Regional Development and Regional Policy

Research and teaching of regional politics, policy and development at the University of Oulu focus on regional transformation. The processes of regional transformation touch upon multiple societal and cultural processes that are closely related to transformations in political economy, the state, governmental rationalities and political decision-making. Thus, the regional transformation can be studied from a variety of angles of human geography and by utilizing diverse methods and research materials. From the transformation perspective, regional development and policy is inescapably an interdisciplinary field, not a “property” of any institutionalized discipline.

Research group information

Unit and faculty

Research group description

The staff of the regional politics/policy and development currently focuses on the following research themes:

  • Transformation of regional policies and associated governmental rationalities in Finland, the European Union and in the Nordic and Arctic contexts
  • Transformation of regional political ideas and concepts
  • Spatial dynamics of various economic imaginaries, e.g. the knowledge-based economy, the bioeconomy, and diverse economies.
  • Inter-regional and international mobilities and security-resilience nexus in regional development and regional policy
  • Implications of state transformation to spatial planning and to the planning institutions

All political decision making has spatial or regional dimension. This is the main reason why historically the study of regional politics, policy and development has had intimate connections with political power. We believe that the interaction between policy circles and the academic scholars of the regional politics, policy and development must be based on thorough theoretical, conceptual and empirical work. The primary goal of the study of regional politics, policy and development at the University of Oulu is therefore to produce both theoretical and empirical knowledge on regional transformation and publish these insights in international academic forums, especially in conferences and in high quality journals. This kind of work has policy relevance that can be utilized by decision makers and officials in their efforts to manage and govern regions and places in a complex world.


Eeva-Kaisa Prokkola (professor, docent) is a human geographer with special emphasis on regionalization processes, region-building, regional identity, border regions, Europeanization, security-resilience nexus and the political economy of international mobilities. She has previously published papers on issues of border regions, regionalization, EU multilevel governance and regional development programs (INTERREG), and Finnish border and migration policy in journals such as Political Geography, Antipode, Citizenship Studies, Environment and Planning A, European Urban and Regional Studies, Geopolitics, Space & Polity, Journal of Borderlands Studies and Tourism Geographies. She is currently a vice director and senior researcher in a multidisciplinary research consortium “Multilayered Borders of Global Security” that is funded by the Academy of Finland’s Strategic Research Council (2016-2019).

Kaj Zimmerbauer

Ville Kellokumpu is a political geographer working as a doctoral student at the Geography Research Unit. His research interests include the spatial governance of the state, regional and urban planning and policy, depoliticisation, political economy, state theory, hegemony, and political theory. The topic of his doctoral thesis focuses on depoliticisation as a state spatial strategy and how issues of public interest, hegemony building, city-regionalism, and the capitalist economy relate to it.

Jukka Keski-Filppula field of research is the geography of justice, which focuses on the phenomena related to the relationship between space and justice. In addition to the theoretical contribution related to the field of research, Keski-Filppula examines in her dissertation the manifestation of spatial justice in crisis management proceedings, the operation of the central cities of welfare areas and the individualization and transformation of the Finnish state. Through empirical research topics and the regional justice that emerges in them, the research sector is thus also building a bridge in the direction of regional development and regional policy. Various legal conciliation procedures and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission between the Finnish state and the Sámi are also areas of research interest in Keski-Filppula.

Marika Kettunen is a doctoral student at the Geography Research Unit. Her doctoral research focuses on spatial dynamics of education and youth in the context of regional transformation and spatial justice in Northern Finland. Kettunen’s research interests include tourism, its relation to regional and urban development, especially local participation through community-based approaches.

Niina Kotavaara (doctoral student) is interested in issues related to the attractiveness of regions, as part of the dynamics of regional development and regional policy. In her doctoral thesis, she studies the inter-regional and international mobility of skilled, highly educated workforce and the factors affecting it in Finland.

Sonja Pietiläinen (doctoral student)

Veera Juntunen is a doctoral student at the Geography Research Unit. Her dissertation focuses on how security is produced in a network of several actors in a sparsely populated Finnish border region. Veera’s special interests include regional development and resilience, border regions, and geopolitics. In addition to these, security, control, and expression of surveillance in spaces are her research interests.

