Year 2011-2012

Tiina Seppälä
She (b. 1975) holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of Lapland, Finland, where she works as a post-doctoral researcher. Seppälä is interested in critical theory, social movements, concepts of power and resistance in the context of war, peace and developmental studies. As a part of a research project ‘Governing Life Globally:The Biopolitics of Development and Security’ project, funded by the Finnish Academy, and led by Professor Julian Reid at the University of Lapland. Email:tiina.seppala@ulapland.fi

Her Recent Publications

- Globalizing Resistance Against War: Theories of Resistance & the New Anti-War Movement, London, Routledge, 2012
- Globalising Resistance against War?  A Critical Analysis of a Theoretical Debate in the Context of the Anti
- War Movement, Journal of Critical Globalisation Studies, Issue 5: 5–23, Issue on Imperialism, Finance, #Occupy, 2012

- A Critical Analysis of a Theoretical Debate on Power of Social Movements: a Case Study of the New Anti-War Movement, Journal of Critical Studies in Business and Society, 2 (1-2):10–29, Special issue on Online and Offline Social Movements: Critical Perspectives, 2011              

- Globalizing Resistance against War? A Critical Analysis of the Theoretical Debate through a Case Study of the ’New’ Anti-War Movement in Britain, PhD thesis, Rovaniemi, Lapland University Press, 2010

Her Visiting Report

I would like to warmly thank the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (CRG) for accepting me as a Visiting Research Scholar in the organization, from the beginning of October 2011 until the end of March 2012.


As a part of a Finnish Academy funded research project ‘Governing Life Globally: The Biopolitics of Development and Security’, led by Professor Julian Reid at the University of Lapland, in Rovaniemi, Finland, my post-doctoral research on social movements, gender and development has greatly benefited from CRG’s expertise. Especially important have been CRG’s knowledge and experience in issue areas such as forced migration, internal displacement, gender and development in South Asia. The opportunity to be part of the research group has helped me to establish important contacts with academics, activists and NGOs.


I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with such a group of intelligent, good-hearted, deeply motivated, and passionate people. The hospitability that I have experienced at CRG has been beyond my expectations.


First and foremost, I want to thank Dr. Ranabir Samaddar, the Director of CRG, for all his help and encouragement, both of which have been invaluable. Secondly, I want to express my deep appreciation for Professor Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury, who has helped my research in many different ways, and invited me to give a lecture at the Department of Political Science, the Rabindra Bharati University.


Special thanks belong to Dr. Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury, who was of great help to me when looking for an organization where to do some voluntary work. She helped me to get in contact with Dr. Jana of the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC).


From the CRG, I want to thank also Suhit K. Sen, Madruresh Kumar, Mitilesh Kumar, Paula Banerjee, and all others, who have been interested in and supported my work in one way or another.


I want to express my warm appreciation for wonderful and amazing M. Chatterji for all her help with various practical and organizational issues.  


During my visit at CRG, I have gathered a lot of material for my research on social movements, gender and development. I have presented two research papers, one at the Cultural Transformations: Development Initiatives and Social Movements Conference organized by the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society (IACSS) at the BRAC University in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 17–18 December 2011, and another one at the CRG research seminar on 15 March 2012.


From Kolkata, I will now continue my trip to Kathmandu where I will be a Visiting Research Scholar at the Nepal Institute of Peace (NIP) for the next three months, until the end of June 2012. While continuing my research in Nepal, I hope to keep in close contact with people at CRG and help to establish more intimate collaboration between the University of Lapland and CRG in future.

Year 2009-2010

Fatima Azmiya Badurdeen
of short-term writing fellowships under the Winter Course programme 2010.  She is a M. A in Development Studies and Public Policy at the Open University of Sri Lanka. At present she works as a consultant, independent evaluator/trainer for conflict transformation and peace-building projects in Sri Lanka.

