25.9. 2020

Vinkka, Birgitta (2020) Summarizing the Urban Political Ecology -synopsis (Summer internship task). Unpublished Working Paper.

During the July of 2020 I participated in the Waste Society project by examining the Urban Political Ecology school of thought. Based on my reading I wrote a brief summary considering the theoretical and methodological aspects of UPE, put together a reader list and presented my findings to Valkonen, Huilaja, Kinnunen and Loikkanen.

Urban Political Ecology, having its roots deep in the human geography, ethnography, history and sociology, discusses the production of nature in the context of the ever more urbanized world. The urban, its processes and builds are seen as hybrids of nature, human labour, economical and cultural resources. The hybrids exist and take form in the context of their spatiotemporal networks, meaning that a hybrid is always connected to its economical, environmental, political and cultural surroundings. A common example of such a hybrid is water: Studied by, e.g., Erik Swyngedouw (2004), Maria Kaika (2005), and Matthew Gandy (2014), water and its usage is seen as a sort of mediator of social injustice, political imagination, and as a cultural product. The ‘production of water’ is continuously remade in the aforementioned ever changing and fluctuating spatiotemporal context.

By taking the hybrids as their study objects, the scholars of UPE aim at having an understanding of the urbanizing world and its socionatural structures. The scholars tend to follow the flows of metabolism as their guides through the urban processes. Metabolism of the urban central areas is always supported by the edges, the margins of the centers. Thus focusing on the material and discursive metabolic flows one can find the cultural, political, ecological and economical formations that hold the centers together.

In the world of UPE, the urbanization or the urban space is not seen as one, physically defined entity. Urbanization of nature is a far further reaching process that has its consequences faced not only in the city centers but also in the margins. Urbanization is seen as a process of which has a possible outcome of a city. Urbanization as a set of processes that is not reducible to a city and shouldn’t only be studied city centred. (Angelo & Wachsmuth 2015.)

Discovering new ways of studying the urbanization processes through politically, socially and environmentally produced flows of energy, labour, economical and natural resources, discourses, and material surplus opens up a way of understanding the global problem of injustice from a very local and concrete perspective.

Having an opportunity to really focus on something this exciting, even during the short summer month of Lapland, was really a pleasure. Thank you Jarno, Heikki, Veera and Teemu!

Angelo, Hillary & Wachsmuth, David (2015) Urbanizing Urban Political Ecology: A Critique of Methodological Cityism. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.

Gandy, Matthew (2014) The Fabric of Space: Water, Modernity and Urban Nature. London: MIT Press.

Kaika, Maria (2005) City of Flows: Modernity, Nature and the City. New York: Routledge.

Swyngedouw, Erik (2004) Social Power and the Urbanization of Water: Flows of Power. New York: Oxford University Press

24.9. 2020

Valkonen, Jarno (2019) Infrastructural Being. Unpublished working paper.

This is an essay on naturecultures, modern dwelling and infrastructures. The essay has three aims. The first is to motivate the need to find new perceptions to, what kind of natureculture life we live, and what kind of alternatives we have in this ‘overheated’ and ‘unstable’ era of environmental crisis. The second is to promote the perspective of dwelling for examining naturecultural togetherness in modern residential living. Dwelling perspective is to focus on the multiple relations people have with their environment, how people make their environment, and how these relations make people become humans. I assume that a house is a living organism and thus, seeing analogical similarities between house and biological organism could bring new concepts and methods, and help improve mutualism between human and ecological well-being. By doing that, I will propose an approach of an ecology of infrastructure to examine modern dwelling in its environmental relations. Infrastructures are unquestioned elements of modern dwellings that determine what it is to be a human today. I ask, what infrastructures do to us?

1.9. 2020

There is a new book out, edited by Silviya Serafimova, including a chapter by Jarno Valkonen and Teemu Loikkanen: Waste Citizenship in Circular Economy: Case Study of Waste Governance in Finnish Lapland. Click on the picture for a full pdf in

In this article, we examine what kind of citizenship circular economy produces. Our starting point is the notion that, in order to function, circular economy requires from citizens a particular kind of stance and action regarding waste. The information steering by organizations and authorities is thus not only waste education, but a wider attempt to produce novel kind of agency with regard to waste – waste citizenship.

