Johanna Nurmi profile picture
University Lecturer, Sociology


+358 29 450 4689
+358 50 472 4719
Assistentinkatu 7

Areas of expertise

medical sociology
health perceptions
criticism of biomedicine
vaccination attitudes
vaccine hesitancy
complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)
ethnographic research


In my doctoral dissertation (2014, University of Turku), I studied the recovery processes of two Finnish communities after school shootings. I have also published a book Shared Experiences of Mass Shootings (Routledge) on the topic. 

After my dissertation, I have done research on the field of health sociology, focusing on vaccine refusal and hesitancy, the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and food.

I have worked as part of the project Tracking the Therapeutic - Ethnographies of Wellbeing, Politics and Inequality (Academy of Finland 2015-2019, PI Suvi Salmenniemi), and Microbial Lives - Practices of New Human-Microbial Cultures (Kone Foundation 2019-2022, PI Salla Sariola). In 2019-2020, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Tampere University, in the project Nutrition, Expertise and Media (Academy of Finland, PI Pia Jallinoja) concerning the public debate on food and health.

I co-lead a research project called Health, knowledge and expertise (Emil Aaltonen foundation 2018-2021) together with Pia Vuolanto. This project analyzed the criticism of biomedicine related to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and vaccine-criticism in Finland. We combined sociological and historical perspectives, responding to the social and political need to understand these phenomena and the criticism of biomedical expertise in general as processes that are deeply historical and cultural.



I am interested in health-related expertise and its contestations concerning vaccines, CAM, nutrition, and microbes.

I study parental reasons for contesting and refusing vaccination, as well as the relationships that vaccine-hesitant parents form with medicine, healtcare, public health authorities, and expert knowledge. I also analyze the negotiations and conflicts between parents and healthcare workers in child health clinics. I am also interested in how vaccination is contested within the healthcare system. 

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)
In the Health, knowledge and expertise -project, we examined the criticism of biomedicine related to vaccines and CAM since the early 1900s. This criticism is voiced from within as well as outside of the medical field. The project combined sociological and historical research, acknowledging that the criticism of biomedicine is not just a momentary phenomenon, but deeply rooted in the modern society. 

I am also interested in how lay citizens using alternative health practices apply the latest information provided by microbiological research in how they optimize "natural" health and immunity. In this phenomenon, food and nutrition are often central.


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