affective geography

Pekka Tuominen

Researcher Name: 
Pekka Tuominen

University of Helsinki

Description of Research in Relation to Placemaking : 

Pekka Tuominen is a social and cultural anthropologist specialising on urban transformation, sociocultural qualities of space and moral dimensions of urbanity. He is currently Post-Doctoral Researcher at the University of Helsinki, for Tackling Biases and Bubbles in Participation (BIBU) consortium, funded by the Academy of Finland. His research concentrates on the rapidly changing urban spheres in Istanbul as well as on the peripheral areas of his native Helsinki. His Ph.D. research (2016) studies the relations between urban spaces and moral frameworks of Istanbul’s inhabitants, especially in the run-down but swiftly gentrifying neighbourhoods of Tarlabasi, in the close proximity of the effective city centre but separated from it by a busy boulevard. Since 2017, Tuominen has led a multidisciplinary research project in the Kontula district of Helsinki, a stigmatised suburban estate commonly associated with social problems and failed immigration policies. 

Interest in Contribution Field/Context: 

As a WG1 leader, organiser of different event and an author for publications and other outputs.

Case Studies Conducted / Participated In: 

Kontula, a suburban estate at the margins of Helsinki, Finland, has been plagued by a notorious reputation since its construction in the 1960s. At different moments in history, it has reflected failed urbanity, with shifting emphases on issues such as rootlessness, segregation, intergenerational poverty, and unsuccessful integration of immigrants.

Unlike many other suburban estates in Helsinki, it has become a potent symbol of the ills of contemporary urbanity in the vernacular geography of the city. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, I explore how its inhabitants experience the dynamic between the internalised stigma and their responses to it. The focus is on how historically formed and spatially defined senses of belonging and exclusion shape their everyday lives and how they have found ways to challenge the dominant perceptions about their homes and neighbourhoods. I argue that an understanding of cultural intimacy, conceptually developed by Michael Herzfeld, offers a useful way to approach the tension between essentialised categories and lived realities. Rather than simply limiting their agency, the shared stigma enables inhabitants to form powerful senses of belonging. I emphasise how culturally intimate understandings employ both complex historical trajectories and shifts in relative  location to question and confront the stigma in the language of mutual trust and belonging.


Keywords for research interest for collaboration: 
External Stakeholders Engaged With: 

Nordic Society for Middle Eastern Studies (board member), Urbaria – Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies, Kontula Electronic Festival and Research project

Modes of Investigation: 

Ethnography, qualitative research