Information, instructions and advice regarding sorting and recycling waste produce a normative image of “the good waste citizen” as an individual positioned to act responsibly not only regarding waste, but also vis-á-vis the ecological environment on the planetary scale. We are interested in the strategies aimed at turning citizens into ethically minded waste citizens. We ask: How is the subject position of the waste citizen constructed and what are the strategies employed to encourage people to embrace this position?

14.6. 2019

NESS 2019: 14th Nordic Environmental Social Science Conference: Social Science in Our time


9-11.6. 2019, Luleå, Norrbotten, Sweden.

Nordic Environmental Social Science (NESS) Conference, “Social Sciences in our Time”, June 2019. Luleå University of Technology, Sweden. 

Workshop: Opportunities and Challenges for the Circular Economy. Coordinators: Heikki Huilaja & Jerry Blomberg

Teemu Loikkanen

Paper: Citizenship in waste economy

With a rental car, Heikki drove us through Aavasaksa to take Veera aboard from the riverbanks where she was on a fishing holiday with her family. The unpredictability of the northern summer was upon us once again, as the weekend started with a 30 degrees Celsius warmth, but when we arrived it was closer to 10 and the rain was pouring. Luleå seemed like a beautiful city, surprisingly close to Rovaniemi, as there were only around 320 kilometres between the two. NESS 2019 conference begun with a welcoming ceremony at the Vetenskaphuset (House of Science).

Our working group, “Opportunities and Challenges for the Circular Economy” gathered on the first session after the first keynote -speech. Ann-Kristin Bergqvist and Magnus Lindmark presented their paper, a historical analysis of the Swedish recycling industry, where successful implementations of incarceration plants have made them to import big amounts of wastes from other countries and in that way promoted the economic aspects of waste management.

Angela Kedatiene participated with her paper to the conversation about the relationship of GDP-growth and “green“ policies. The big question for EUs Circular Economy is, are the policies for “green growth” and environmental betterments compatible? If not, which one is the CE actually promoting first, and foremost?

Jacob Hasselbalchs paper concentrated on the institutional history of EUs plastic strategy, showing that many original Circular Economy policies are at present placed under the umbrella of resource efficiency. Hassebalch stated that the Circular Economy has become a new wording of previously used term “sustainable development” and that the European Commission is attempting to sell the idea to the producers by emphasizing the business opportunities.

Jay Sterling Gregg presented a paper concentrating on aquaponics, a method in which fish are grown in a way that their excrements can be used in vegetable farming. It is still highly speculative and unsure, is it possible to create commercial aquaponics -systems in a larger scale fish and vegetable production.

Antti Belinskij was asking on his paper about the regulations and governance of nutrient loading in agriculture. The Baltic Sea has been suffering from agricultural nutrient loading, and recent decades have changed the formation of Finnish agriculture significantly, as we have transferred to more concentrated larger units. There is a need to reconfigure how to govern these emissions and diminish the amounts of leakage.

Erkki-Jussi Nylen continued on the next day with a similar subject. His paper concentrated on the recycling of nutrients as a conceptual innovation. In Circular Economy, nitrogen and phosphorus should be somehow recycled to use again, but it is not a simple process.

I presented our paper concentrating on the empirical part, based on my Master’s Thesis. In waste citizenship, the responsibility is individualized. The citizens are turned to resource producers against their will and without personal benefits. Duties and obligations are placed on them. There were many good comments, for example one by Jacob Hasselbalch. He stated that if the idea of CE is sold to producers as a business opportunity, and the duties and obligations are placed on the citizens, what if it would be the other way: Citizens would gain money from recycling and duties and obligations would be placed on the producers? That is a really good question for the policy makers.

