Open Letter-ÅAU.pdf

Written by

Emilia Plichta, Jan Louie Uy, Niki Panera, Vera Linden

Students of Race, Racism and Antiracism course (2021)


In May 2021, the students of the Social Exclusion master’s Degree programme, along with students of the SoEx course Race, Racism and Antiracism, worked together to initiate a discussion within the university regarding the current English language requirement of admissions process for International Degree Programmes at Åbo Akademi. The letter generated quite a lot of interest and sparked an important discussion on the topic of language requirements for admission.

Student Reflections: “Reflections on the second week”

Written by Sandis Sitton & Hei Yuet Leung

For this second week’s lectures we spent more time getting further into the forms and dynamics of exclusion. A lot was talked about, and plenty of it could have ended up swirling around in vagary before getting lost, semi-forgotten somewhere in the notes, so I’ve been happy to have a reason to better work it over with one of our classmates to see what stuck. After we’d each done some reflecting on the lectures, I got together with Tracy, one of our fellow students, to see if we could combine our thoughts and what stuck out the most. I was delighted to see that, though her approach differed from my own, it demonstrated some of the analysis of exclusion which I’d found most interesting. This is what she had to say:

“The class has discussed the relationship between poverty, exclusion and access.

“According to Kofi Annan who is the Seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, Extreme poverty anywhere is a threat to human security everywhere.

“Looking into the causal relationship, it is questioned that does employment status determine poverty or does poverty cause employment status? Employment status provides a sense of stability and security upon one’s financial status. Hence, the higher the stability of one’s employment status, the less likely one is to experience poverty.

“However, under the cycle of poverty, people with poverty may have limited resources to increase their and their children’s social mobility, such as the quality of education and thus, job opportunities. Furthermore, people with poverty may also experience psychological problems, such as depression and low self-confidence, which may hinder their willingness to participate or feel included in the community or whole society.”

I rather like the angle, as what I’ve been working over the most is the multidimensionality of exclusion and this week’s lecture covered precisely that. Exclusion can appear dynamically, and it can be social, political, cultural, and of course economic. The latter’s been obvious for some a while. Poverty, as Tracy indicates as well, is an issue the world’s leaders spend a lot of time thinking about, something I wouldn’t hesitate to say we all do. Our economic situation as individuals has a direct, immediate bearing on our quality of life, and it makes it an easy example for how exclusionary processes can deprive, but also create cycles that reinforce that deprivation.

Looking at something that operates in just the same way, we can take discriminatory voting laws into account. By setting the right policies in place, barriers can be created that separate people from access to their own political power on the basis of their skin color, religious background or sexuality, while also denying them the means of seizing it back. We can see this happening in all kinds of ways that might not be explicit or direct, but by their patterns operate in precisely the same way as those that can be found  perpetuating cycles of poverty.

It reminds me of how frustrating the inequalities plaguing my own home country are, because they are never as straightforward as often presented. Addressing them takes insight, a wider perspective and a willingness to look for patterns such as these. Tracy closes her response on poverty with:

“To build a social security network, welfare is provided to the people in need, which includes those in poverty. It is discussed that welfare is a way to build equality by income redistribution. There are controversies that welfare lowers people’s motivation such as responsibilities on work, family supporting, as well as subtraction of wages. Hence, anti-poverty programs are given.”

Student Reflections: “Reflections on my First Week of Social Exclusion Key Approaches”

Written by Pemphero Banda and Kosar Mohammad Naeemi

Being back in class after a few years, was both an exciting and a scary experience. I used to hear a lot about imposter syndrome, starting my master’s degree got me closer to partaking in this universal experience. I shouldn’t lie I was consumed. I am sure if you are a young adult, on a verge of a new experience you know what I mean, this little animal can eat you up and if you are not careful you can succumb and not recognise the thrill of excitement that comes with a new experience. That was me, but the first class of Social Exclusion Key approaches changed everything for me. It reminded me that I was exactly where I needed to be at this point in my life. Not only was my excitement coming from how international the class is but also how real, deep and contextual the conversations are. I still remember how eye opening my very first lecture on power dynamics was. It got me thinking of the power I hold within myself and the spaces I occupy. The lecturer got me thinking of how inconstant the power dynamics are around me. It felt surreal for someone else to voice out the reality that we all are never neutral when approaching issues of social exclusion, either one of our dominant or subordinate identities are out to play and how with this reality I have the potential of being both an oppressor and the oppressed. You can imagine the disbelief I had; how can I, Pemphero be an oppressor. At the end, the reality is as individuals we have the power to write the narrative that we want to identify with even though reality does not Favor that idea as Chinua Achebe once said until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.

