Here are the accepted working groups in English language for the Finnish Cultural Studies Conference 2021. The list will still be updated as new working groups are accepted.

Session chairs:  Sigrid Kaasik-Krogerus ( & Katja Mäkinen (

Identity and belonging are nowadays debated in numerous research fields and also more broadly in the society. These debates are often related to the notion of affectivity. On one hand, belonging can be approached as an affective process largely based on emotions. On the other hand, also non-belonging may be attached to strong affects and emotions.

Identity politics can be used to evoke, facilitate or violate sense of belonging. As such, it has a strong affective dimension. Affectivity can be used for creating empathy, inclusion and a sense of belonging but also for provoking suspicion, anger and exclusion. Historically the notion of identity politics is constituted by the attempts of the subordinated groups of the society to get their voice heard and participate in societal discussion. However, in the academia the agency of the states and other powerful and established entities, like the European Union, is also often analysed in the framework of identity politics. In the contemporary public discussion, identity politics is often given a pejorative meaning as it is juxtaposed with politics focused on ‘substance’ instead of identities.

Our multidisciplinary working group welcomes presentations that focus on the affectivity of identity politics, including affects and emotions as part of identity politics or attempts of identity politics to influence sense of belonging and non-belonging. The presentations can focus for example on the media, administration or civil society actors; they can scrutinize identity politics on local, regional, national, European and/or global scale or focus on the conceptual analysis of identity politics. We also welcome presentations that analyze the symbols and visual materials used in identity politics. The working languages of the group are Finnish and English.

Session chairs: Antti-Ville Kärjä ( & Outi Hakola (

In recent years, the study of comedy and humor has increasingly paid attention to how humor is used and what functions it serves. For example, in studying film and television comedy, questions of how jokes, comic and humor are constructed and what are their main elements have given room for pondering the intentionality behind these jokes and their interpretations. Furthermore, the social media’s video memes tend to underline sociocultural and political interpretations: depending on the context and the audience the same meme can inspire different reactions. Thus, it is important to discuss, who is laughing at whom, from what perspective, what are they aiming for, and what kind of cultural power relations are at play in comedy and humor. While not a new phenomenon, the contemporary hybrid media culture with digitalization, mediatization and participatory culture have inspired debates on how audiovisual humor and comic have changed throughout the years, and whether this has changed the understanding of audiovisuality as well. We invite discussion on to which combinations of sound and moving image are we laughing at today, how they might differ from the past uses of humor, what do we consider as good or bad, or no humor at all, and why? We are inviting presentations where complexity, intentionality, power questions, or various interpretations of audiovisual humor and comedy are debated from different perspectives.

Session chairs: Minna Vigren (, Suvi Salmenniemi, Pilvi Porkola and Salome Tuomaala-Özdemir

Many academics share a concern about the future. Everyday utopias, alternative futures, ways to foster imagination about them, as well as speculative and participatory methods for designing other types of artifacts and services have been raised as objects of research. Imagination, fantasies, and alternative futures as a perspective can bring joy and hope alongside or instead of concern — both to the subjects of research and to us researchers.

We invite participants to the working group to imagine futures worth pursuing and ways to do research on them. In the spirit of imagination and aspiration, the forms and styles of the working group presentations are open, and we also encourage participants to imagine differently how the themes or results of their own research could be discussed at conferences. Presentations on imagination, aspiration, and alternative futures can be proposed to the working group in various ways. They can be empirical, methodological, theoretical, or polemical statements. The stage of the research does not matter: research ideas are just as welcome as presentations of the results from completed research. Possible themes include: What kind of futures do people want? What kind of futures are they afraid of? What concepts and theories provide a fertile ground for exploring and thinking about fantasies and alternative futures? What methods can be used to foster and spark imagination? How can people be inspired to contribute to shaping and developing the future? How could we, as researchers, create the conditions for thinking about the future in new, different, and potentially surprising ways? How could we as academics re-imagine our practices of doing research?

