Refugee Journeys: Narratives of Forced Mobilities

Academy of Finland, 2018–2023

Project director: Johanna Leinonen

Project objective:

The project examines memories of evacuation and exile in travel accounts of evacuees from Karelia during the second World War and in reports of international refugees arriving in Finland in later times. The project material consists of archive materials and interviews.

The project deals with the evacuation and refugee journey as a critical point in the course of one’s life, determined by the meanings associated with its space and time. In addition, the project examines how the journey is experienced physically, emotionally, socially and materially. The journey is made in physical space, via certain routes and using different means of transport. Spatially, the journey is characterised by periods of movement and stationary periods and variable travel speeds. The experience of the journey is also linked to the historical and socio-political context in which it takes place. In addition, the journey is a bodily and emotional experience essentially influenced by the social ties formed before and during the journey and the power relationships that overlap with them. Material objects, such as photographs, documents and cell phones, can play an important role during the journey and can also serve as a memory tool in later stages of life. The study also sees the journey as a recollected story: the experience of the journey is linked not only to the past but also to the present and future.

The research produces empirical and theoretical knowledge on a little studied subject. Its hypothesis is that studying the journey can provide important information on a life stage that is central to the integration of forced migrants.

Project researcher:

Key partners:

MIF: Marja Tiilikainen (and other researchers in project Family Separation, Migration Status and Everyday Security), Eveliina Lyytinen, Miika Tervonen

Others in Finland: Karina Horsti, Anna-Kaisa Kuusisto, Saara Pellander, Jussi Jauhiainen (URMI project)

Mobility periods: Erika Lee & Cawo Abdi (Immigration History Research Center, University of Minnesota), Jennifer Hyndman (Centre for Refugee Studies, York University, Canada), Giorgia Dona (Research Centre on Migration, Refugees and Belonging, University of East London), Nando Sigona (Institute for Research into Superdiversity, University of Birmingham)


Leinonen, Johanna (2018). Hanke pakolaismatkoista käynnistyy Siirtolaisuusinstituutissa syksyllä 2018. Siirtolaisuus-Migration 2, 32–35.

Events/other activities:

Pakomatkoista pakkopalautuksiin (From Escapes to Forced Returns) seminar, 16 October 2018, Migration Institute of Finland.

Symposium: Producing (Im)Mobilities: Do States Create Vulnerabilities? 25–26 April 2019, Migration Institute of Finland.

Symposium: The Ethics of Studying Forced Mobilities, 2–3 April 2020, Migration Institute of Finland.