Sari Pöyhönen


Deputy head of department (research) 









Room Consultation hour by appointment
Ag C518.3

Research areas

- language education policies, language policy
- migration policy
- language, identity, and belonging
- refugee & asylum seeker narratives
- linguistic ethnography
- creative inquiry in applied linguistics
- arts-based research


My research expertise is in the fields of language education policies and language policy, migration policy; language, identity & belonging, refugee & asylum seeker narratives, minorities and language rights, and adult migrant language education.

Research in applied language studies in general has an impact on people’s lives. Research themes arise from the society and research results are applied, confirmed and contested by various stakeholders and audiences. My research is not an exception: the interplay between development and practice as well as an orientation towards multidisciplinary research allows a multilayered approach to studying and discussing real-life phenomena involving language. I'm interested in individuals behind statistics; their stories of being a person seeking asylum or a migrant professional  trying to find a place in the labour market. Through linguistic ethnography, creative inquiry and narrative approaches I focus on individuals in interaction, telling their stories that are embedded within wider cultural and political contexts and social structures.

I'm currently PI of three research projects: Jag bor i Oravais (everyday life of persons seeking asylum in Swedish Ostrobothnia), Toinen koti - Other home (Documentary theatre project based in the Finnish National Theatre), and Rajojen yli - Crossing Borders (Artistic practices in performing and narrating belonging).


Selected Conference Papers (selected):

Pöyhönen, Sari, Lehtonen, Jussi, Haapakangas, Eeva-Leena & Raad Salih, Harith  (2017) Story-telling and story-listening as an artistic inquiry in a documentary theatre project. Invited paper in the Colloquium “Creative Inquiry in Applied Linguistics: Researching language and communication through visual and performing arts”, BAAL Conference, September 2, 2017, University of Leeds, UK.

Seeking asylum in Swedish-dominant Finland: Stories of Mohammad and Fatema. Plenary, XVI International Conference on Minority Languages, Närpes, August 30, 2017.

Pöyhönen, S. & Tarnanen, M. Ethnographic monitoring as part of social engagement – The case of a reception centre for refugees. In 'ETMU days 2016, Liikkuvuus ja sukupuoli – Gendered Mobilities', Joensuu, Finland November 25-26, 2016.

Pöyhönen, S., Tarnanen, M. & Bogdanoff, M. ‘Finnish in a vacuum or supporting multilingual repertoires?  Refugee and asylum seeker adolescents in a Swedish-dominant region of Finland’ In 'Education and migration: Language foregrounded', Durham, UK, October 21-23, 2016.

Andrews, J., Fay, R. & Pöyhönen, S. ‘Researching multilingually – exploring emerging linguistic practices in migrant contexts’. In 'Sociolinguistics of Immigration', Rapallo, Italy, September, 23-24, 2016.

Simpson, J., Tarnanen, M., & Pöyhönen, S. Adult migrant language education in an “age of austerity”: Restricting newcomers’ trajectories through integration policy. In '21Sociolinguistics Symposium', Murcia, Spain, June 15-18, 2016.

Publications (selected)

Lehtonen, J. & Pöyhönen, S. (2019). Documentary theatre as a platform for hope and social justice. In E. Anttila & A. Suominen (eds.) Critical Articulations of Hope from the Margins of Arts Education. International Perspectives and Practices. London: Routledge, 31-44.

Pöyhönen, S., Tarnanen, M., Simpson, J. (2018). Adult Migrant Language Education in a Diversifying World. In Angela Creese & Adrian Blackledge (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Language and Superdiversity, 488-503.

Pöyhönen, S. (2017). Integration, språkinlärning och arbetslivet – synvinklar på språktillräcklighet. Dialog 2017 (14), 19–21.

Hoffman, D. M., Pöyhönen, S., Cools, C., Stikhin, A., Habti, D., Siekkinen, T. & Sama, T. (2015). Aspiration, Achievement and Abandonment in ’The World’s Best Country’: Merit and Equity or Smoke and Mirrors? Coolabah 17, Observatori: Centre d’Estudis Australians/Australian Studies Centre, Universitat de Barcelona. 

Pöyhönen, S. & Saarinen, T. (2015). Constructions of bilingualism in Finnish Government programmes and a newspaper discussion site debate. Current Issues in Language Planning. 16 (4), 392–408. doi:10.1080/14664208.2014.979650

Pöyhönen, S. & Tarnanen, M. (2015). Integration policies and adult second language learning in Finland. In J. Simpson & A. Whiteside (eds.) Adult Language Education and Migration. Challenging Agendas in Policy and Practice. London: Routledge, pp. 107-118.

Lähteenmäki, M. & Pöyhönen, S. (2014). Language Rights of the Russian-Speaking Minority in Finland: Multi-Sited Historical Arguments and Language Ideologies. In M. Halonen, P. Ihalainen & T. Saarinen (eds.) Language Policies in  Finland and Sweden. Interdisciplinary and Multi-Sited Comparisons. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, pp. 90-115.

Pöyhönen, S. (2013). Language and ethnicity lost and found. Multiple identities of Ingrian Finnish teachers in Russia. In S. Smyth & C. Opitz (eds.) Negotiating Linguistic, Cultural and Social Identities in the Post-Soviet World. Bern: Peter Lang, pp. 203–226.

See the whole list of publications here.


Jag bor i Oravais - Integrationsvägar i svenska Österbotten [I live in Oravais - everyday life and integration trajectories of refugees seeking asylum in Swedish dominant region of Finland] (2015-2017)

Another home - documentary theatre project about integration (2016-2017)

Transforming Professional Integration (2011-2014)

Osallisena Suomessa - Participative Integration in Finland (2010-2013)

The Finnish Network for Language Education Policies (2009-2016)

CV Curriculum Vitae 2016