Session chairs: Anni Calcara (, Pirkko Puoskari ( & Ari Räisänen (

In literature, joy is in a state of constant transformation. Joy does not ask for permission; it is rebellious, contagious, unruly, carnivalesque, slanderous, pretentious, out of control, enforced, indicative, and provocative. Joy comes in many shades of grey and is rarely what is seems. What is the distance between joy and sadness, anxiety, or darkness? Who is joyful and why? Who must hide their joy? What happens when joy gets out of hand?

Through literary depictions of joy, this session examines the nature of cultural phenomena, practices, relationships, differences, and transformations. Central themes explored include class, gender, conflicts, identities, as well as societal, cultural, and symbolic borders and the related implicit processes and power relations.

Depictions of joy and its dark sides highlight sociocultural and ideological structures and the ways in which they are maintained. Slavoj Žižek notes that all ideologies have their own internal dark side, which facilitates the function of each ideology in question (Boucher 128–135). Therefore, the dark side of patriotic joy, for example, is extreme nationalism and military conflict, whereas the other side of the coin of religious ecstasy is often fear and exclusion.

On the other hand, Mikhail Bakhtin states that carnivalesque enjoyment challenges the institutions of power and sanctified hierarchy by offering an opportunity for positive transformation (”Carnivalesque”). Thus, joy can be transgressive and facilitate border crossings; through it, some may even seek eternal life. 

In the session, we explore the relationship between fact and fiction, politics of representation, as well as their connections to power. The session examines issues which are universal, national, local, and everything that exists in between.

The focus of the presentations in this session can include, but are not limited to:

  • Representations of joy
  • Individual joy and communal joy
  • Utopias of joy
  • Contradictions and dark sides of joy
  • Literary and narrative strategies in depicting joy in fiction

Additionally, the presentations can address other relevant or timely topics and themes of literary research.


Boucher, Geoff. “Ideology.” The Žižek Dictionary, edited by Rex Butler, Acumen, 2014, pp. 128–35.
“Carnivalesque.” Oxford Reference, Oxford University Press, 2021, Accessed 31 March 2021.

Session chairs: Taina Kinnunen (, Piritta Nätynki ( and Helmi Järviluoma (

Key words: Senses, sensory, corporeality, affect, experience

We call for papers on joy as a sensory, corporeal and/or affective experience to our session. How do people describe joy as an embodied affect and feeling? What kind of moving power joy is? How do people live with and act upon joy? How people unite through joy, or exclude people or things outside of it? How does joy kindle and fade in human and non-human relationships and affectivities? How to study small sensory joys, the entanglements of the everyday and wondrous (Järviluoma 2020)?

The sensory and embodied experience of joy is produced and regulated in all cultures and eras (Howes 2003). Varied emotions ja moral judgements are connected with sensory experiences. In Western tradition, for example, especially gustatory rand tactile experiences are associated with the danger of sin and decadence, whereas esthetic joys have been classified as the field of cultivation of the body. The moving power of consumer culture is the eternal dialogue of sensory joys and refusal of them. Sensory joys are hierarchically valued, and the corporeal styles of joy produce classes (Bourdieu 1984), genders, ethnicities, and races.

An embodied affect, such as joy, is often difficult to verbalize (Kinnunen & Kolehmainen 2019) or map in the body (cf. Nummenmaa et al. 2014). Joy can be described through metaphoric, reactive, or energetic phrases, for example. Joy bubbles, makes you dance, escapes, lightens, warms, or takes over the body. It jumps, mingles, and exploits in particular body parts. Joy is also contagious between bodies. For instance, in research it can start new contact processes, create understanding and new discoveries. (Formenti & Luraschi 2022)


