SoEx Students’ Experiences

 

In this blog post, you can read five Social exclusion students’ experiences and thoughts about the program. They were all asked the same questions and these are their answers.

 

Name: Niki Panera

Where are you from? Greece

Why did you apply for the Social Exclusion Master’s program? To enhance my knowledge on issues of human rights, racism & and to improve my CV

Best way to unwind or relax after your studies? Gym, music & short trips

What is something you wished you knew a year ago? Nothing. I like learning through my experiences.

 

…..

 

Name: Donald Nih Tarke

Where are you from? Cameroon

Why did you apply for the Social Exclusion Master’s program? I have been a victim of “deep exclusion” and intend to become a voice for others with similar experiences and the reality of marginalization.

Best way to unwind or relax after your studies? I don’t have one

What is something you wished you knew a year ago? Being more tech-savvy!

 

…..

 

Name: Sandis Sitton

Where are you from? California

Why did you apply for the Social Exclusion Master’s program? How much space do I have? Partly, because I needed a purpose in life during the coronavirus pandemic. We were 1 year into the pandemic, more or less, and I was enduring it via all of the unhealthy coping mechanisms one does, when my friend told me he was applying to a program in Finland, on the other side of the Earth. I had never heard of social exclusion. It’s not a concept Americans employ, hardly ever, but it had a focus on intersectionality, it seemed, and that was something that I felt I hadn’t gotten to explore while studying philosophy for my bachelor’s program.

At the same time, the country was exploding around us, with new protests crowding the streets of nearly every major city in the US for weeks, months, decrying social injustice, systemic racism, and the police murder of black people across the nation ignored. This program focuses on the very dynamics that are being battled over in my country, and I can honestly say that at least some part of me selfishly wanted to be more informed. Systemic oppression is a hard thing to recognize from the inside of a system, especially when you have the privilege of being insulated from it, not having to see it every day. I certainly felt the need to strip away some of the guilt that comes with willful ignorance, which is what it feels like it is when you can recognize that, but still feel uncertain as to how to talk about it.

So yeah, it captures perspectives I felt were important to what I’d already studied and talked about issues that are relevant to the social issues where I’m from. I’m very interested in the meta side of things, it’s what drew me to philosophy in the first place, but now the concept of decolonizing thought has the same allure and I think getting experience with that discourse here can help a person anywhere.

… I should have just said that, to begin with.

Best way to unwind or relax after your studies? Scream into a pillow. Then get outside and go on a walk, anywhere, just walk and listen to the wind.

What is something you wished you knew a year ago? To buy my furniture from EKOTORI. GET THE WORD OUT NOW, YOU DON’T NEED TO PAY THE IKEA BLOOD PRICE IF YOU KNOW WHERE THE SECOND-HAND STORES ARE!

 

…..

 

Name: Nia Sullivan

Where are you from? Washington, USA

Why did you apply for the Social Exclusion Master’s program? The social exclusion program was captivating for various reasons. Overall, I applied to attain the fundamental theoretical and relevant skills to become an effective human rights practitioner. Social exclusion theories identify the structural origins and historical implications that construct and eternalize exclusion. Understanding how structures interact with experience is essential in engaging critically with social systems. Furthermore, the interdisciplinary approach used in the social exclusion program compelled me to apply, as I could study in other subjects and select a concentration in gender studies.

Best way to unwind or relax after your studies? Meditation, dancing, and long runs are my stress reliefs. Finland has turned me into a snow and ice runner!

What is something you wished you knew a year ago? I enjoy participating in courses from other Universities. Finding more information about this when I started the program would have been valuable.

 

…..

 

Name: Godfred Gyimah

Where are you from? Ghana

Why did you apply for the Social Exclusion Master’s program? It is relevant for my intent and future career prospects. It relates to my previous study in Social services.

