Panel B

Future Directions for Research – Social Imaginary and Analyzing Societal Transformations

Maija Larkio: Dismantling, Deconstructing and Reperceiving Otherness: Approaching Racism with Young People in Finland 

Scholarly discussions in Finland have identified an urgent need to re-evaluate how conversations about race and racism are approached to challenge its existence in daily encounters. Rather than perceiving racism as indecent behaviour of few individuals, it is becoming more widely recognised as a systematic issue that continues to uphold white privilege at the cost of oppressing individuals racialised as Others. Recently, these discussions have propagated that before it is possible for antiracism work to become effective, Finland must become more self-aware in how colonial histories have been embedded in its institutions, including educational spaces. Dismantling constructions of race is becoming more common in academic research, yet there is little shared knowledge on how it is approached with young people. The purpose of this article is to analyse interviews with a multifaceted group of experts from the fields of antiracism, education and youthwork; to explore what kind of conversations the interviewees regard as meaningful in engaging young people to discuss their perspectives on structural racism and Otherness. The article is structured in two parts. Firstly, we reflect on theoretical perspectives on constructions of race and encounters that result in racist affect before commenting on recent research on racial inequality and activism research in Finland; and secondly, we examine interview materials to identify and examine the prevalent themes that participants deem relevant in building resourceful approaches that could encourage young people to critically reflect on racial inequality and their own position in social hierarchies.

Keywords: Otherness, affect, racism, structural racism, antiracism

Joonas Pörsti: Social Imaginary of the Radical Right: A Methodological Approach

According to Charles Taylor, the sense of legitimacy and social practices of community life rely on a shared social imaginary. The concept covers expectations and routines based on moral notions but also background understanding that uses a repertory of historical experiences and presuppositions espoused by the community. When applying Taylor’s concept to the study of political and social change, the challenge lies in the definition of “background understanding”. How to study social imaginary, if it is guided by a partly unconscious and implicit background and eludes any clear-cut doctrines?

The paper addresses this issue by focusing on the anti-Islamic rhetoric of French Front national during the years of political breakthrough (1978–1990). The language of party programs and the speeches of its leader Jean-Marie Le Pen offer an ample source for the study of a social imaginary that extends far in time and space to draw the contours of French nationhood. The analysis draws on Taylor’s theory to examine how FN formulated its anti-Islamic rhetoric by referring to a transcendental imagery to revive the ethnic separation between Europeans and North African Muslims and its embedded hierarchy.

Keywords: Social imaginary, far-right rhetoric, intellectual history, France, postcolonialism

Joonas Timonen: Reactionary Impulses or Visions of the Future: How to StudyCultural Legitimation of the Radical Right 

The rise of the populist radical right (PRR) in Europe and the United States has often been interpreted as a protest in which the main reasons to embrace the PRR parties lie in people’s fears over their changing economic, cultural, or social status. However, many PRR parties’ supporters and activists are people in good social positions who have ideas about the common good and distinctive visions of the good society – and for whom the PRR ideologies evoke worldviews that provide a message of real meaning.

If the PRR parties are not just reactionary protest movements, then what makes them legitimate in citizens’ minds? In my presentation, I discuss how this question could be studied. My case example is my doctoral research on cultural legitimacy of the Finns party (perussuomalaiset). In my research, I exploreethnographically an economically well-off metropolitan exurban area where electoral support for the Finns has been relatively high throughout the 2010s and 2020s.

Yi Yuan: Life in Marginality and Double Ambivalence: Lived Experiences in a Transnational Social Field of Chinese Degree Students in Finnish Universities

This study aims at describing the qualitatively different ways of conceptions that Chinese degree students make meaning about their lived experiences in Finland. It focuses on the experiences that are not related to their study life and happen outside university campuses. Such experiences happen in a transnational social field (Levitt and Glick Schiller 2004), meaning simultaneously happening in Finland physically, and in China virtually enabled by information and communication technologies. Research questions are: 1) how Chinese students understand their daily experiences which transpire national borders; 2) how these individuals interpret their post-graduation migration intentions from these meaning-makings. This study employs theory of marginality (Weisberger 1992), marginality and mattering (Schlossberg 1989) as conceptual framework and phenomenography (Marton 1981) as methodological approach. Data for thematic analysis are derived from a survey and semi-structured interviews (n35, data collection is in progress) with Chinese master and doctoral degree students at research universities in Helsinki. This research is timely in several contexts. At first, there is little research and knowledge about Chinese students’ lived experiences in Finland, albeit being the largest non-European student cohort in Finnish higher education. Second, Finland endeavours to attract and retain global talents, foreign students included, through the so-called “Talent Boost” programme. Last, this research is also the first of its kind in Finnish context to explore these individuals’ lived experiences in the subjects of discrimination and bias caused by Covid-19 pandemic politics and global geopolitics. This study is a comprising part of my doctoral research project which addresses how Chinese degree students’ post-graduation migration intentions could be interpreted from their lived experiences and identity (re)negotiation process in transition and liminality.