About Our Research

Ongoing Research Projects

For more information on our projects - including news and publications - please see the JMC Research website.


Reproduction Wars: Imaginaries and Mobilizations in the U.S.-Mexico Transborder Region

  • Email: jmc[at]utu.fi

The REPRO project examines the “Reproduction Wars” in the United States after the constitutional right to abortion was overturned in June 2022, resulting in a respatialization of women’s bodily rights, contested within progressive and reactionary politics of each state. The project probes the topic through four specific lenses: 1) law as lived experience; 2) rhetorical imaginaries; 3) transborder mobilities; and 4) performative practices within the U.S.-Mexico transborder region.

With this approach, the study asks: How are anti-abortion laws explained and analyzed in media, society, and firsthand experiences? What are the sites and modus operandi through which the transborder abortion networks are created and used on both sides of the border? What are the conceptual measures through which anti-abortion organizations are managed and operated? What are the mechanisms and tools with which the Reproduction Wars are constructed, performed, and visualized?

Contextualized within the theoretical frameworks of legal consciousness studies and feminist geography, the project focuses on both the gendered imaginaries through which the Reproduction Wars are contested and the actual mobilizations that shape women’s maneuvering within federal-local-transborder relations. In this way, the project offers 1) original data for understanding the de facto ramifications that law has on women’s lives; 2) a specific linkage between societal and cultural analysis of the topic; and 3) a reexamination of the geographic mobility of reproductive justice that has relevance not just in the United States and Mexico, but also on global discussions on gendered conceptualization of healthcare rights.

Blue logo of the Research Council of Finland.

Principal Investigator

Benita Heiskanen   Dr. Benita Heiskanen


Blond man in a white shirt holds a globe toy in front of a book shelf.   Dr. Niko Heikkilä

A blong man in a purple shirt holds a globe toy in a theatrical way.

  Dr. Pekka M. Kolehmainen
Woman looks straight ahead and smiles.  

Dr. Daniela Alaattinoğl

A man looks straight ahead and smiles.   Dr. Michael Hansen
Nadia Nava Contreras   Ph.D. Researcher Nadia Nava Contreras
The Conceptual Language of Antifeminism and Reactionary Realignment in the United States
  • Email: pmkole[at]utu.fi

This TIAS Postdoctoral Fellow project examines antifeminism as a political logic that connects different reactionary movements across ideological and temporal boundaries in the United States. The project argues that antifeminism has linked these movements together and furthermore served as a bridge to the more mainstream brands of conservative ideology. It has formed a funnel that leads people down a path of radicalization/ideologization, by attaching individual statements against feminism into wider reactionary ideological patterns.

The project’s approach is conceptual historical. It sees antifeminism as operating by seizing and redefining the meaning of terms and concepts—such as “gender,” “feminism,” “masculinity,” “femininity,” and “intersectionalism”—and mobilizing these new meanings for explicitly reactionary political ends. Through this conceptual historical framework, the study tracks the key concepts antifeminism has used at different stages of its spread and explores a vital ideological realignment taking place through the larger nexus point of the culture wars.

While often the culture wars are seen as an emerging set of cultural and political conflicts surrounding questions of values, this project rather approaches them as outlines for political action, through which various political operatives assign meaning to their own acts as well as those of their political/ideological opponents and build antagonistic structures between different phenomena. By focusing on the output of political organizations and advocacy groups, my study maps out the conceptual strategies used and developed by a burgeoning culture war industry aimed at producing political hostility.


Postdoctoral Fellow

A blond man in a purple shirt holds a globe toy in a theatrical way.  

Dr. Pekka M. Kolehmainen


Breaking the News: How Congress Remade Television News
  • Email: ohbwin[at]utu.fi

This TIAS Postdoctoral Fellow project studies how congressional pressure, hearings, and legislation remade television news in the United States, circa 1968–1974. To understand our current moment of “infotainment” news requires an appreciation of television not just as media but as a political institution formed by other political institutions. Between the early 1960s, when television surpassed newspapers as Americans’ primary source of news, and the rise of social media in the 2010s, television ruled political life. Following the ascendance of television, however, the 1970s marked a turning point towards “soft” news intended to entertain, rather than inform, audiences.

This project studies the role Congress, often ignored in favor of the executive branch in the history of television news, played in this turn. Turning to the legislative branch reveals how the foremost news medium transformed from a political adversary into an accessory. The legislative branch ushered in the modern polarized, and polarizing, “infotainment” era of news.

