Saara Pellander


Description of research and teaching


• Family reunification and family migration from an intersectional perspective

• Everyday security and migration

• Borders and memory

• Feminist postcolonial perspective to the Nordic welfare state

• Media representations of migration

• Governmentality of migration



My postdoctoral study analyzes how borders are enacted and circumvented in the context of the family. Borders cut right through the intimate lives of transnational families, and familial ties are shaped by the public notion of belonging to a nation state. The research explores the effects of tightened family reunification policies on the lives of transnational families. It uses the theoretical notions of bordering and everyday security. It explores how everyday security is produced, and how insecurities feature in transnational families’ lives. It is based on interviews with migrants who are applying for family reunification in Finland.

The study is carried out as part of the GLASE research consortium,



My doctoral dissertation “Gatekeepers of the Family: Regulating Family Migration to Finland” (passed with distinction) explored the normative underpinnings of family migration in public discourses, in policies and their implementation. At the same time, it investigated the normative frameworks that regulations on family migration create. In my dissertation, I argue that the relationship between family norms and immigration control is mutually co-constitutive: while policymakers and bureaucrats rely on publicly accepted and common-sense understandings of “acceptable” family life, at the same time they themselves contribute to constructing these norms. Overall, the key finding was that in the regulation of family migration, formal and informal axes of exclusion are part of one and the same continuum. They are based on a set of shared assumptions, discourses, and modes of thought that categorize and label migrants. Theoretically, it developed the notion of moral gatekeeping, showing how moral justifications are used to argue for the inclusion or exclusion of certain families, while on the other hand, the gatekeeping of morals works to portray certain families as a threat to Finnish family norms

My thesis supervisors were Prof. Pauli Kettunen, Political History, and Academy research fellow Johanna Kantola, Gender Studies. The opponent was Prof. Eithne Luibhéid, University of Arizona (Gender Studies). 



I have been teaching lectures and courses in English and Finnish at the University of Helsinki, University of Eastern Finland and the University of Turku at both master and bachelor level. My most recent course at the University of Helsinki in spring 2017 was on migration and history (together with Dr. Miika Tervonen).


Latest publications

  1. (Not) Looking Like a Refugee: Visual Memories of Refugeeness and the Figure of ‘The iPhone Man’

    Kotilainen, N. K. & Pellander, S. M. 16 Jun 2017 In : Border criminologies, Blog.

    Research output: ProfessionalArticle

  2. E-pub ahead of print

    Visibility in mediated borderscapes: The hunger strike of asylum seekers as an embodiment of border violence

    Pellander, S. M. & Horsti, K. 3 Mar 2017 In : Political Geography.

    Research output: Scientific - peer-reviewArticle

  3. Miten ymmärtää ulkomaalaislakia?: Perheenyhdistäminen ja siirtolaisuuden hallinta

    Pellander, S. M. 17 Aug 2016 In : Rasismista ja rajoista. Maailma rasisminvastaisten tutkijoiden silmin -blogi.

    Research output: General publicArticle

View all (17) »

Latest activities

  1. Nordic Journal of Migration Research (Journal)

    Pellander, S. (Member of editorial board), Tervonen, M. (Member of editorial board)
    2017 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research anthology/collection/conference proceedings

  2. Geopolitics: actors, practices and realities

    Kotilainen, N. (Speaker: Presenter), Pellander, S. (Speaker: Presenter)
    22 Nov 201723 Nov 2017

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventOrganisation and participation in conferences, workshops, courses, seminars

  3. Central and Eastern European Migration Review (Journal)

    Pellander, S. (Reviewer)
    May 2017Aug 2017

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

View all (60) »


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