 Racial Justice, Racial Equity, and Anti-Racism Reading. The New Age of Empire: How Racism and Colonialism Still Rule the World by Kehinde Andrews

The first book for our  Racial Justice, Racial Equity, and Anti-Racism Reading List is:

“Colonialism and imperialism are often thought to be distant memories, whether they’re glorified in Britain’s collective nostalgia or taught as a sin of the past in history classes. This idea is bolstered by the emergence of India, China, Argentina and other non-western nations as leading world powers. Multiculturalism, immigration and globalization have led traditionalists to fear that the west is in decline and that white people are rapidly being left behind; progressives and reactionaries alike espouse the belief that we live in a post-racial society. But imperialism, as Kehinde Andrews argues, is alive and well. It’s just taken a new form: one in which the U.S. and not Europe is at the center of Western dominion, and imperial power looks more like racial capitalism than the expansion of colonial holdings. The International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization and even the United Nations are only some of these modern mechanisms of Western imperialism. Yet these imperialist logics and tactics are not limited to just the west or to white people, as in the neocolonial relationship between China and Africa. Diving deep into the concepts of racial capitalism and racial patriarchy, Andrews adds nuance and context to these often over-simplified narratives, challenging the right and the left in equal measure. Andrews takes the reader from genocide to slavery to colonialism, deftly explaining the histories of these phenomena, how their justifications are linked, and how they continue to shape our world to this day. The New Age of Empire is a damning indictment of white-centered ideologies from Marxism to neoliberalism, and a reminder that our histories are never really over”–

“The West is rich because the Rest is poor. Capitalism is racism.”

“Rebranding a racist product is not a step in the right direction, it is a kick in the teeth to all those who suffer the impacts of White supremacy.”

“China is becoming a more efficient version of the West”

“by creating enough opportunity for a Black middle class to exist, we have given fuel to the lie that everyone can make it if they would only just try hard enough…”

Offering no easy answers, The New Age of Empire is essential reading to understand our profoundly corrupt global system. A work of essential clarity, The New Age of Empire is a groundbreaking new blueprint for taking Black Radical thought into the twenty-first century and beyond.


You can borrow the book from the library at:

Day One – First Lecture on Social Exclusion 2021

Written by Martins Kwazema
Today, we had our first lecture of the master’s programme for this academic session. The course titled ‘Key Approaches’ analyses the foundational elements and frameworks through which the concept of social exclusion can be engaged. The lecture was hybrid but most of the students were in class interacting face-to-face. They introduced themselves to each other and had brief moments of discussion about their identities.
Some key issues discussed during the lecture centered around ‘Power’ as a core element of discussions in social exclusion. The concept of power was introduced to the students through storytelling, which I think was impressive because personally, I never knew I had power that could be used differently in several contexts. More so, the students pointed out the fact that the words domination, dominant narratives, accountability to name but a few came to mind upon hearing the word – Power.
Following was a problematization of the word power which led to a series of discussions about power relations and struggle in Finland and some other regions of the world. Further, the lecture aimed at inspiring the students to think about their ‘power’ in relation to ‘who’ they decide to be (identity) in discussions of exclusion. Some questions they had to consider are as follows: 
By ‘who’, the lecturer discussed about the possibility of identifying solely or in a hybrid manner, as an oppressor or oppressed, white or black, male or female and so on. The lecturer for example, being a Black, African, Male by identity, and lecturing in an institution built with a western-style education, explained how his passion for studies on Racism and Racialization informed his power to critique some hegemonic structures of racism in western society. Finally, the lecture was geared on explaining how methodological studies in social exclusion can be approached both a process and an outcome. An interesting aspect of this two-sided character of studies in social exclusion is
that the end-product of both the process and outcome is ‘social exclusion’. 
Personally, I thought that was a stunning conclusion that made me wonder how students frame the larger outcomes or objectives of their studies in social exclusion. On a personal level, the process/outcome dichotomy stirred me in rethinking upon the windows through which I engage the concept of social exclusion in my own research and to consider the larger outcome of the methodologies I employ in studying the concept.