At the nexus of political science, history, media studies, and American studies, this project recognizes the central role of television news in modern political life and the way political actors can form media institutions. Advancing a new appreciation for Congress in the remaking of news media, it contributes to broader conversations around the role of media in political life today, including debates around political efforts to delegitimize modern forms of media, declining public trust in news, and other challenges of political journalism today.

Postdoctoral Fellow                                                               

A man holding a globe toy in front of a book shelf and smiling.               

Dr. Oscar Winberg


Ph.D. Research: Gun Violence and the Mobilization of a New Political Generation
  • Email: mila.t.seppala[at]utu.fi

This dissertation project examines how the movement for gun control and gun violence prevention has evolved and changed in the 21st century. The starting point for the research is the watershed movement of the March For Our Lives (MFOL) demonstrations to end gun violence that were organized after the Parkland, Florida high school shooting in 2018. The marches became the largest student-led protests since the Vietnam War.

Three research questions have guided the dissertation:

  • 1) How are young people making sense of the issue of gun violence and what can be done about it?
  • 2) How do young people share and communicate their understandings of gun violence and their visions for gun violence prevention in the current media landscape?
  • 3) How has evolving understandings of gender, feminism and the intersections of class and race impacted the way advocates perceive the problem of gun violence and what is effective activism?

The four peer-reviewed articles of the dissertation draw on materials collected from various online sources as well as fieldwork conducted in Austin, Texas including interviews, written testimonials and protest event observations. The project approaches the study from a transdisciplinary perspective, bringing together theoretical and methodological insights from North American Studies, social movement studies, feminist security studies and ethnographic research.


Doctoral Researcher

A red haired woman in a colorful shirt holds a globe toy in front of a bookshelf.  

Mila Seppälä


  • Doctoral Program of Social and Behavioural Sciences at the University of Turku, 2021-2023
  • American-Scandinavian Foundation, 2021-2022
  • ASLA-Fulbright Pre-Doctoral Research Fellows, 2021-2022

Blue logo of Fulbright Finland.


Ph.D. Research: Visual Politics of the Post-Left in Contemporary United States
  • Email: jaakko.k.dickman[at]utu.fi

This dissertation examines the visual politics of online post-left communities in the United States. Departing from mainstream politics, the so-called post-left is an internally fractious political movement influenced by Marxist ideas and occupied with constructing radically new social systems that reject current social forms and institutions. By examining the visual materials in post-left online spaces, the dissertation analyzes how the collectively produced visual materials are seeking to reinvent U.S. society by pushing the boundaries of political imagination. The dissertation is particularly interested in visual conceptions of utopian and dystopian futures. The research seeks to answer how post-left utopias generate and sustain online counterpublics, how the utopias seek to reinvent the U.S. political system, and what the epistemological possibilities of the post-left utopias for the democratic process are.

The aim of the dissertation is to produce new information on the previously understudied post-left communities and to study modern forms of political participation in digital environments. The research conceptualizes post-left communities as “counterpublics” which promote and develop oppositional communication practices. Contextualized within the theoretical frameworks of aesthetic politics and radical democracy, the research considers visual culture to be of pivotal importance to political research because it gives us information on how people understand and construct the societies they live in. The study approaches the visual materials through a mixed methods approach, comprising visual, rhetorical, and network analysis.


Doctoral Researcher

A brunet man in a blue shirt holding a globe toy in front of a book shelf.  

Jaakko Dickman


Completed Research Projects


Cuba in Flux: Visualizing Urban Transformation in Havana

  • Email: jmc[at]utu.fi

The three-year Kone Foundation project examines visual displays and everyday experiences of urban transformation in Havana from 2019 to 2021.

Kone Foundation Logo

Principal Investigator

Benita Heiskanen Dr. Benita Heiskanen


Nadia Nava Contreras Nadia Nava Contreras

María Gutíerrez Bascón

 María A. Gutiérrez Bascón
Campus Carry

The four-year Academy of Finland project (2017–2021) studies the implications of the Texas state “Campus Carry” gun legislation (SB 11) that came into effect on August 1, 2016. Through qualitative and quantitative research, the project focuses on the changing spatial dynamics at The University of Texas at Austin campus.

