is an open platform and secret society for liaisons and affairs, for free-thinking verging on academic libertinage, but also for working out ways of seeing and addressing problems. Snooping about and tracing back the ways in which problems have become problems in human society, we mean by problematizations not so much ‘research questions’ but entries to critical thought.
Borrowing words from Foucault, we look for 'a point where in some way the certainties all mix together, the lights go out, night falls, people begin to realize that they act blindly, and that consequently a new light is necessary, new lighting and new rules of behaviour are needed. So there it is, an object appears, an object that appears as a problem, voilà … ' (Michel Foucault, What Our Present Is?)
The previous season’s overall problem was knowledge and power (to find out about that, go here). Starting with the history of the dispersion of natural, so-called hard sciences into the realm human and social sciences, we went on to the ways in which governing of societies implicates knowledge-regimes relying on hard sciences, and ended up with the strategic logic by which knowledge and power mix together in the field of politics and rhetoric. This season we will try to enter the same problematic from the human sciences end, continuing from the point where the last season left us: the problem of language and power.
Problematizations team has published the results of its work in 2018-2019 in a special issue of the No Foundations open access journal. The theme of the special issue is The Politics of Knowledge. See www.nofoundations.com/currentissue.
Language and power
Through language we make sense of strange things, yet the strangest thing perhaps is language itself. Do we even agree on the meaning of this one term: language? Is language about words, notions and concepts, or is there a more concrete and primordial language of images? How about the language of the subconscious, the so-called ‘discourse of the other’, whose work is to dissolve any attempt to fix meaning? Does technology, the language of machines and computers, have a philology of their own? Does nature somehow speak to us, even guide us in life? Can we say that our bodies express themselves in the language of symptoms, sings of illness and health?
Our attempt to enter the thinking about language is through three problematizations, all opening up from the perspective of power:
Problematization: Secret? One problem of language is about the secrets hidden in, by and behind language. Perhaps true reality is better kept away from people’s awareness and language is made use of for that purpose: it exists to keep the secret. Pretending to bring things clear to the mind, language perhaps rather disguises, misrepresents and withholds what might cause unrest, anxiety and disturbance in the orderly functioning of society.
Problematization: Poetics? Another problem of language is the world of words that it endlessly continues to create. Maybe language has a living, poetic reality of its own. Some would say that language is ‘the house of being’, the home for humans to dwell, but what if there are different discursive ‘houses’, in whose confrontations and shifting alliances language gets constituted as a field of eternal becoming: nothing is constant but alterations, variations and substitutions.
Problematization: How to dwell in that which is secret? A third problem of language is that of how to use it, not in order to come closer to what it hides and keeps secret, which would be to desecrate the house which it is, but to give full power to its essential qualities in ways that enhance ourselves, collectively and individually; which is to ask, also, how might language be the source of a politics which no longer proceeds from the real but from the imaginary.
Finally, how did one, in the West and elsewhere, develop this sort of critical view, suspicion and distrust towards language, or was it there from the beginning? In short, how did language become a problem for us?
We will organise monthly seminar events open to everyone interested in the problem of language and power. Please find the tentative timetable below (changes are possible!).
On Wednesday 4 September, Samuli Hurri spoke on Louis Althusser’s text Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (for abstract, go here).
On Wednesday 16 October, Iiris Kestilä spoke about sexuality and languages of power (for abstract, go here). Joonas Vola from social sciences provided comments.
On Wednesday 6 November, we discussed language of the machines. Mika Viljanen from University of Turku spoke on the topic of 'The law in the making – where technology is taking us?' (for abstract, go here). Our other guest speaker Claes Tängh Wrangel from Mälardalen University spoke on the topic of 'The imaginative horizon of contemporary war: Neurobiology, AI and the US military' (for abstract, go here).
On Wednesday 13 November, we discussed language of economics. Tomi Tuominen spoke on 'The Representation of "Wealth" in the European Economic Constitution.' Samuli Hurri provided comments.