What is Social Exclusion?

In the Autumn of 2018, I joined the Master’s Degree Programme in Social Exclusion as one of the first group of students in the programme. Two years later, in 2020 I graduated and began working as a Project Assistant to the programme, helping to develop it as it entered into its third academic year with its third group of new students. Having gone through the Masters, both as a student and as staff, I thought I would take a moment to share some of my thoughts and experiences on how to understand this complicated term ‘social exclusion’.

The first step to understanding the term ‘social exclusion’ is to define it. Herein begins the struggle to encompass the term as a single entity as it can be broken down and defined in numerous complex ways; as is evident by the scholarly inability to reduce it to a single universal definition. A good definition to begin to understand it is the United Nations’ definition: “social exclusion describes a state in which individuals are unable to participate fully in economic, social, political and cultural life, as well as the process leading to and sustaining such a state” (United Nations 2016:18). Scholars such as Levitas (2007:9) and Popay (2008:2) further add to this definition by including that social exclusion is a complex, dynamic, and multi-dimensional process, driven by unequal power distributions in society, across four main dimensions – social, political, economic and cultural – that persists across different levels of society. Resources are thus accessed differently as a result of such processes, resulting in exclusions to participation in societal arenas. It is worth noting that the term has changed in meaning over the decades, as the notion of society has grown to encompass aspects of the ever-globalizing world.

Having navigated some definitions of social exclusion, perhaps it is best to give examples of social exclusion to better understand the complexity of the term. Perhaps a more relatable example of social exclusion would be that of labour market participation. Take for instance, an immigrant who migrates to a new country that has an entirely new language. One hindrance to labour market participation may be on the basis of language skills and competency, whereby employers choose not to hire an individual who does not possess sufficient language competency. On its own, this example may seem common practice on the basis of employment requirements for numerous reasons of their own. However, it is a good one to show the complexity and multi-dimensional aspects of social exclusion as it will be shown. In the first instance, exclusion occurs on the basis of employability until the individual can attain the necessary skills to engage in social participation. This period of attainment of the minimum required social capital is one of exclusion by which the individual is unable to access the resources of the country, as contrasted by other individuals who possessed higher levels of social capital (social capital in this case being sufficient language skills). This inability to access resources, as we have seen in the examples above, reflect an unspoken, unequal power distribution whereupon the attainment of such skills, for the most part, is left to the individual to attain the minimum required social capital in order to be included in social processes. This is further complicated if said individual applied to numerous jobs, all of which returned the same result on the basis of language competency. The added effect of numerous attempts may well be an intrinsic one, in the form of an internalised perception of being excluded. This takes on numerous forms and can include such things as race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, etc. if the individual were to perceive these as factors hindering their employability. This internalised exclusion may have added effects to the individual’s access to resources such as, and certainly not limited to, a withdrawal from participation on the basis of feeling excluded. Exclusion in this case, results from the individual’s own feeling of being excluded, which may apply thereafter to participation in such things as simply walking down a street due to such feelings.

This very generalised example can be broken down in numerous ways, however, the key point observable here, is that social exclusion can be very complex and must be looked at via the processes by which it is fuelled. It can be seen from many lenses, and many interpretations. Herein rests the problem with attaining a uniform definition of the term as it is for the most part, very specific to individuals, events, and cases; no two of which can be said to be exactly the same and thus defined as such. That is not to say, however, that studies of social exclusion are impossible. On the contrary, it is in the complexity of it that makes social exclusion worth studying. By understanding the dynamism of it, can we begin to work on finding ways of promoting and implementing practices of social inclusion!


Levitas, Ruth. Pantazis, Christina. Fahmy, Eldin. Gordon, David. Lloyd, Eva. Patsios, Demi (2007). The Multi-Dimensional Analysis of Social Exclusion. Department of Sociology and School for Social Policy Townsend Centre for the International Study of Poverty and Bristol Institute for Public Affairs: University of Bristol. 1-75. <>. 

Popay, Jennie, Escorel, Sarah. Hernández, Mario. Johnston, Heidi. Mathieson, Jane. Rispel, Laetitia. (2008). Understanding and Tackling Social Exclusion: Final Report to the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health From the Social Exclusion Knowledge Network. 1-207. <>. 

United Nations (2016). Report on the World Social Situation 2016. In Leaving no one behind: the imperative of inclusive development. United Nations Publication.