Academy of Finland

Principal Investigator

Benita Heiskanen   Prof. Benita Heiskanen


Albion Butters   Dr. Albion M. Butters

Elina Kestilä-Kekkonen

  Prof. Elina Kestilä-Kekkonen
Pekka Kolehmainen   Ph.D. Cand. Pekka Kolehmainen
Lotta Kähkönen   Dr. Lotta Kähkönen
Sampo Ruoppila   Dr. Sampo Ruoppila
Juha Vuori   Prof. Juha Vuori

Tragediauutisoinnin haasteet – median mahdollisuudet käsitellä kouluampumisia

This Helsingin Sanomat Foundation project, which began in January 2019, examines U.S. and Finnish media’s reporting of the 2018 high school shootings in Parkland, Florida. The project produces a new, comparative database on reporting on school shootings and opens up a new avenue for discussing the challenges posed by such reporting. The project considers the tensions between traditional media and social media based #-activism, with concrete suggestions for journalists’ work.


Principal Investigator

Benita Heiskanen   Dr. Benita Heiskanen


Kirsi Cheas   Dr. Kirsi Cheas

Maiju Kannisto

  Dr. Maiju Kannisto


Noora Juvonen   Noora Juvonen



Completed Postdoctoral Projects

Transnational Indigenous Activism: Asserting Sovereignty in the Cold War United States and Canada, 1953–1975

Transnational Indigenous Activism: Asserting Sovereignty in the Cold War United States and Canada, 19531975

Academy of Finland, 2017–2021

Dr. Reetta Humalajoki

This project examines the activism of national Indigenous organizations in both a transnational and comparative context. The project focuses on the development of national Native movements in the U.S. and Canada and the extent to which Indigenous activists built cross-border networks and solidarity in the mid-twentieth century. It will evaluate the impacts of Native political activism on federal policy-making in both countries. The project highlights the intersections between Indigenous, North American, and Cold War studies, and draws on extensive archival research and oral histories.

Academy of Finland


Rising Dragon, Rising Sun: A Century of Threat Perceptions of China and Japan in the United States

Rising Dragon, Rising Sun: A Century of Threat Perceptions of China and Japan in the United States

Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS), 2019–2021

Dr. Henna-Riikka Pennanen

This project focuses on threat perceptions of China and Japan in the United States from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. The objectives of the study are: 1) To engage in critical discussion on the phenomena of threat perception, images, and alarmism. 2) To show that a study of threat perceptions and images is needed for deepening our understanding of U.S. foreign and national security policies, history, culture, and society. The project contributes to the fields of international relations studies, U.S. history, and transnational American studies.

Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS)

Death and Mourning in "Finnish North America"

Death and Mourning in "Finnish North America"

Academy of Finland, 2017–2020

Dr. Samira Saramo

This project proposes that a fear of dying alone in an unfamiliar land served as a catalyst for the emergence of ethnic community life in North America. Using the case study of Finnish immigrants in Canada and the United States from 1880–1939, the project examines both the everyday practices and representations of death and mourning. It constructs a History of Everyday Life view and analyzes how ordinary people have narrated these experiences by employing life writing sources, particularly personal letters and autobiographies written by Finnish North Americans. The project highlights the ways that death sets people into action, caring for the dying, the deceased, and the grieving.

Overall, the project proposes a framework for conceptualizing “Finnish North America,” inquiring whether immigrant community identifications span beyond the confines of national boundaries, instead revealing ethno-regional belonging. Additionally, the project challenges Finnish Studies historiography by integrating analysis of the political Left and Right, hypothesizing that life writing and mourning traditions may reveal political allegiances overshadowed by the cultural customs, intimate rituals, and camaraderie of death and mourning. Through life writing analysis, the project pushes theoretical discussions on emotion, identity maintenance, and the workings of relationships at a distance. The project examines how gender, age, and class shape the social roles proscribed and adopted at times of death.

Academy of Finland


JMC Research Network

The JMC Research Network provides a forum to bring together junior and senior scholars from various inter/disciplinary backgrounds studying the United States, Canada,  Mexico, and the Caribbean. It explores interdisciplinary themes dealing with North American Studies and provides resources for students, scholars, and the public.

The network’s activities comprise seminars, roundtables, writing and publishing initiatives, and collaborative project workshops. The JMC Research Network also provides a Directory of Experts (see below) to serve the interests of the public and the media in Finland and abroad.

To receive news and updates from the JMC Research Network, please subscribe to our mailing list here. If you would like to join the Network and the Directory of Experts, please contact us at jmc[at]utu.fi.