On Wednesday 11 December, our language was of the postcolonial feminisms. Punam Noor spoke on 'Problematising pro-LGBT rights' decisions under the lens of post-colonial feminism.' Heidi Sinevaara-Niskanen provided comments.
* Due to the coronavirus situation some of the events have been cancelled *
On Wednesday 12 February, Johan-Eerik Kukko spoke on the topic of 'Power of mask: Seeking justice' (for abstract, go here). Julian Reid provided comments.
On Wednesday 26 February, Veera Salokannel spoke on the topic of 'Ecological compensation, a tool to stop the biodiversity loss or a way to continue as before?' (for abstract, go here). Tomi Tuominen provided comments.
On Wednesday 11 March, Sanna Mustasaari from University of Helsinki spoke on the topic of 'Affect in the constructions of justice: “ISIS-families” in the Finnish public debate' (for abstract, go here). Tiina Seppälä from social sciences provided comments.
* CANCELLED * On Wednesday 25 March, we will have two discussions. First, Emma Holkeri from University of Turku will speak on the topic of 'Defining and controlling threats at schools after school shootings: (Self)reflections of academic knowledge production' (for abstract, go here). Our other guest speaker Jussi Sallila from Finnish Lawyers' Association will speak on the topic of 'Language, history and the search for a true theory of law' (for abstract, go here).
Time: 1-3 pm
Venue: 339 (Faculty of Law, 3rd Floor)
* CANCELLED * On Wednesday 8 April, Milka Njoroge from Åbo Akademi University will speak on the topic of 'Photography and the black subject' (for abstract, go here).
* CANCELLED * On Wednesday 22 April, Iiris Kestilä from University of Lapland and Jenni Hakkarainen from University of Helsinki will speak on the topic of 'Articulations of injustice' (for abstract, go here).
* CANCELLED * On Wednesday 6 May, we will have two discussions. First, Kosti Joensuu will speak on the topic of 'Embodiment and Human action in the 17th and 18th –century Physiological Vitalism' (for abstract, go here). Our other speaker Pauliina Jääskeläinen will speak on the topic of 'Body movement as a bypass of unconscious knowledge' (for abstract, go here).
* CANCELLED * On Wednesday 20 May, Closing of the Seminar. Julian Reid will speak on TBA.
Seminar will take place at the University of Lapland, Rovaniemi.
Samuli Hurri spearheads the team. Samuli’s research fields range widely: from ancient philosophy and forensic rhetoric to human rights argumentation; from the social problem of hate to philosophical problem of the subject’s moral constitution. Samuli’s main work is a Foucauldian study on The Birth of the European Individual: Law, Security, Economy (Routledge 2014). At present, Samuli is working with Iiris Kestilä on a paper on the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in the context of LGTB. His most recent work is a special number in Tiede & Edistys on hate (see here
). Samuli’s broader ongoing research project is on The Legal Language of Moral Struggle (see web page here
). Samuli’s new thing will be Legal Rhetoric: Ancient and Modern.
Iiris Kestilä is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Law. Her research interests include legal theory and legal philosophy but also more practical issues such as research ethics. Her PhD work concentrates on the encounter between law and knowledge-based power in the problem of sexuality, especially from the perspective of LGBT minorities. She also works in the project ‘Digital Access to Sámi Heritage Archives’ where she develops ethical guidelines for the use of Sámi archive materials. Previously she has been working with emerging technologies and intellectual property law. Together with Samuli Hurri she has edited a special issue ‘The Politics of Knowledge’ in No Foundations – An Interdisciplinary Journal of Law and Justice (2019) based on the Problematizations seminar series.
Julian Reid is interested in problematization as a technique of power and strategy. This has led him to look at how the birth of biological knowledge reproblematized power for the modern era, to how the problem of war has generated novel regimes of liberal power, as well as to how the advance of ecological knowledge has reproblematized security as resilience. His books on these subjects include The Biopolitics of the War on Terror (2006), The Liberal Way of War (2009), Resilient Life (2014), The Neoliberal Subject (2016), and Becoming Indigenous: Governing Imaginaries in the Anthropocene (2019). He has also edited collections on The Biopolitics of Development (2013) and Deleuze & Fascism (2013). He is currently working on a new book concerned with The Life of Images. He organises the Problematizations seminar "Language and power" together with Samuli Hurri.
