Areas of Interest: Technologies and cultures of governance, migration and border regimes, gender and sexuality, precarization and informal labor, law and policy, race and ethnicity, critical trafficking studies and sex work, and ethnographic methodologies.
Governing in the Name of Caring - The Politics of Migration and Sex Work in an Era of New Humanitarianism
My ethnographic dissertation research examines migrant sex work from the Global South in the Global North. Through rich ethnographic material, the research offers a window to contemporary contestations around mobilities and the global reorganization of labor and intimacies - as well as into the often-hidden lives of migrants who use their intimate resources to advance their lives. In the dissertation, I use a feminist-inspired prostitution and anti-trafficking policy approach that has taken center stage in global prostitution and anti-trafficking debates as a lens to understand broader transformations in the governance of migration and sexuality. The aim of this policy is to ‘end demand’ for sexual commerce in the name of gender equality and protecting and caring for the vulnerable. It criminalizes the buying (rather than the selling) of sex - the rationale being that without buyers there would be no sex trade and trafficking. As most people performing sexual labor are now migrants, the policies and practices of regulating sex work and trafficking are shaped by immigration policies and migration politics. Relying on large scale three-country ethnographic, interview and social media data - which includes 210 interviews with migrant sex workers, policy-makers, police forces and activists in the Nordic region where the "end demand" approach originates - my work contributes to research and policy debates by producing the first evidence-based account on the impact of the approach on migrant sex workers as well as an analysis of its global appeal. Drawing on theories on new humanitarianism, precarization and intimacies, I examine how the governance of migration and sexuality intersect in this feminist-humanitarian "practice of care", the way it shapes the lives of migrant sex workers, as well as what kinds of understandings of justice this very intersection produces.
Dissertation Committee: Arlene Stein (Chair), Catherine Lee, Zaire Dinsey-Flores, Carole Vance (Columbia University)
Fieldwork: Ethnographic, interview and media data collected over the course of 35 months including 210 interviews with migrant sex workers, policy-makers, police forces and activists in Sweden, Norway, Finland
2017- Deported - project
The Deported project (2015-2017) funded by the Kone Foundation brought together artists, journalists, activists and researchers to raise awareness of the effects of border regimes and criminalization of migration. As the lead researcher, I coordinated an international research conference on deportations and politics of migration and advised on the other outcomes of the project (play, photojournalistic book, city event, school info package, art exhibition). More information about the project here.
2010- Thai Massage Parlor Workers’ Access to Public Health Services and Language Training
Pro Centre (2010), Finland.
2010- Dishonorable Daughters of the Nation? –The Meaning of Race and Nation in White Finnish Women’s Interracial and Interethnic Relationships
MSSC thesis (2010), University of Helsinki.
2010- Postcolonial Theory at the Age of Globalization
BA thesis (2010), University of Helsinki.
Current research project
Re-Coding Justice: Algorithms and Public-Private Partnerships in the Policing of Migration, Race and Sexuality
My current project continues my interest in the intersections of technologies of governance and policing of sexuality, race and migration. The moral rhetoric related to sex trafficking in recent years has justified the forging of public-private partnerships and the use of algorithms in policing of sex workers through websites, online platforms, money transfer and credit card companies. Using my dissertation research material, and future data generated in the United States, the project will shed light on these new structures of policing, how they impact sex workers, and how communities respond to these arising forms of control.The broader goal of the project is to understand what kinds of notions of justice are needed for equitable artificial intelligence. As the budding research in this area has demonstrated, algorithms and algorithmic governance enforce existing inequalities and are, for example, highly racialized resulting in what Ruha Benjamin has termed "the New Jim Code". In my project, I will focus on the effects of algorithmic governance on migrant sex workers and sex workers of color. In the project, I will especially examine the role that social media and sharing-economy companies, such as Instagram, PayPal, and Airbnb, play in these data-driven interventions made in the name of countering sex trafficking. This project contributes to the existing research by extending the examination of algorithmic governance to the fields of migration and sexuality.
Protection through Abolition? - The End Demand Approach as "Violence Work"
This paper discusses the effects of the so-called "end demand" approach of prostitution to sex workers. Criminalizing the buying of sex has its roots in the Nordic feminist movement on violence against women and its understanding of prostitution as part of this violence. In 1999, Sweden aimed to abolish prostitution by criminalized the buying of sex while keeping the selling decriminalized. The aim was to protect, not punish, women. The legislative change was meant to advance gender equality and well-being at both societal and individual level through using the law as a normative tool to abolish "the demand" for sexual commerce.
In this paper, I argue that the understanding of prostitution as violence that needs to be abolished has led to repressive practices that perpetuate violence and stigma towards people who sell sex. The abolition of prostitution has become the ultimate goal of societal efforts. In addition to the surge in police resources, the aim of abolishing prostitution and trafficking has justified the forging of public-private partnerships that extend policing of commercial sex to private individuals, online websites, hotels, taxis, landlords and money transfer companies. Drawing on a 53-month three-country ethnographic fieldwork including 210 interviews in Sweden, Norway and Finland conducted mainly with migrants and nationals who sell sex, I will shed light to these structures of policing and how they affect the lives and work of people who engage in sex work.
In this paper, I conceptualize violence broadly, following Ruthie Wilson Gilmore (2002), as "the cause of premature death." This definition includes all forms of violence beyond physical insofar as they create vulnerabilities and constrict life opportunities. Consequently, a wide range of people from the police to hotel receptionists can engage in what Micol Seigel (2018) calls “violence work”. I suggest that paradoxically through creating an ideological landscape that legitimates various forms of policing the end demand approach functions itself as a form of "violence against women".
The "World's First" Educating Others: Branding Feminism and Welfare through Sexual and Gender Politics
This article examines how the Sex Purchase Act has been incorporated in the Swedish country brand and marketed abroad as a Swedish gender equality innovation. Drawing on government document and website analysis, the article argues that Sweden's international export efforts together with the Nordic brand of being in the forefront of progressive welfare and gender equality politics, explain the massive expansion in the interest in the End demand, or the "Nordic model" in the early 2000s.
Towards Respectable Clienthoods: Negotiating Relations Between Intimacy and Commerce on an Online Commercial Sex Community
With the rise of Internet forums new collective sex buyers’ communities have emerged. This article explores these new commercial sexual cultures and clienthoods in the making. Drawing on an online ethnography, I investigate how male sex buyers engage in relational work, negotiation of the boundaries of intimacy and commerce. I show that while defining different relations and rules of interaction, men also negotiate less stigmatized sexual identities and masculinities for themselves - that I call respectable clienthoods - through narratives of consumerism, health and wellbeing, and romance.