Bourdieu, Pierre 1984. Distinction. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Formenti, Laura & Luraschi, Silvia 2022 (tulossa). Embodied dialogues: transformative pedagogy of space, time and identity. Sensory Transformations. Environments, Technologies, Sensobiographies, toim. Helmi Järviluoma & Lesley Murray. Lontoo: Routledge / Taylor & Francis.
Howes, David 2003. Sensual Relations: Engaging the Senses in Culture and Social Theory. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Järviluoma, Helmi 2020. Kaikki elämän makeus ja riemu. Aistielämäkerrallisen kävelyn taide ja tiede. Kirjassa Musiikki ja luonto. Soiva kulttuuri ympäristökriisin aikakaudella, toim. Juha Torvinen & Susanna Välimäki. Turku: UTU-kirjat.
Kinnunen, Taina & Kolehmainen, Marjo 2019. Touch and Affect: Analysing the Archive of Touch Biographies. Body and Society 25:1, 29–56.
Nummenmaa, Lauri & Glerean, Enrico & Hari, Riitta & Hietanen Jari K 2014. Bodily maps of emotions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jan 111:2, 646-651.

Session chair: Anna Varfolomeeva (

Key-words: anthropocene, emotions, non-human, landscape, materiality, sustainability

The notion of the Anthropocene has continuously been criticized for its disregard of established power relations, as well as for its exclusive focus on human beings. Within the Anthropocene concept, human relations with non-human actors are often ignored or insufficiently studied. However, our mere existence is largely governed by global rhythms and by multiple relations between organic and inorganic matter. In our daily activities, we are involved in various engagements with animals, insects, features of the landscape, or materials. These engagements inspire a variety of emotional reactions ranging from positive feelings of joy, pleasure, and appreciation, but also ”darker” feelings such as worry, concern, or disenchantment. These varied emotional responses may intensify as we witness the changes in our more-than-human interactions as a result of global ruptures such as climate change or the pandemic. This session aims to look at the emotional aspects of more-than-human engagements in the landscape. It invites papers focusing on complex affective relations between humans and the non-human world and the implications of these multiple emotionalities on the notion of Anthropocene and the global discussions on sustainability. Possible themes to discuss and explore during the session include, but are not limited, to:

  • How emotions are produced and expressed through human interactions with other species and/or inorganic matter;
  • How structures of power are represented through more-than-human engagements;
  • In what way the established relations with the non-human world get modified as a result of societal ruptures and discontinues;
  • To what extent more-than-human engagements are governed by joy and other positive emotions, or, conversely, by negative feelings such as worry or disappointment;
  • How emotional relations with non-humans encompass or contest the established discourses on sustainable development and Anthropocene.

Session chairs: Meri Kytö ( & Tiina Männistö-Funk (

Keywords: sensory labor, urban space, agency

Urban space is a technically dense sensory environment in which movement and functioning require sensory labor; the identification, interpretation and tolerance of sensations carrying different information and transmitting different affects, as well as their processing and response. For example, commercial spaces and traffic, but also, for example, libraries and parks, offer certain possibilities and conditions for agency through visuality and sound, but also by addressing to the senses of touch, smell and taste. Donna Haraway’s concept of situated knowledge can be applied in the analysis of the resulting knowledge of the urban and agencies within.  In the panel, we wish to examine the usefulness and applicability of the concepts of sensory labor, agency, and situated knowledge in the study of the sensory in urban space and the research of emotional construction of commodification processes (cf. Illouz). Possible approaches could be, for example:

  • sensory playfulness and oyfulness in urban space and consumption
  • mobilities in urban space
  • the ubiquity of media
  • the relationship between design and agency
  •  the diversity of sensory abilities.

We look forward to papers and presentations for discussion on ongoing or planned research.

