Senior Researcher in Political Science at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, PI of the HEPPsinki research group, hosting Academy of Finland funded WhiKnow project (Whirl of Knowledge: Cultural Populism and Polarisation in European Politics and Societies) and the Kone Foundation funded Now-Time Us-Space: Hegemonic Mobilisations in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the Helsinki end of the European Commission funded horizon project D.Rad: DeRadicalisation in Europe and Beyond: Detect, Resolve, Reintegrate. Also the Academy of Finland funded research consortium on Mainstreaming Populism in the 21st Century (MAPO), lead by Juha Herkman belongs to this, I lead the WP on Populism and Democracy there.
Besides coordinating teaching of populism and supervising a number of PhD students and postdocs, engaging in the analysis of populism through media and presentations in Finland and abroad, in the recent year I have given keynote lectures on populism in conferences Moscow, Melbourne and Istanbul and the City Talk series in Victoria, as well as in several universities.
In 2017-18 I have also published on a range of topics I have been researching over the past years: illiberalism and Janus-faced populism in Hungary, on the emergence of the Finns Party in Finland, discourse analytical method of rhetorical-performative analysis, political meaning making through urban streetscapes politics of street naming from a discursive perspective, the rewriting of the nation through populism in Budapest, the practicing of Europe by Hungarian left-wing intellectuals Georg Lukács and Ágnes Heller, and on my on-going action research to participation, people-making and emancipation in planning and co-governing a multifunction public building a North Helsinki suburb Maunula, as well as in our open access edited and peer-reviewed volume Populism on the Loose, reconceptualising cultural populism through the Helsinki Guggenheim museum plans.
In my current job, I’m teaching both political theory and comparative politics to undergraduates and advanced methods (Ernesto Laclau’s discourse theory, deconstruction, psychoanalysis and rhetoric) to MA students. This pretty much follows from my rather eclectic disciplinary background in East European Studies (SSEES/UCL) and Ideology and Discourse Analysis (Essex). The postdoc years have also taught me through my jobs as a lecturer cultural policy studies (University of Jyväskylä) and public administration and organization studies (U. of Helsinki).
Now I have rather settled in the Finnish academic community and I am an active participant in science policy, particularly academic publishing, e.g. through the Finnish PSA and SCPR, and Federation of Finnish Learned Societies (2015-20) and Finnish Association for Scholarly Publishing (2015-17). In 2012 I also was the founding Editor of politiikasta.fi, online magazine of the Finnish Political Science Association (FPSA), and since 2018 I am the chair of FPSA. I take regularly part in conferences, and author the Finland entry of the Political Data Yearbook of the European Journal of Political Research since 2017.
In the period of 2012-2016 I was also involved with two Academy of Finland funded interdisciplinary projects. An interdisciplinary project on intellectuals Asymmetries in European Intellectual Space led by Marja Jalava. She and Stefan Nygård and Johan Strang edited the volume Decentering European Intellectual Space, on Brill. My own research involved the Budapest School: George Lukács and Agnes Heller in particular: my chapter explored the way in which Europe was practiced by the Hungarian intellectuals, even when they established themselves in Australia and the US.
In Jyväskylä is on Populism as Movement and Rhetoric was based in Cultural Studies, led by Urpo Kovala, with professor emeritus Erkki Vainikkala. We published a refereed open access volume Populism on the Loose, through the University of Jyväskylä, that included my own sub-project is on the concept of populism and on the analytical concept of cultural populism. We also studied Finnish populism, and the emergence of the Finns party, resulting in a volume that explores the populism and racism of the Finns Party and particularly the role of Timo Soini as the Finns Party leader, through rhetoric-performative analysis. Jätkät & jytkyt: Perussuomalaiset ja populismin retoriikka edited by myself and Tuija Saresma was published in November 2017.
Furthermore, I’m involved with research on local democracy as I’m taking part in a democracy project in my locality Maunula as part of Helsinki City’s democracy initiatives from 2013. At the Maunula democracy project (more in Finnish) We are developing a concept of participatory planning and budgeting – in a process of learning by doing. I guess it’s action research for me. I have been publishing the future of local democracy, and this has really been a fruitful basis to gain new insights. New Library, Youth Centre and Civic Adult Education Unit was opened at the end of 2016. It has a co-governance model we were designing with the administrators and the citizen. I have been publishing on this with Kanerva Kuokkanen.
In 2015, I have been engaging on developing a new pedagogical approach WeQ Pedagogy at the Helsinki Challenge team Higher Education Unbounded of Katalin Miklóssy, with Anne Nevgi, Erika Löfström (University Pedagogy), Suvi Kansikas (European Studies) and Minna Hakkarainen (Aleksanteri Institute). This has taken quite a lot of my time and effort, but also been quite rewarding for developing a student-centred, collaborative approach with 21st C skills – that thrives on tackling the unknown, undecidable and taboos. I’ve particularly been contributing on postfoundationalism and radical democratic theory. It has also enabled me to use my background in design and collaboration from the Bauhaus Kolleg, Dessau.
Bauhaus Kollege also enabled me to pursue my research interest in European Capitals of Culture (ECoC) and European identity, by taking part in Sibiu and Luxembourg cultural year programmes and learning on urbanism, politics of architecture and planning. This is not unconnected to populism research, but exploring the way in which Europe is legitimated and argued for in cultural policy – or the lack of it. My studies showed the emphasis on economy and underfunding of cultural policy to make it volatile to political changes – this is significant for understanding Europe and political dynamics that are often now attributed to rise of populism and nationalism.
I have a background is in politics and memory studies, and I have been working with cultural geographers. I supervise a number of PhD students at the department. I’ve also been have been publishing on European Cultural Policy. I regularly comment in the media on the future of Europe, as well as populism and nationalism.
More generally, my previous work’s overall argument can be located in the idea that identities and political demands derive from physical encounters. Focusing on ECoCs, politics of shared futures through cities and regions, and street names, memorials and architecture, politics of memory in space has enabled me to see. Even while currently engaging with hybrid media, this is what I try to keep in mind.