Heteronormativity, ethnicity and social hierarchies under scrutiny in recently published doctoral dissertations

By on 16.06.2014 in PhD thesis

Several JustEd members have successfully defended their doctoral dissertations in the last couple of weeks. Jón Ingvar Kjaran defended his dissertation “Queering the Icelandic upper secondary schools: Heteronormative discourse and the experiences of queer students in Icelandic upper secondary schools” at the University of Iceland on 3 June 2014. In his dissertation, Kjaran focuses on the experience of queer students and examines and describes the discursive factors that contribute to the heterosexist ideology that exists within the upper secondary school. A conclusion is that an institutionalized heterosexism, either subtle or overt, is interwoven into the school culture and social interactions of faculty members and students. This leads to a marginalization of those students that do not conform to the dominant discourse of either gender or sexuality.  

Mira Kalalahti has been focusing on the boundaries and limits that society, families and schools set for educational achievements in her doctoral thesis “Muuttuvat koulutusmahdollisuudet – Nuorten sosiaaliset hierarkiat ja koulumenestys” (Changes in equality of educational opportunity – social hierarchies and school achievement of the young). More specifically she has been researching how definitions of equality of opportunities change with time and how school achievements are connected to social position and experiences of social security in homes and schools. In her thesis Kalalahti concludes that school achievements in many ways are associated with social hierarchies. The odds of a young person having good school grades is tightly linked to the education level of his/her family, but a positive attitude towards school also requires strong social resources; i.e., a socially safe position to grow and develop. Mira defended her thesis on June 5 at the University of Helsinki.  

Chia-Chien Chang’s dissertation “Highly Educated Taiwanese Women Seeking a Self-Acceptable Social Position in Finland” was defended at the University of Helsinki on 13 June. Chang has conducted life-story interviews with Taiwanese women who have immigrated to Finland and draws on findings in employability, underemployment and mothering. Her study shows the common pattern of downward social mobility for first generation immigrants. In order to secure and maintain a better position for their children, the highly educated women raise their children as Finnish children by distancing themselves from their Taiwanese cultural heritage and espousing Finnishness. The stories of these women disclose how the intersections of social class, gender and race/ethnicity (re)produce inequalities in a Finnish context.

Links to the articles from Jón Ingvar Kjaran’s dissertation: article 1, article 2, article 3

Link to Mira Kalalahti’s dissertation (abstract in English)

Link to Chia-Chien Chang’s dissertation


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