Session chair: Elina Seye (

Key-words: music, togetherness, connection, sharing, imagination, future

Music brings joy to most people’s lives, regardless of a person’s cultural background or ability to sing or play music oneself. The joy of music is often related to a sense of togetherness with other people, which can become visible, for example, in social dancing, where music forms the space shared by the dancers. But music can also function as a shared space even if people are not in the same physical space, as a means to sharing emotions and impressions that may be difficult to verbalize. Or possibly as a means to travel to an imagined place, to enter the world of the music in question, typically together with near or distant others that enjoy the same music.  When studying music and related phenomena researchers often choose to focus on traditions or genres that they enjoy themselves. Some also use their own practical skills of music-making as a tool in their research. To researchers, as well as musicians and other artists, the source of joy thus becomes an integral part of their work and even their identity, and thereby wrought with both professional and personal ambitions and frustrations. Still, the joy of music is likely to remain a motivating factor for continuing their careers and a way to forge connections with colleagues and collaborators.  This session welcomes contributions in various formats (presentation, dialogue, performance, workshop etc.). The session is organized by the project “World Wide Women – Female Musicians Crossing Borders and Building Futures” that combines academic research and artistic work to study and support the activities of women in their own communities and in the globally connected music scenes. Here, we wish to discuss especially questions of how music and the joy it brings can generate a sense of togetherness between people not necessarily connected otherwise, how they can create hope or offer comfort in difficult situations, and how they can be used to imagine better futures.

Session chair: Frans Mäyrä (

Keywords: games, play, game cultures, empowerment, gaming harms

Games, play, players and game developers are important parts of the contemporary Finnish cultural landscape. Finland is a forerunner in many areas in game industry, game cultures and game research. It is easy to tell inspiring tales about the rise of Finnish game culture, including for example, those about the world champions of electronic sports, highly successful game companies, internationally well-known digital hobbyist scenes, and the ways the cultural heritage of games has been cherished in Finland.

Gaming is not merely joy, celebration, and triumphs, however. Even though the entire nation plays at some level, discrimination is a problem in many game cultures. Misogyny, racism, homophobia, and transphobia have been seen as counter reactions to the normalisation of digital gaming. Dismissing attitudes and discussions related to mobile and casual games versus ‘real games’ has been highly visible. There is an ongoing struggle of whom games belong to, who may call themself a gamer, and which games matter.

Gaming and gamification have been loaded with significant societal dreams and expectations. There have been hopes that educational games will increase the efficiency of learning and gamification of work life to make it more productive – and the Finnish game industry to become the ‘new Nokia’ to save the country’s economy. At least for now these promises of gamification and game-based learning have not realised. Even though the Finnish game industry has been quite visible in the economy sections of the news in the 2010s, even the biggest player in the sector, Supercell, is not among the 25 biggest companies in the country based on its revenue. Because the game industry produces intangible digital commodities, it is not a very large employer. However, the hope is upheld by the fact that the game industry is a growing business area and a nationally significant cultural industry with notable international success.

Besides dreams and expectations, games have also been loaded with fears and suspicions. As was seen with the new cultural form of television, digital games were also feared to make their users violent. After decades of research, there is little to support this fear. Currently, perhaps more significant worries are related to the potential for addiction related to digital gaming. Instead of addiction, this is discussed in research as gaming disorder, which includes serious loss of control over an individual’s life and severe limitations to their life outside of gaming. In the case of gambling, the potentially problematic nature of play has been recognised much earlier. In Finland, the largest slice of money used from gambling profits created by Veikkaus, 380 million euros, is used to support social and healthcare organisations, which are participating in taking care of the harms related to problematic gaming.

There also exist problems related to the creation and development processes of games and gaming devices. The exhausting crunch culture in digital game development has been widely discussed particularly in the Anglo American world. Creation of games and professional play (e.g. in the role of a streamer or as an esports athlete) are often viewed as creative professions based on personal passion and calling, which makes it challenging to recognise the risks and problems related to the work practices. Construction of gaming consoles and mobile phones used in gaming requires minerals which may have been produced through child or slave labour.

In this working group session, our aim is to understand the great variety of cultural and societal meanings of games and play – including the dreams, expectations, fears, and suspicions such as the ones previously described – particularly in the Finnish context but also from an international perspective. The focus of the discussion will be on the joys of games in the different areas of game cultures, from the creation of games to playing them (as a hobby and professionally) and, for example, consuming game media (including e.g. gaming streams and discussion boards) and electronic sports. Simultaneously, we will also consider the problems and negative consequences closely connected to the joys of gaming.

Contact us

Tuomas Järvenpää
the Chair of the Organizing Committee