About the project

Academy professor Sara Heinämaa's research project Marginalization and Experience: Phenomenological Analyses of Normality and Abnormality (MEPA) develops a powerful new methodology for the theorization of social marginalization. Its main hypothesis is that pre-discursive affective and bodily experiences of normality and abnormality play a central role in social processes in which differences between individuals or communities are construed as antagonisms and resolved by acts of exclusion and marginalization. The project will demonstrate that affective and bodily experiences of normality and abnormality have two main functions in processes of marginalization: first, concrete acts of exclusion/inclusion are often motivated and provoked by experiences of abnormality and normality; second, the process of being systematically excluded from social interaction changes one’s pre-discursive and discursive experiences of normality in comprehensive ways. 

The primary aim of the project Marginalization and Experience is to provide a phenomenological account of experiential normality and normativity for the purposes of theorizing social marginalization. Contemporary phenomenology of embodiment and intersubjectivity offers excellent starting points for such an account but its theoretical concepts are still underdeveloped for the purposes of examining the conditions and the consequences of social exclusion and need to be worked out systematically and critically. This is the task of the project at hand.

In addition to (i) phenomenology of embodiment and intersubjectivity, the project also draws from three related fields: (ii) philosophy of norms and normativity, (iii) theories of affectivity and emotions (e.g. aversion, disgust, desire, shame, love), and (iv) classical social and political phenomenology and its recent applications in the analysis of social conflicts. By systematically developing the conceptual arsenal and the theoretical results of these fields, the project will build a new methodological and conceptual framework that allows us to describe the many ways in which experiences of normality and abnormality function in processes of social exclusion/inclusion and marginalization/valorization.

The structures of experiential normality and abnormality are studied in this project in the cases of ethnicity, race and sexuality. However, the conceptual results of the project also advance our understanding of the processes of marginalization also in the cases of health/sickness, health/disability and maturity/old age.


Research Group: Prof. Sara Heinämaa (leader), Docent Dr. Mirja Hartimo, Dr. Thomas Szanto, Dr Fredrik Westerlund, Dr. James Jardine, MA Simo Oinas, MA Joni Puranen, MA Milla Rantala