completely objective, nor have I sought to be. Building on feminist scholarship on conflict and violence that emphasizes care (Poopuu 2020 and Krystalli and Schulz 2022) I argue that showing emotions and one’s own positionality openly can, not only facilitate the research itself, but is also more ethical as it acknowledges the feelings and experiences of the research participants.

Maija Koivisto & Hisayo Katsui: Signed Memories Research Project – Ethical Questions in Interviews and Solutions

Based on the government program of Prime Minister Antti Rinne, the Finnish government has committed to a state reconciliation process on violations of human rights against deaf people and sign language community in the Finnish history since 1900 to date. As part of this process, our research team was commissioned by the government to conduct a study on the theme.

Research on and with deaf people is not yet well-established and thus it required careful considerations in our study. Particularly we faced Covid-19 pandemic and ethical questions with in-person and group interviews with deaf people. The goal of the research was to bring out sensitive and possibly difficult issues including forced sterilization and abortion.

During the research project, ethical questions were also related to language and interpretation such as the language of interviews and presence of researchers as well as interpreters. The presence of a deaf researcher was also intended to ensure that the wrong kind of power relationship does not arise in interview situations, because a hearing researcher might on an emotional level represent the majority that caused discrimination, injustices and violations of rights to the interviewees, no matter how reflectively the researcher evaluates own role.

Janne Lehtonen: Crises as Tools of Politics and (de)Politicizations

My doctoral research examines crisis of democracy and democracy facing crises from perspective of political sociology. Starting point of my research interest lies in academic and public discussions concerning crisis of democracy, and I study critically, in which ways these globally circulating concepts displaying crisis could (not) be adapted to Finnish context. I follow pragmatist understanding of democracy and politics in my work: democracy is continuously (re)constructed in multilevel political practices, and crises are points of realization that something is wrong. Thus, crises work as tools or driving force for political processes. I argue that to understand what is happening to democracy, it is fruitful to examine political practises during times of crises. My research asks, what kind of political implications current era of crises has had and whether crisis situations can reveal something about Finnish democracy and so-called crisis of democracy.

To answer my research questions, I will conduct three empirical studies on highly topical crisis situations. First, I examine conversations in Finnish parliament regarding face masks and covid passes as novel political topics during covid19 pandemic. Secondly, I will study rapid change in Finnish public opinion and conversation climate of NATO membership in mainstream media articles after the outbreak of Ukraine war. I focus especially on the emergence of morally charged consensus imperative. Thirdly, I research making of borders in Finland during the Ukraine war, namely how Twitter discussions about refugees and borders have been formed by crisis. Methodologically, my research design is built on political discourse analysis and pragmatist justification analysis.