Elina Niinivaara

Researcher and writer

Kuva | Photo: Jussi Virkkumaa

How do young men with a refugee background seek to affect their lives and possibilities in Finland? This is the driving question behind my research and the non-fiction book based on my PhD monograph that I am currently working on. In public discourse, young men with a refugee background are frequently represented as a risk to society on the one hand and as politically passive on the other. I want to challenge this black-and-white understanding with my research findings, which suggest that these young men are constantly alert in their daily lives, actively carving out space for themselves and their desired futures, as well as building caring and respective co-living practices.

At the Saari Residence, I will dedicate my time for writing the quintessential parts of the non-fiction book that presents the lives and efforts of the young men I worked with during my research process. My research material is ethnographic, and my aim is to write my fieldnotes concerning the young men’s daily lives and encounters into captivating narratives. The lives of young men with a refugee background, their everyday surroundings, activities, and struggles, are hardly known to the Finnish general public. The material we produced together with my research participants is unique in this respect and deserves to be published in an accessible format.

I expect that the Saari Residence will provide a supportive environment for this important phase of my writing. Living with chronic illness and pain as I am, the peace to concentrate, the nature of the coastal area, and collegial support next door is something I truly appreciate.

I am a Doctor of Social Sciences and a sociocultural anthropologist at heart. I defended my PhD on the mundane political agency of refugee-background young men in spring 2022 at Tampere University. My central research interests concern embodiment and materiality, everyday politics, and global migration. Before my PhD research, I worked in the field of social youth work, leading a unit of multicultural youth workers. This period and the questions that arose during it had a pivotal role in my PhD project.

As partly disabled due to chronic pain and illness, these form a central field of interest for me as well. Besides writing the non-fiction book based on my PhD, together with researchers Salome Tuomaala-Özdemir and Anna Leppo I am currently launching a four-year long project concerning the participation and political agency of chronically ill people. Both of these projects are funded by Kone Foundation.