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Doctoral defence of Mervi Leppäkorpi, Dipl.-Soz. (M.Soc.Sc.), 17.2.: In Search of a Normal Life: An Ethnography of Migrant Irregularity in Northern Europe

 The doctoral dissertation in the field of Social and Public Policy will be examined at the faculty of Business and Social Sciences at Joensuu.

The research targets interactions between irregularized migrants and their various civil society supporters in “Marenburg”, a merged city that combines the settings of Hamburg, Stockholm, and Helsinki. The empirical research took place between 2014 and 2016. The dissertation focuses mainly on the situation before “the long summer of migration”, which began in 2015.

The research question is how the representations of migrant irregularity are constructed in interactions between migrants and the local civil society. Dissertation focuses on the tension between migrants aspiring to “normal life” and the contradictory expectations of their vulnerability, which materialize as criteria to be a “deserving” migrant in three specific contexts: first, when migrants demand their rights (the Lampedusa in Hamburg group as a part of the refugee movement); secondly, when migrants meet supportive civil society organizations in the context of services; and, lastly, when civil society organizations participate in customary consultations of legislation processes. The main research methods were participant observation and walking together with a person seeking for solution for their irregularity.

The theoretical framework of the research relies on Engin F. Isin’s work on acts of citizenship, particularly the idea of citizenship beyond formal belonging, as a process where outsiders challenge the existing idea of citizenship of 8 citizen-insiders by demanding rights which belong to citizens. This offers a frame to analyse relations between the city, its migrant-outsiders, and civil society actors as supporters of migrants. The interactions where different actors demand rights for migrants reveal negotiations between the normal that is aspired to and expectations of vulnerability. These negotiations challenge citizenship but also reproduce unwanted features of citizenship, such as neoliberal worker-citizenship, or civil society actors’ role as professionals, which positions migrants as objects of care.

The doctoral dissertation of Mervi Leppäkorpi, Dipl.-Soz. (M.Soc.Sc.), entitled In Search of a Normal Life: An Ethnography of Migrant Irregularity in Northern Europe, will be examined at the faculty of Business and Social Sciences on 17.2.2022 at 12 noon in Joensuu, Metria, M100. The Opponent will be Professor Michi Knecht, University of Bremen, and the Custos will be Professor Laura Assmuth, University of Eastern Finland. Language of the dissertation event is English. Public examination will be streamed live.

Public examination online

Photo available for download

Dissertation book online

For further information, please contact:
Mervi Leppäkorpi, mervi.leppakorpi(at)