Ongoing projects

2022-2025 "Cross-border region resilience: Cross-border governmental, economic and cultural agencies in the North Calotte in a state of continuous change (RE-NORTH)”

The project is an Eudaimonia Institute’s spreadhead project for a period of 2022-2025. The project is led by professor Eeva-Kaisa Prokkola (PI) together with Dr Juha Ridanpää (co-PI) and Dr Kaj Zimmerbauer (co-PI). The project team includes one postdoctoral researcher and one doctoral student.

The RE-NORTH research project consists of theoretical work on cross-border dynamics and regional and social resilience as well as empirical research in the North Calotte cross-border region (Finland, Sweden and Norway). Being inspired by human geography, multidisciplinary border studies and regional resilience research, it will start from an assumption that cross-border governance, economic and culture agencies and relations are interlinked with regional and social resilience and might be simultaneously vulnerable and persistent in itself. The research will approach cross-border regional resilience through three intertwined standpoints of analysis: vulnerability, adaption and strengthening (VAS-approach). We will also move back and forward between the standpoints to evaluate and revise the findings.

1) Vulnerability. How are cross-border institutions, culture and economic in the North Calotte cross-border region vulnerable and persistent to different disruptions, and what national differences and tensions exist?

2) Adaptation. How are cross-border governmental, economic and cultural actors in the North Calotte region conceptualizing, adapting to, renewing and making plans across borders with respect to sudden and long-term disruptions?

3) Strengthening. How is it possible to strengthen resilience, well-being and solidarity in cross-border regions? The results will help the regional, national and supra-national decision-making bodies to evaluate resilience strategies and provide new perspectives regarding the sustainable development of cross-border regions, towns and communities.