Best way to unwind or relax after your studies? To have enough sleep and manage my time judiciously

What is something you wished you knew a year ago? The programme has helped me to think differently. it helps you to understand the broader conception of the nature of the constructed world we live in today. Its stratifications, inequalities, and the structural, political, institutional and the socio-cultural exclusion of people. Again, it helps you to deconstruct the constructed and to work towards antiracism relief people from oppression.

Third Annual SoEx Dinner, 2021

Yesterday, 9 November 2021, the SoEx MDP held its third annual SoEx Dinner in Arken. In attendance were the current students of the programme as well as teachers and staff involved with SoEx. Also in attendance was Dean Peter Nynäs from FHPT, and some additional invited guests. The event was a great success, and as Project Assistant to the MPD I would like to extend my deepest thanks to everyone that was able to attend for making the event so enjoyable.

On a personal note, I have been a part of SoEx since its first year, as both a student and a member of staff. When we held the first dinner back in 2018, there were only a handful of us in attendance sitting around a round table. Three years hence, and we were filling an entire staircase full of people, with many staff and students not present! To see how far the programme has come is truly wonderful. I feel privileged to have been a part of this growing and important Master’s Programme for all these years, and I look forward to seeing it reach new heights in the future.

Photos of the event are available in the Archive.

 

Student Reflections: “My First Month in the Social Exclusion Master’s Programme”

Written by Steve Huerta Raygoza

Social Exclusion, as a concept, has been feeling somewhat unclear to me. I cannot seem to pinpoint a definition, nor can I describe the entire scope and importance of what I am studying. That, combined with the fact that I have undergone a major relocation to pursue my master’s here at Åbo Akademi, has left me confused and disoriented about my purpose while studying here. This week’s lectures have certainly helped me dismiss much of the uncertainty that I felt during the first month of my studies. I am very fortunate to be able to provide the blog post for this week’s class lectures. For the first time since starting at Åbo, I have felt a solid conceptual alignment between what we are studying and what I believe is essential for modern academics to understand to address the many systems of inequality that plague our globalized existence.

Firstly, I would like to discuss something that Amin, University Teacher of the SoEx: Key Approaches course and head of the SoEx program at Åbo Akademi, stated during class that genuinely resonated with me. He stated that while working on our master’s, we need to create our own theories instead of simply following the theories of others. Social Exclusion is a dynamic, relational, and multidimensional concept, and no single theory or explanation can apply universally to every context. Different systems that exclude groups and centralize power away from said groups require a different understanding of race, class, gender, etc. We must be reflexive and critical in our understandings of these systems. Understanding this has absolutely helped in the way that I am constructing the theoretical framework from which I comprehend these systems of exclusion.

This week’s lectures were based on developing an understanding of the different criteria that surround the concept of Social Exclusion. We analyzed two reading within the class, one from Hilary SIlver and another from Ruth Levitas. Silver provided her understanding of the various paradigms that surround Social Exclusion and chronic poverty, arguing that it “acknowledges the structural sources of the process rather than the characteristics of the excluded” and that developing an understanding of the structure of relations among excluded groups is crucial in understanding the process of Social Exclusion (Silver 2007). Levitas, instead, aims to understand how the concept of ‘paid work’ contributes to the process of Social Exclusion. By referencing the Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey, Levitas argues that poverty, itself, is a significant impediment to Social Inclusion and that even social participation and labor can still lead to Social Exclusion. Within this context, we must understand that exclusion does not arise simply due to “social inactivity”; instead, labor in some markets can lead to further exclusion (Levitas 2006).

Throughout the class, we often refer to an analogy wherein those with power exist as the center or most included groups, and people become excluded as they move to the outer rings of the circle. Although someone can maintain some wealth and power, existing closer to that central group than others who experience higher levels of exclusion, the fact remains that they are still ultimately excluded themselves. This conceptual understanding is really sticking with me. In my undergraduate studies, I heavily focused on how transnational capitalism operates through globalism, exploiting everyone’s labor, including these groups that exist closer to the center. I look forward to developing a better theoretical understanding of Social Exclusion to develop a praxis that can begin to shape a better future for the global working class.

