Research Group for Epistemic Matters (REM)

Epistemic Matters

Contact information

Research group description

The research group focuses on the tools and methods that scientists, experts and authorities use to render the world knowable and governable. Our studies examine the material instruments and everyday technologies – the epistemic matters – involved in the production of facts that may have far-reaching impacts on societies and devastating or unintended consequences for people’s lives. We also look at the asymmetric power relations involved in epistemic practices and the strategies of resistance used by those being evaluated or governed by authorities. This also makes us interested in the way actors creatively use new technologies to shape their identities and to discover and control information concerning themselves. What is common for all these assemblages of knowledge production is that they consist of heterogeneous human and non-human elements, and they are precarious and processual by nature. We mainly draw on Foucauldian analysis of power-knowledge, the sociology of associations developed by Bruno Latour, and the scholarship on sociology of valuation and evaluation (SVE).

REM is a multidisciplinary research group in human sciences and it hosts scholars who study, for example, technologies of genetic genealogy; bioethics; expert evaluation of gender, sexuality and faith; practices of evaluation related to immigration; and knowledge production connected to the child’s best interest principle.


Iiris Annala, MA, PhD Researcher, Social Policy, Tampere University

Erna Bodström, Postdoctoral Researcher, Social Sciences, University of Helsinki

Joa Hiitola, University Lecturer, Gender Studies, University of Oulu

Venla Koivuluhta, PhD Researcher, University of Exeter, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies

Iida Kauhanen, PhD Researcher, University of Oulu

Johanna Leinonen, Academy Research Fellow, History, University of Oulu

Sanna Mustasaari, Postdoctoral Researcher, Law, University of Eastern Finland

Anna Rönkä, Postdoctoral Researcher, History, Culture and Communication Studies, University of Oulu

Valtteri Vähä-Savo, Postdoctoral Researcher, Tampere research group for Cultural and Political Sociology (TCuPS), Sociology, Tampere University

Affiliate members

Silvia Adamo, Associate Professor, Immigration and Integration Law, Centre for Private Governance, University of Copenhagen

Marja Alastalo, University Lecturer, Sociology, University of Eastern Finland

Anja Bredal, Senior Researcher, Oslo Metropolitan University

Signe Bremer Gagnesjö, Senior Researcher, Gender Studies, Lund University

Sabine Gruber, Professor, Social Work, Mid Sweden University

Maija Jäppinen, Assistant Professor, Social Work, University of Helsinki

Zeinab Karimi, Postdoctoral Researcher, Study of Religions, Sociology, University of Helsinki

Virve Peteri, Academy Research Fellow, Sociology, Tampere University

Nicole Stybnarova, PhD candidate University of Helsinki (Erik Castrén Institute), MPhil candidate University of Oxford, Law Faculty

Maria Vihlman, PhD Researcher, Art History, Musicology, and Media Studies, University of Turku

Jaana Vuori, Professor, Gender Studies, University of Eastern Finland

Affiliated Projects

Spearhead project [kärkihanke] of the Finnish Cultural Foundation of Northern Ostrobothnia 2022. ‘Syljen jäljet: DNA-sukututkimus ja sukulaisuuden murros` [Spitting image: commercial DNA research and the transformation of kinship]. PI Johanna Hiitola, Oulu University. Members: Seija Jalagin, Helena Louhela, Anna Rönkä, and Valtteri Vähä-Savo.

Mobile Futures Consortium (Mobila framtider: Diversitet, förtroende och tvåvägsintegration). Deputy leader and PI at the University of Oulu: Johanna Leinonen. Strategic Research Council (SRC), 2021-2027.

Inner Truth Evaluation (ITE). PI Valtteri Vähä-Savo (Tampere University). Kone Foundation, 2021-2024.

Transnational Childhoods, Transnational Rights? Nordic Responses to Global Challenges in the Field of Child Protection. PI Sanna Mustasaari (Uni. Of Eastern Finland), contact person at the University of Oulu: Johanna Hiitola. NOS-HS, 2021-2023.

Awards and Honours

Article of the Year award 2021 by the Association for Gender Studies in Finland for Johanna Hiitola, Zeinab Karimi and Valtteri Vähä-Savo (2021) Continuums of uncertainty: Forms of precarity and gendered violence in the lives of forced migrants [Epävarmuuden jatkumot: Prekaarisuuden muodot ja sukupuolistunut väkivalta pakkomuuttajien elämänkuluissa]. Sukupuolentutkimus-Genusforskning 34(3), 34-46.

Recent Publications


Hiitola, Johanna, Kati Turtiainen, Sabine Gruber and Marja Tiilikainen (eds.) (2020) Family life in transition: Borders, transnational mobility and welfare society in Nordic countries. London: Routledge.

Hiitola, Johanna, Merja Anis and Kati Turtiainen (eds.) (2018) Maahanmuutto, palvelut ja hyvinvointi. Kohtaamisissa kehittyviä käytäntöjä. [Migration, services and welfare. Evolving practices in encounters]. Tampere: Vastapaino.

Peer reviewed articles and book chapters


Bodström, Erna (2021) The extraordinary. Asylum process as an intertextual chain. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Hiitola, Johanna (2021) Studying Intimacies that Matter: Affective Assemblages in Research Interviews with Forced Migrants. NORA - Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research.

