PhD (adult education), Docent/Adjunct Professor (gender studies), University Lecturer (gender studies)
1.8.2018-31.7.2020 Senior Research Fellow in Institute for Advanced Social Research
Atalpa-building, room 214
Gendered ageing (esp. men's ageing); agency; intersectionality (gender, age and social class); psychosocial dimensions of prostate cancer; qualitative methodology (esp. ethnography and interviewing); feminist pedagogy
Fortcoming in October 2018: Ojala, Hanna & Pietilä, Ilkka 2018. Class-based grandfathering practices in Finland. In Virpi Timonen (ed.) Grandparenting practices around the world. Policy Press, Bristol. See more here.
Biopolitics of ageing male body in the global North (IASR project 2018-2020)
In the study, I will explore arguments about the changing meaning of gender and later life. The idea of old age as a problem that individuals should fight has suffused throughout the global North. This has resulted in a greater emphasis on personal control over bodies. Two important gendered themes of this biopolitics are the maintenance of youthful appearance and sexual fitness.
While research on biopolitics has largely focused on women and younger men, little is known how ageing men deal with these seemingly contradictory pressures. Men live in the same ageist culture in the global North as women, and thus are not immune to the dictate to fight the visible signs of growing old by cosmetics, dieting, exercise, hair care, clothing and other practices to maintain or alter one’s performative virility.
Within this project, I’m especially interested in how the medicalization of erectile difficulty and pathologization of men’s ageing (e.g. muscle loss) are part of the changing meaning of gendered later life. The “age of Viagra” has created new institutional structures and health promotion discourses regarding men’s sexual health and constructed the ageing male body as a site for biomedical intervention. Losing potency is thus not merely a case of physiological sexual functioning; it is a threat to masculine identity. Based on interviews with middle-aged and older men, the study sheds light on how men manage with effects of biopolitics regarding ageing male embodiment in everyday contexts.
MANage: a Finnish qualitative longitudinal study on men’s ageing (2009- )
MANage investigates men’s ageing from the perspectives of individual experiences of physical ageing, and changing social relations. The project aims to explore how cultural ideals of manhood create models and limits for men’s experiences of their own ageing. How men interpret various ailments and symptoms in relation to age, and which kinds of effects the physical ageing has for men both in the labour-market and outside of it? Another topic is in which ways age and ageing organize relationships between men of different ages, particularly within various men’s communities and generational relations between men. How ageing and masculinity are negotiated as a part of community membership?
This study is based on face-to-face open-ended interviews and focus groups with middle- and working-class men. Original interviews conducted in 2010 and 2011 when interviewees (metal workers and engineers) were either approaching retirement (aged 50-55), or had already retired (aged 65-70) 5-7 years before the interviews. Follow-up interviews carried out in 2017.
The responsible researchers of the project are Dr. Ilkka Pietilä (Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki) and Dr. Hanna Ojala (Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tampere).
Acting age and masculinity: An ethnographic study on ageing in men's groups (post-doctoral project, 2011-)
This is an empirical study on men’s ageing from a gendered perspective in the context of ageing society. By taking a sociological approach to the roles of everyday interactions and groups, understanding of gendered bodies in the negotiation of ageing, and differential markings of social locations, this study explores the ways in which we tend to conceptualize age and its role in structuring relations between people and groups of people. As the populations are ageing, it is important to increase understanding of cultural processes of age and gendered ageing. For example considering ageing policies in ageing societies, these are heavily loaded with expectations of activeness and perceivable participation. There is no possibility, however, to participate abstractly in ageing society. Participation always takes it form as a part of everyday life, institutions and communities and, thus, as a part of interaction between individuals, groups and social structures, involving varying norms and cultural discourses. It is worth considering, however, how cultural arrangements that maintain privilege of young adulthood and middle age may enable engagement of the aged in actions advocated in active ageing policies and, thus, successful ageing.
The study has two main objectives. It is aimed at 1) exploring the ways in which age-related and gendered norms of bodily functioning (re)produce age-based relations, and 2) investigating the social and material formation of agency in the context of ageing society. Analysing how men negotiate their age in terms of belonging to their peer relations, and making distinctions from others, renders possible to approach the cultural discourses and practices of ageing. Specifically, it opens perspectives on how age and other intersections produce certain versions of ageing and how interpretations of age reproduce cultural age-based categories, age relations, and life-stages. By shedding light on those gendered and age-based possibilities and limitations related to acting as a competent member in community, the study builds understanding about the social and material formation of agency and opens up physical and embodied ageing as a phenomenon that is related to the politicality of the questions of the ageing society and active ageing.
Empirically the study is based on ethnographic fieldwork in two men’s leisure time groups: a deer hunting club and ‘yoga for blokes’-group.
Psychosocial cancer research
QPro3: Life-satisfaction after prostate cancer treatments: a follow-up study with interview and survey data (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 2017-2018, Cancer Society of Finland 2018-2020)