Tomi Tuominen is an EU law and comparative constitutional law scholar by training. A core theme in his research has been the "political" in law. Within the framework of the Problematization research team, Tomi aims to understand what is it that he has actually been researching before.
See Tomi's profile on LaCRIS portal for further information.
Matti Nojonen is the “China-guy” of the group. Matti has a background in Sinology (MA) and he gained his Ph.D. in Economics and Business Management (Helsinki School of Economics). He has been working on and in China for decades on issue ranging from Classical Chinese philosophy and strategic thinking to contemporary issues related to importance of personal relations (guanxi) in Chinese society (that is intimately related to corruption, decision making, political structure and norms), China’s foreign policy principles, norms and practices and their conflicting relationship with increasing Chinese over-seas investments, role of youth in China’s social change historically and today. Currently he is working on the role of concepts in Chinese strategic thinking and practice, how endogenic concepts guide both the cognitive / analytical abstract thinking processes and actual practices of strategy work.
Noor Jahan Punam is a Phd Candidate at the Faculty of Law and her research focuses on accommodating indigenous peoples' traditional knowledge in international climate change law with special reference to the European High Arctic and combines conceptual frameworks with indigenous traditional knowledge for the promotion of indigenous peoples' resilience against climate change. She has a Masters in Comparative and International Law from University of Eastern Finland. She majored in Environmental and Climate Change Law and her minor studies were based on European Union Law. She has completed her Postgraduate Diploma in Law from Northumbria University and she completed her Bachelors in Law from University of London.
Markku Kiikeri defended his doctoral thesis in the European University Institute 1999 and has taught and done research in European law in the universities of Turku, Helsinki and Rovaniemi (Finland) since 2000. He has been a visiting lecturer in various European universities and in UNAM/La Salle (Mexico). His specialty is European union law and legal/social theory. He is an authorized attorney. Latest productions deals with legal reasoning and EU-law adjudication. Markku´s problematization in this group is based on dialectics and negation.
Mikko Huttunen has his background in public international law and aviation law. When it comes to Problematizations, the major problem in his research thus far has been the concept of state sovereignty. As his study of sovereignty continues, Mikko hopes to uncover a systematical framework to understand the concept, highlighting among other things the intertwining of facts, politics, and law. In relation to sovereignty, Mikko is interested in questions pertaining to the self-determination and identity of individuals and peoples.
See LaCRIS for details about Mikko's research.
Juha Himanka is a philosopher of the team, and he has been working mainly within phenomenological tradition. Juha’s main work deals with the problem of how to break free from our ready-made knowledge that we are used to, and how to reach for the truth instead. This is actually well in line with Socrates' original insight of what a philosopher should do and it, indeed, brings out more problems than solutions. Juha’s latest publication (forthcoming: Phenomenology & Practice) describes how Husserl managed to overcome his own presuppositions and complete reduction on one particularly fruitful day of thinking (May 2nd 1907). Juha hopes that he will someday be as successful as Husserl on that day in overcoming his own presuppositions.
More information on Juha's webpage: http://juhahimanka.wordpress.com
Laura Tarvainen is a PhD candidate working with a project called “Construction of Vulnerability. Victims of Torture in asylum process.” Previously she has worked as a lawyer of Finnish NGO refugee advice center. She is interested in embedded and embodied vulnerability as a socially constructed and changing concept. Recently she has been working with the article on undocumented migrants as particularly marginalized and criminalized people whose marginalization, criminalization and position as vulnerable are being produced in current legal and societal systems. Her interests also include questions of how knowledge is being produced, what kind of knowledge (for example legal versus medical) is seen as relevant and valid and who has the power to make that decision in different legal processes. She has been a visiting researcher at VU Amsterdam and Lund University, where she belongs to Lund-Uppsala migration law research group, vulnerability research group and Health Law research group. At University of Lapland she belongs also to Welfare Law research group.