2/2012
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Funding granted for research on the Somalis

Academy of Finland has granted funding for three large research projects on the Somali diaspora. The projects have all started in September 2012 in four different Finnish universities. The data will be collected in Finland, the U.S., Canada, Ethiopia and Somalia, and all of the projects have an interest in the transnational dimension of the lives of the migrants. In addition to individual Somalis and their families, relevant authorities in respective countries will be interviewed.

Dr. Päivi Harinen from the University of Eastern Finland leads a four-year project titled Contexts of diaspora citizenship: Transnational networks, social participation and social identification of Somalis in Finland and the U.S. The research will analyze similarities and differences in the integration of Somalis in two societies that differ significantly in terms of their migration history and immigration policies. In particular, focus will be on the Somalis as diaspora citizens and what are the different forms of participation and identification that they employ both nationally and transnationally.

The research project is carried out through fieldwork both in Finland and in Minnesota. The state of Minnesota provides an interesting case of comparison to the situation of Somalis in Finland. Although Somalis in the two contexts face many similar challenges such as unemployment, discrimination and language barriers, opportunities in the two places seem to be different: the Somali community in Minnesota has witnessed a remarkable entrepreneurial success as Somalis own and operate hundreds of small businesses around Minnesota.

Other researchers of the project are Dr. Anne-Mari Souto, University of Eastern Finland; Dr. Jussi Ronkainen, Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences; and Dr. Marko Kananen, who is employed by Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences, but works at the University of Minnesota. Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dr. Outi Fingerroos from the University of Jyväskylä has received a five-year funding for a project titled Reuniting the family: A study of the experiences of immigrants and officials. The aim of the study is to better understand the family reunification process of Somalis coming via Ethiopia and Kenya to Finland from the perspective of officials and Somalis.

The process of reunifying Somali families is a complicated one with many cultural, linguistic and administrative vicissitudes and phases. The process clearly involves two different sides of human activity: the Somalis and their own life stories, and the officials such as Migri (the Finnish Immigration Service), the Embassy of Finland and the Finnish Red Cross with their own personal experience narratives. The interesting point about the process is the way in which it is implemented and how the people involved cope with it.

Outi Fingerroos started the interviews already in 2009‒2010, when she was Visiting Professor at the Department of Ethiopian Languages and Literature, Addis Ababa University. That time she got used to seeing dozens of Somali men, women and children waiting under a small canopy in front of the Embassy of Finland to be interviewed as part of the family reunification process. Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dr. Marja Tiilikainen from the University of Helsinki, Department of Social Research, has been granted a five-year funding for a research titled Islam and security revisited: Transnational Somali families in Finland, Canada and Somalia. The research will investigate the experiences and organization of human security in transnational Somali Muslim families.

Somalia is often seen as a seat for radical Islam, which has led to international counter-terrorism operations in the region. Moreover, Muslims in the West have become suspect communities, whose movements and connections have become under surveillance. The voices of Muslim families whose transnational lives are caught up in the public and worldwide debate about Muslims are hardly heard.

What kind of insecurities and threats do they identify with? What are their means of creating safety for their families and communities? The data will be collected among transnational Somali families through ethnographic methods in Helsinki, Toronto and Somalia (mostly in Somaliland and Puntland). Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Finnish research on Somali related topics has been active. The first PhD research was published by Ari Serkkola in 1994 on the pluralistic control of tuberculosis in Somalia. Since then several PhD studies in different fields have been completed, and currently many PhD candidates work on their theses. Importantly, also researchers who are Somalis themselves have stepped into the Finnish academia and deserved their doctorates. The recent investment of the Academy of Finland signals the importance and topicality of Somalia and the Somali diaspora both in the field of research and policy. Furthermore, it strengthens Finland's role as one of the leading countries in the field of Somali studies.

Marja Tiilikainen