  • Andersen, Dorte Jagetic & Eeva-Kaisa, Prokkola (2022) (eds.). Borderlands Resilience: Transitions, Adaptation and Resistance at Borders. Routledge Border Regions Series.
  • Prokkola, Eeva-Kaisa (2022). Border security interventions and borderlands resilience. In Andersen, Dorte Jagetic & Eeva-Kaisa, Prokkola (eds), Borderlands Resilience: Transitions, Adaptation and Resistance at Borders. Routledge Border Regions Series, 21-36.
  • Kellokumpu, Ville (2021). "Depoliticizing urban futures: visionary planning and the politics of city-regional growth." Regional Studies, 1-12.
  • Kellokumpu, Ville. "The bioeconomy, carbon sinks, and depoliticization in Finnish forest politics." Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 25148486211049322.
  • Laura Assmuth, Ville-Samuli Haverinen, Eeva-Kaisa Prokkola, Pirjo Pöllänen, Anni Rannikko and Tiina Sotkasiira (2021) (eds.). Everyday security and migrations (In Finnish). The Finnish Literature Society, SKS.
  • Prokkola Eeva-Kaisa (2021). Borders and resilience: Asylum seeker reception at the securitized Finnish-Swedish border. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space 39(8):1847-1864.
  • Prokkola, Eeva-Kaisa (2021). Turvapaikanhakijoiden vastaanottotyö ja ylirajainen resilienssi Tornion rajakaupungissa [Asylum seeker reception and transnational resilience in the border town of Tornio]. In Laura Assmuth, Ville-Samuli Haverinen, Eeva-Kaisa Prokkola, Pirjo Pöllänen, Anni Rannikko and Tiina Sotkasiira (eds). Everyday security and migrations (in Finnish), Finnish Literature Society SKS, 207-229.
  • Prokkola, Eeva-Kaisa (2021). “Labour Migration: Dynamics and Politics.” In Oxford Bibliographies in Political Science. Ed. Sandy Maisel. New York: Oxford University Press, DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756223-0329
  • Kettunen, Marika & Eeva-Kaisa Prokkola (2021). Differential inclusion through education: Reforms and spatial justice in Finnish education policy. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space.
  • Kettunen, Marika (2021). "We need to make our voices heard": Claiming space for young people's everyday environmental politics in northern Finland. Nordia Geographical Publications 49: 5, 32-48.
  • Fredriika Jakola & Eeva-Kaisa Prokkola (2021) Voidaanko rakennerahastoilla vaikuttaa? Kuntien näkökulma. Kunnallisalan kehittämissäätiön Julkaisu 38. Saatavilla:
  • Prokkola, Eeva-Kaisa; Niemi, Saija; Lépy, Élise; Palander, Jaana; Kulusjärvi, Outi; Lujala, Päivi (2021). Climate migration: Towards a better understanding and management: Finland and a Global Perspective. Publications of the Government´s analysis, assessment and research activities 2021:42. Saatavilla:
  • Andersen, Dorte Jagetic & Eeva-Kaisa Prokkola (2021). Heritage as bordering: heritage making, ontological struggles and the politics of memory in the Croatian and Finnish borderlands. Journal of Borderlands Studies,
  • Zimmerbauer, Kaj & Paasi, Anssi (2020). Hard work with soft spaces (and vice versa). Problematizing the transforming planning spaces. European Planning Studies 28:4. 771-789.
  • Prokkola, Eeva-Kaisa (2020). Geopolitics of border securitization: sovereignty, nationalism and solidarity in asylum reception in Finland. Geopolitics 25 (4), 867-886.
  • Väätänen, Vesa & Zimmerbauer, Kaj (2019). Territory–network interplay in the co-constitution of the Arctic and ‘to-be’ Arctic states. Territory, Politics, Governance, DOI: 10.1080/21622671.2018.1559759
  • Paasi, Anssi., Prokkola, Eeva-Kaisa., Saarinen, Jarkko and Zimmerbauer, Kaj (2019). Borders, ethics and mobilities. In Paasi, Anssi., Prokkola, Eeva-Kaisa., Saarinen, Jarkko and Zimmerbauer, Kaj (eds.). Borderless Worlds for Whom? Ethics, moralities and mobilities. London, Routledge
  • Prokkola, Eeva-Kaisa (2019). Border-regional resilience in EU internal and external border areas in Finland. European Planning Studies,
  • Prokkola, Eeva-Kaisa (2019). Border Cities. Teoksessa: A. Orum (toim.), The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Urban and Regional Studies,
  • Hytönen, Jonne, Kotavaara, Niina, & Ahlqvist, Toni (2018) Elinvoiman askelmerkkejä ja ristiriitoja. Maankäytön suunnittelijoiden näkemyksiä kuntien tulevaisuudesta. ARTTU2-tutkimusohjelman julkaisusarja 5/2018. Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities.
  • Jakola, Fredriika & Eeva-Kaisa Prokkola (2018). Trust building or vested interest? Social capital processes of cross-border cooperation in the border towns of Tornio and Haparanda. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie 109 (2), 224-238.
  • Kotavaara, Niina, Kotavaara, Ossi, Rusanen, Jarmo & Muilu, Toivo (2018). University graduate migration in Finland. Geoforum 96, 97-107. DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2018.07.010
  • Zimmerbauer, Kaj (2018). Supranational identities in planning. Regional Studies. 52:7. 911-921. DOI: 10.1080/00343404.2017.1360481
  • Zimmerbauer, Kaj, Riukulehto, Sulevi & Suutari, Timo (2017). Killing the regional Leviathan? Discussing deinstitutionalization and stickiness of regions. International journal of urban and regional research. DOI: 10.1111/1468-2427.12547.
  • Zimmerbauer, Kaj (2017). The Barents region as a supranational political space. ESR Focus. East Sea Regional Barometer 27. Kyung Hee University, Institute of Global Affairs.
  • Zimmerbauer, Kaj (2017). Regions, Regionalisms and Identities: Towards a Regional Mess. In Riding, J. and Jones, M. (eds.). Reanimating Regions. Culture, Politics, and Performance. London, Routledge.
  • Martin, Lauren & Eeva-Kaisa, Prokkola (2017). Making labor mobile: Borders, precarity, and the competitive state in Finnish migration politics. Political Geography 60C, 143-153.
  • Prokkola, Eeva-Kaisa & Juha Ridanpää (2017). Youth organizations, citizenship and guidelines for tourism in the wake of mass tourism. Citizenship Studies 21 (3), 359-377.
  • Prokkola, Eeva-Kaisa & Maria, Lois (2016). Scalar Politics of Border Heritage: An Examination of the EU’s Northern and Southern Border Areas. Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism 16 (1), 14-35.
  • Prokkola Eeva-Kaisa, Zimmerbauer Kaj & Jakola Fredriika (2015). Performance of regional identity in the implementation of European Union’s cross-border initiatives. European Urban and Regional Studies 22 (1), 104–117.