References:

Levitas, Ruth, David Gordon, and Christina Pantazis. 2006. “The Concept and Measurment of Social Exclusion.” Pp. 122–60 in Poverty and social exclusion in Britain: The millenium survey. Policy Press.

Silver, Hilary. 2007. “The Process of Social Exclusion: The Dynamics of an Evolving Concept.” Chronic Poverty Research Centre.

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.

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.

Beginning your SoEx Journey

Starting a new chapter in one’s life is never an easy thing to do, and beginning a new Master’s degree is definitely not the easiest thing to start. It’s definitely made more intimidating when moving to a new continent, country, city, or even university. Some of you reading this may have already completed a master’s degree, and many be slightly more comfortable beginning your studies with SoEx. Nevertheless, as you enter into your studies in Social Exclusion, this marks a new chapter in your life and there may be aspects to it that are unfamiliar or certainly a bit nerve wrecking. Having initially gone through the process of moving between three continents and starting a new life in Finland to complete the SoEx degree, I can claim with certainty that I understand the intimidation of embarking on this new ‘journey’. So I thought I would share a few of my thoughts about how to begin your studies, and hopefully by the end of this post things will be slightly less intimidating and your excitement is the only thing you’re focused on!

A brief context to myself before I get into my arrival in Finland: I was born and raised in Zambia, in South-Central Africa and moved to Canada when I was 18 to do my Bachelor’s degree. After five years in Canada, studying, working and building a life, I made the huge decision to move to Finland and I’ve never looked back. This was three years ago when the Social Exclusion programme was in its first year; so I have the rather unique opportunity to speak to you as one of the first ever graduates of SoEx. I have been fortunate enough in my time since graduating to continue working at Åbo Akademi as a Project Assistant to the SoEx Master’s Degree Programme. So, what was it like in the beginning?
To say that I was not nervous would be a lie, and certainly all of the friends I made along the way (the closest of whom came from the programme) would say the same. Moving to Finland is no small step if you’ve never lived in Europe before, or even if you have I’m sure you’d be able to say it is a wholly different experience. Acclimation to the Finnish reality can sometimes take a bit of time but from my experience, it becomes quite enjoyable and familiar once you’ve found your footing and settled in. Aside from mundane difficulties such as grocery shopping at lidl (which I admit to never having heard of before moving here), or figuring out the best cafes and bars in the city; the study side of the transition was rather smooth. I was fortunate to have two amazing student tutors in my first year, both of whom I consider close personal friends still three years hence. The student tutors are your first exposure to your new academic life, and they will spend the first few weeks with you helping you settle into the university. Together with the Orientation week designed by the university, your first week at Åbo Akademi will definitely help you feel settled in no time! During this first week, you will be shown the city that you will call home for the next two years, in addition to being shown the student cafeterias (where you will definitely spend a lot of your meal times!). You will also receive all the necessary information such as how to get your student card, library card, login information, etc. Really everything you need to know over the two years, you will learn it all in the first week! Additionally, there are social events designed by your tutors and the university where you will be able to interact and meet people from different subjects, faculties and universities. So it really is a beneficial week to get settled. It is during this time that you will also meet your teachers and some of the personnel involved in the programme, and you’ll be able to ask them any questions you may have. The benefit to studying at Åbo Akademi is that everyone involved in the programme are very approachable so don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it!
Following orientation week I can say that you will definitely have started to feel a bit settled as you’ll be more familiar with your new location, the studies, and you’ll have already met a few people who could potentially be your closest friends in a few years. Based on my experience, and indeed the experiences of many people that have come to study at Åbo Akademi with whom I have spoken, the intimidation of the new beginning washes away rather quickly once you have actually arrived in Turku and are able to experience the programme in only the first weeks. Hopefully this post has put some of your lingering anxieties at ease and made you feel all the more excited about your choice to join the Social Exclusion Master’s programme. We look forward to seeing you!