Finally, Linda Wårell presented a paper on the policies implemented in Sweden in order to reach sustainable transportation. Regional effects vary, as the repercussions of these policies are worse in smaller municipalities, where public transportation or electric cars are not suitable options.

We thank everyone involved in the organization of NESS 2019! The conference was an insightful journey to different disciplines’ views on environmental social sciences.

Sociology days 28-29.3.2019: Various Faces of Inequality

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University of Turku & Åbo Akademi

Sociology Days, “Various Faces of Inequality”, March 2018. University of Turku, Finland.

Teemu Loikkanen

Paper: Jätekansalaisuus kiertotaloudessa (Waste Citizenship in Circular Economy)

Veera Kinnunen

Paper: Jätekapinalliset – maailma muuttuu ämpäri kerrallaan. (Waste rebels – the world changes bucket at a time)

Workshop: Jäteyhteiskunta (Waste Society). Coordinators: Heikki Huilaja & Jarno Valkonen

Waste is a central and visible part of society, mundane life, economy and work. Waste is something we produce, sort, avoid, recycle, transport, manage, sell, tax, spread and mill. It burdens, takes resources and time; we live with it, share space and landscape; it connects and separates, produces classifications and social order. At the same time, waste itself is a resource and a source of value creation. Regardless, waste appears, paradoxically, as visible invisible in society: matter which presence and accumulation everyone is aware of, but which we want to clean out of sight. However, waste cannot be fully disposed, only transformed to something else. Working group addresses this inevitable surplus and excess of our action and society. How do we live together with surplus and excess, in what ways are they confined and defined, what is rejected? What kind of processes turn things into rubbish and waste? How about ownership of waste? What can we do with our waste, and how to live with it? How does production and consumption define in relation to waste? If we take seriously the fundamental role of waste in construction of society, how does it appear? Waste society -working group welcomes everyone interested in waste, society, society’s materiality, consumption, objects and matter.

Torstai 28.3.2019 klo. 15:00–18:00
Åbo Akademi, ASA-huset, Athena (B311)

Elina Matilainen: Ruokahävikin arvottaminen hävikkiravintolan käytännöissä

Lena Näre & Elina Paju: Jätetyt ja jätteet – turvapaikanhakijat jäteyhteiskunnassa

Teemu Loikkanen: Jätekansalaisuus kiertotaloudessa

Taru Lehtokunnas, Malla Mattila, Nina Mesiranta & Elina Närvänen: Ruokaa vai roskaa:  Kotien ruokaylijäämäkäytännöt eettisen toimijuuden rakentamisena

Ville Savolainen & Olli Pyyhtinen: Näkymättömyyden arvottaminen ja jätevirtojen synnyttäminen hotellisiivouksessa

Perjantai 29.3.2019 klo. 9:00–11:00
Åbo Akademi, ASA-huset, Athena (B311)

Turo-Kimmo Lehtonen & Olli Pyyhtinen: Dyykkaaminen taloudellisena käytäntönä

Veera Kinnunen: Jätekapinalliset – maailma muuttuu ämpäri kerrallaan

Antti Saloniemi & Antti Wallin: Kemianteollisuuden jälkeiset jäämät

Liia Raippalinna: ”Turhaa tuhlausta”? Hävikkiongelma ja sen ratkaisut mediadiskurssissa

Notes from the workshop:

Waste Society -workshop at Sociology Days 2019 in Turku, induced in total nine presentations, as one had to cancel due to illness. There were various topics regarding waste, although different viewpoints on food waste were present in most of the presentations.

Food waste -related topics were approached, first, through the practices of a restaurant, serving food made strictly from otherwise wasted items, second, the media discourses of food waste, and third, as a way of building ethical agency in households. The values of waste fluctuate: for example, the restaurant, which offers products made from food otherwise wasted, transforms the category of waste to something positive by marketing them to consumers as environmentally friendly. Media discourses push the responsibility of diminishing food waste to the households. Similarly, concerning the citizenship of waste, duties and obligations define it. Vice Versa, the rights of a waste-citizen are scarce: right to perform a duty, in this case to recycle, is a fundamental right of a citizen of waste.

