HIEST seminar 31 Oct 2023: David Hoffman et al.

Creatively, Constructively, but Critically Bringing Actionable Options into View: Visualizing An Incremental Approach to Valid Explanation-Building Aimed at Racism in Finland

Collaboration team: David Hoffman, Quivine Ndomo, Heidi Säntti, Anna Ruotanen, Jawaria Khan, Maria Lima Toivanen, Maria Marouli and Taina Saarinen (This presentation is an interdisciplinary collaboration of research in progress by miNET members.)

Presentation summary: 
There is currently an increase of both discourse and anxiety about racism across Finnish society and inside Finland’s educational ecosystem, but is that the same as saying racism is something new? In this presentation the authors focus on the distinction between ‘racism’, ‘perceptions of racism’ and ‘discourses about racism’ which are three different things – at minimum. The emergent racialization of academic space in Finland was already clear two decades ago across our higher education system. Because emergent racialization may have evolved into established or patterned, structural racism, we present a creative approach aimed at side-stepping much of the well-intentioned, but often under-theorized, empirically ungrounded, and largely uncritical “debates” about racism and instead offer a constructive critique of discourse we term “Social Justice Bingo”. Empirically, we underline that ideas like diversity, equality and equity are often earnestly promoted and profiled, while at the same time failing to secure analytical insights into valid explanations of structural forms of racism that ‘vanish’ inside the key, unexamined settings our essay brings into focus. The central question we pose is whether much contemporary discourse stands up to seminal scholarly critique when it comes to social justice and the unique forms of power mediated within Finland’s higher education ecosystem. Using arts-based methods, we suggest explanation-building as a basis for engaging and navigating racism in Finland’s educational ecosystem aimed at actionable analytical traction inside the settings that should be ameliorating, not perpetuating racism and other forms of complex, structural discrimination. While our collaboration and methods present very concrete challenges, we argue they are nevertheless an initial step towards a clear alternative to forms of “non-diverse diversity” and “exclusive inclusion” within settings where social justice bingo has been raised to an art form and where structural racism remains both out of view and far from understood.