Hiitola, Johanna & Valtteri Vähä-Savo (2021) Reassembling attachments: place and well-being among Afghan refugees in a small rural town. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Hiitola, Johanna & Valtteri Vähä-Savo (2021) Genres of Departure: Forced Migrants’ Family Separation and Personal Narratives. Nordic Journal of Migration Research, 11(3), 235–249. DOI:

Hiitola, Johanna, Zeinab Karimi & Valtteri Vähä-Savo (2021) Epävarmuuden jatkumot: Prekaarisuuden muodot ja sukupuolistunut väkivalta pakkomuuttajien elämänkuluissa. [Continuums of uncertainty: Forms of precarity and gendered violence in the lives of forced migrants]. Sukupuolentutkimus-Genusforskning 34(3), 34-46.

Laaksonen, Salla-Maaria, Erna Bodström & Camilla Haavisto (2021) Finding the voice of a protest: Negotiating authority among the multiplicity of voices in a pro-refugee demonstration. In C. Benoit-Barné & T. Martine (Eds.) Speaking with one voice: New perspectives on organizing. London: Routledge.

Spišák, S., Pirjatanniemi, E., Paalanen, T., Paasonen, S., & Vihlman, M. (2021) Social Networking Sites’ Gag Order: Commercial Content Moderation’s Adverse Implications for Fundamental Sexual Rights and Wellbeing. Social Media+ Society, 7(2).

Vähä-Savo, Valtteri, Jari Luomanen & Pertti Alasuutari (2021) Between rationalism and romanticism: metaphors in managing conflicting institutional logics in science and technology parks. Culture and Organization.


Bodström, Erna (2020) Asylum Decisions as Performances: Intertextuality in Internal Credibility Assessment. International Journal of Refugee Law, 32(4), 623-644.

Bodström, Erna (2020) ‘Welcome to Fantasy Finland!’Integration as a cultural process in Information Packages of Finnish Ministries in years 2000-2018. University of Helsinki.

Bodström, Erna (2020) “Because Migri says so”: Legitimation in Negative Asylum Decisions in Finland. Nordic Journal of Migration Research, 10(2),5-19.

Bremer Gagnesjö, Signe (2021) Kollektivtrafikens könstyranni. In Rönnblom, M., Linander, I. & Sandberg, L. (red.) (O)tryggt? Makt, plats och motstånd. M. Rönnblom, I. Linander and L. Sandberg (eds.). Premiss förlag.

Rönkä, Anna Reetta; Sunnari, Vappu, & Taanila, Anja (2020) Entanglements of loneliness and mental ill health among young adult women. International journal of qualitative studies on health and well-being, 15(1),

Vähä-Savo, Valtteri (2020) Cross-national comparisons in epistemic governance: analysis of parliamentary debates from eight countries, Contemporary Politics, 26:5, 597-615.

Vähä-Savo, Valtteri (2020) Decoupling spheres of belonging in the Nordic welfare states. In J. Hiitola, K.Turtiainen, S. Gruber & M.Tiilikainen (eds.) Family life in transition: Borders, transnational mobility and welfare society in the Nordic countries. London: Routledge, 10-20.


Hiitola, Johanna and Saara Pellander (2019) The alien child’s best interest ignored: when notions of gendered parenthood meet tightening immigration policies. NORA - Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research 27(4), 245-257.

Vähä-Savo, Valtteri, Jukka Syväterä & Leena Tervonen-Gonçalves (2019) The authority of metaorganizations: Making the International Association of National Public Health Institutes attractive to prospective members. European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology 6(4), 474-502.

Karimi, Zeinab & Johanna Hiitola (2019) Gender and social control in negotiations over filial obligations: adult children and their ageing parents in Iranian refugee families. Crossings: Journal of Migration & Culture 10(2), 205-221.

Alasuutari, Pertti, Valtteri Vähä-Savo & Laia Pi Ferrer (2019) National Self-Image as a Justification in Policy Debates: An International Comparison. New Global Studies, 13(2), 167–189.


Alasuutari, Pertti & Valtteri Vähä-Savo (2018) Owning worldwide principles: The case of American exceptionalism. Social Science Information 57(4), 533-552.

Rönkä, Anna Reetta; Taanila, Anja; Rautio, Arja & Sunnari, Vappu (2018) Multidimensional and Fluctuating Experiences of Loneliness from Childhood to Young Adulthood in Northern Finland. Advances in life course research 35, 87-102

Turtiainen, Kati & Johanna Hiitola (2018) Migrant parents talking back – Stigmatised identities and doing being ordinary. Qualitative Social Work, First Published September 4, 2018.


Hiitola, Johanna & Teija Hautanen (2017) Assessing violence in the family – social work, courts and discourses. Nordic Social Work Research, 7 (1), 30-41.

Rönkä, Anna Reetta (2017). Experiences of loneliness from childhood to young adulthood: Study of the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1986. University of Oulu. (Doctoral thesis)

Rönkä, Anna Reetta; Sunnari, Vappu; Rautio Arja; Koiranen, Markku & Taanila, Anja (2017). Associations between School Liking, Loneliness and Social Relations among Adolescents Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1986 study. International Journal of Adolescence andYouth 22(1). 93-106.