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university of tampere: faculty of social sciences: research: tampere peace research institute (tapri): research projects:
Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of TampereFaculty of Social Sciences
Tampere Peace Research Institute (TAPRI)

The Body Politic of Migration

– Embodied and Silent Choreographies of Political Agency

Project Leader: Professor Tarja Väyrynen

Research Theme:

Mass migration – voluntary and forced – characterizes today’s globalized era. Migration is often caused by wars and conflicts, but it is not possible to point out a single reason for current migratory movements. Massive movements of bodies, where de-territorialization meets territorialization, create diasporic public spheres where new identifications take place and new identities have to be negotiated. Despite the expectations that nation-states would lose their importance in world politics, migration shows that they still are the key arbiters that define who belong to the political community (e.g. citizens) and who remain outside (e.g. undocumented migrants). ‘Body politic’ has traditionally implied the state and its governing functions. However, the concept gets new meanings when examined from the perspective of migration. Migrants’ bodies and their movement (choreography) challenge the body politic of the state and give new meanings to political agency. In the project, the traditional view on body politic is challenged by examining migration as a corporeal and embodied phenomenon. It is argued that migrant’s body is a highly political site on which different forces inscribe their marks: nation-states their systems of governance, local forces their systems of power and religions their moral codes of conduct. Furthermore, migrant’s body is also a site of collective memory on which collective history, including colonialism, is written. By studying migration as corporeal phenomenon, the project can also ask whether silence brings forth a type of political agency that is seldom recognized in the more traditional ways of looking at the connection between body politic and agency.   

Research Group:

Professor Tarja Väyrynen (Peace and Conflict Research)
Dr. Eeva Puumala (International Relations)
Dr. Samu Pehkonen (Human Geography)
Dr. Anitta Kynsilehto (Politics)
PhD student Tiina Vaittinen (International Relations)
PhD student Elina Niinivaara (Anthropology)


Funded by the Academy of Finland as a research project 1.1.2010-31.12.2014;
Eino Jutikkala Foundation (personal);
Finnish Cultural Foundation (personal);
Academy of Finland (personal)

Recent Publications (selected):

  • Kynsilehto, Anitta & Puumala, Eeva (forthcoming, 2016) "Intimate economies of state practice: Materialities of migrant detention in Finland" in Conlon, Deirdre and Hiemstra, Nancy (eds.) Intimate Economies of Immigration Detention: Critical Perspectives. London: Routledge.
  • Puumala, E. (contract, 2016) Asylum Seekers, Sovereignty, and the Senses of the International: A Politico-Corporeal Struggle, London & New York: Routledge.
  • Vaittinen, T., Sakilayan-Latvala, M. & Vartiainen-Ora, P. (forthcoming, 2016): "Registered nurses for export, caregivers to import? Filipino nurse education as a devalued commodity in Finland". Kirjassa: A. Popovic & F. Dervin (toim.), Ethics and the Marketization and Internationalization of Higher Education: Buying and Selling in the Global Education Marketplace, Palgrave.
  • Väyrynen Tarja, Eeva Puumala, Anitta Kynsilehto, Samu Pehkonen & Tiina Vaittinen (2016, contract signed) Choreographies of Resistance: Space, Bodies and Politics. London, New York: Rowman and Littlefield.
  • Puumala, E. & A. Kynsilehto (2015) Does the Body Matter? Determining the Right to Asylum and the Corporeality of Political Communication, European Journal of Cultural Studies, DOI: 10.1177/1367549415592898
  • Vaittinen, Tiina (2015) The Power of the Vulnerable Body: A New Political Understanding of Care, International Feminist Journal of Politics 17(1): 100–18.
  • Väyrynen, T. & E. Puumala (fothcoming, 2015) Bodies of War, the Past Continuous, and (Ar)rhytmic Experiences, Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 40:4.
  • Kynsilehto, A. (2014) "Irregularity as a securitized phenomenon in the hubs of transit migration: Practicing security at the EU's external and internal borders" in Vuorinen, M., Kotilainen N. & A. Huhtinen (eds.) Binaries in Battle. Representations of Division and Conflict. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  • Kynsilehto, A. & E. Puumala (2013) “Persecution as Experience and Knowledge. The Ontological Dynamics of Asylum Interviews”, International Studies Perspectives DOI: 10.1111/insp.12064.
  • Kynsilehto, Anitta (2013) “L'impact des politiques européennes sur l'accès aux droits dans les pays de transit”, de Bussy Charlotte and Philippe Gabrié (eds.) Algérie: migrations subsahariennes et accès aux droits. Paris: Médecins du Monde.
  • Kynsilehto, Anitta (2013) “Sara Ahmed. On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life” International Feminist Journal of Politics 15, DOI 10.1080/14616742.2013.779142
  • Puumala, Eeva (2013) “Political Life beyond Accommodation and Return: Re-thinking Relations between the Political, the International and the Body”, Review of International Studies, DOI: 10.1017/S026021051200037X.
  • Vaittinen, Tiina (2014a) “Reading Global Care Chains as Migrant Trajectories: A Theoretical Framework for the Understanding of Structural Change”, Women’s Studies International Forum, DOI:
  • Vaittinen, Tiina (2014b) “The Political Power of the Vulnerable Body: A New Political Understanding of Care”, International Feminist Journal of Politics, DOI:
  • Väyrynen, Tarja (2012) “Corporeal Migration”, Mark B. Salter and Can E. Mutlu (eds.) Designing Critical Inquiry: Methods and Research Strategies in International Relations, London, New York: Palgrave.

PhD Theses related to the project:

  • Kynsilehto, Anitta (2011) The Politics of Multivocality. Encountering Maghrebi Women in France, 2011. Acta Universitatis Tamperensis 1644. Tampere: Tampere University Press.
  • Puumala, Eeva (2012) Corporeal Conjunctures No-W-Here: Failed Asylum Seekers and the Senses of the International. Acta Universitatis Tamperensis 1744. Tampere: Tampere University Press.
  • Vaittinen, Tiina (to be submitted January 2016) Migrant Trajectories and Corporeal Relations of Care: A Study of Global (Bio)political Economy with Filipino Nurses in Aging Finland. School of Management, University of Tampere.
  • Niinivaara, Elina (in progress) Acting bodies, governed bodies – immigrant boys and political agency. School of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Tampere.


Tarja Väyrynen
tel. +358 (0)40 190 4097
Tampere Peace Research Institute,
Kalevantie 5, Tampere
FI-33014 University of Tampere (Finland)
Visiting address: Linna building, 6th floor, room 6067

Kynsilehto, A. (2014) “Irregularity as a securitized phenomenon in the hubs of transit migration: Practicing security at the EU’s external and internal borders” in Vuorinen, M., Kotilainen N. & A. Huhtinen (eds.) Binaries in Battle. Representations of Division and Conflict. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Visiting address: Linna building, 6th floor
Postal address: TAPRI, School of Social Sciences and Humanities
FI-33014 University of Tampere, Finland
tel. +358 (0)3 355 111
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Last update: 19.9.2016 11.40 Muokkaa

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