Another way of battling food waste is dumpster diving. It creates an economics of its own, although it still in many ways attaches to the common economic system. There are also novel approaches for households to combat their food waste: The Bokashi -method fundamentally changes the households’ relationship with waste management. Waste is also a part of various professions – hotels are places that deal with waste and cleanliness daily. The specific instructions for cleaners about how to perform their job and the collection of waste reveal multiple things of our relationship to waste. Things left behind can become waste, including whole lives in the processes of asylum seekers moving to Finland – on many occasions to wastelands, otherwise out of use. Finally, factory closings create specific problems regarding waste – chemistry plants are wasteful already in operation, but when they are closed, it might form even larger problems.

YHYS Colloquium at University of Lapland 22.-23.11.2018

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YHYS Colloquium 2018: NatureCultures, University of Lapland 22.-23.11.2018. 

Johanna Saariniemi

Zero waste life style as a contribution to circular economy

Veera Kinnunen

Workshop: Probiotic living in compromised times (Coordinators: Veera Kinnunen & Salla Sariola)

Paper: Bokashi – making probiotic waste management possible?

Heikki Huilaja

Session: Living with waste: exploring how waste shapes/ is shaped by contemporary societies. (Coordinators: Heikki Huilaja and Johanna Saariniemi)

Paper: Opening words and introduction to “The Waste Society: Living with Material Overflows” project. Heikki Huilaja.

Professor Laura Watts, University of Edinburgh gave a Keynote presentation: “NatureCultureElectric: Going on together with energy”. Research Assistant Teemu Loikkanen interviewed her in behalf of Versus magazine. Prof. Watts spoke about her research and the relationship between arts and social sciences. Full Keynote-presentation is also available at Versus -magazine.

Professor Phillip Vannini, Royal Roads University gave another Keynote-lecture: “Disentangling wild places”. There is a short interview with him also. Full Keynote-presentation available at Versus -magazine.

Previous Conferences 

Sociology Days, “Circulations”, March 2018. University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu.

Veera Kinnunen

Workshop: Jätteen yhteiskunta (Society of Waste) (Coordinators: Jarno Valkonen & Olli Pyyhtinen)

Paper: Elävä jäte (Living Waste), Veera Kinnunen

Heikki Huilaja

Workshop: Jätteen yhteiskunta (Society of Waste) (Coordinators: Jarno Valkonen & Olli Pyyhtinen)

Paper: Yhdyskuntajätteen rytmit, reitit ja työt. Jarno Valkonen, Heikki Huilaja.

Sociology Days, “Excess and Overflows”, March 2017. University of Tampere

Veera Kinnunen

Invited keynote-panellist “Politics of surplus, surplus of politics

Panellists: Veera Kinnunen, Anna-Kaisa Kuusisto-Arponen, Katariina Kyrölä & Tuukka Ylä-Anttila.

Opening the Bin: New perspectives on waste, culture and society from the humanities and the social sciences”. April 2017, University of Lund, Helsingborg, Sweden.

Veera Kinnunen

Paper: Cohabiting with Trash

Heikki Huilaja & Johanna Saariniemi

Session: Waste Policy. (Chair: Hervé Corvellec)

Paper: Bringing Environment Back to Waste Management: a Case Study of Waste Policy in Finnish Lapland. Jarno Valkonen, Heikki Huilaja, Johanna Saariniemi, Veera Kinnunen.

SIEF Conference March 2017, Göttingen.

BEST Poster (Veera Kinnunen & Jarno Valkonen).

Living Ethics seminar September 2017, University of Lapland.

Sociology Days, March 2015, 2016  University of Helsinki and Jyväskylä

The Autumn Colloquium of the Finnish Society for Environmental Social Science, 2015, University of Tampere.

The 8th Conference on Cultural Studies, Dec 2015, University of Oulu.

Nordic Ethnology & Folklore Conference, Aug 2015, Copenhagen University.

Living Archives seminar sept 2014, University of Malmö.