Her Visiting Report

Being one of the participants of Eighth Winter Course Azmiya successfully utilised the opportunity to finish her research on The Conditions for Sustainable Return: The Case of Sri Lanka in the Post-conflict Context: A Study from the District of Trincomalee after completion of the Kolkata workshop. Against the backdrop of Sri Lanka government’s plan to provide “durable solution” for the IDPs in post war situation Azmiya in her study focused on the need for the sustainability of returnees. Her research paper was divided into four major sections: i) Geography and historic context of Trncomalee District ii) Theoretical underpinning and the methodology iii) Analysis of the study and iv) conclusion and recommendation. 

Fathima Azmiya Badurdeen in her study entitled “Conflict, Displacement and the Conditions for Sustainable Return: A Study from the District of Trincomalee, Sri Lanka” did a thorough local-level study to understand the larger ramifications of the problem of IDPs and finding durable solutions for them. Trincomalee was chosen because most of the returnees settled here in 2007. And her argument was based on this choice. The mere administrative act of hastily resettling displaced people often doesn’t mark a return to stable life. It needs a more sensitive overhaul of property relations, infrastructure, education and the condition of political participation. Only then it can be called sustainable return, Badurdeen argued.

Year 2009-2010

Juha Rudanko
Freelance journalist from Finland was awarded with the short-term writing fellowships under the Winter Course programme 2010. 

His Visiting Report  

In his study on What is the Finnish immigration debate really about? aimed to sketch some of the central challenges for Finland, as it faces both rising numbers of immigrants and a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment. He intended to examine the anti-immigrant discourse that is gaining popularity in Finland through examining blog posts and discussion forum post as well as the official response to the discourse by government ministers. He highlighted the shift in the political spectrum from moderately pro-immigration to seeing immigrants as a serious problem, and the 'mainstreaming' of anti-immigrant discourse.  

At the very outset Rudanko said that this Christmas, Finnish newspapers have been decrying the removal of references to Christianity in Christmas celebrations in some schools. In the name of not offending anyone, schools have decided to remove traditional Christian Christmas songs from their Christmas events. Government ministers have been upset by this, and have emphasized that singing Christmas hymns in schools is not a form of propagating Christianity to non-Christian students, but part of the Finnish tradition. 

This incident, relatively trivial in itself, is indicative of the larger debate on multiculturalism and immigration being waged in Finland today. Historically, Finland has taken very few immigrants, and has been a fairly homogenous country, with numerically small but well-integrated minorities comprised of Swedish-speakers and Russian-Orthodox Christians.  In recent years, the picture has changed significantly. Finland still admits relatively few immigrants and refugees, but the numbers have risen, and the scene in cities like Helsinki and Tampere is no longer so uniformly white and Christian. This raises a number of challenges for both Finnish identity, and the relationship of that identity with the state, and for the Finnish welfare state. 

The rise in the number of immigrants and refugees has led to the inevitable backlash, the formation of anti-immigrant parties. This is typical over much of Western Europe. From the British National Party to the Sweden Democrats, recently elected to Parliament in Finland's Western neighbour, far-right parties have been gaining popularity. In Finland, the True Finns party is more moderate than many of its European counterparts, but it has been able to raise the issue of immigration to the national spotlight. 

In innumerable blogs and newspaper articles, the opponents of immigration publish warnings that what has happened in Western Europe, will happen in Finland as well, if immigration goes uncheked. The favourite examples are the unrest in the immigrant-dominated suburbs of Paris, and closer to home, the problems in Swedish suburbs with large Middle-Eastern and North African population. As elsewhere in Europe, Muslims are particularly demonized. Perhaps the most-demonized group in all of Finland are the Somalis, many of whom have come to Finland fleeing conflict at home. Somalis are routinely linked to crime and violence. Whenever there is crime, especially violent crime, committed by foreigners, the most avid anti-immigration advocates call for all foreigners who commit a crime to be expelled. It remains to be seen what effect the botched terrorist attack in Stockholm will have in Sweden and Finland.  

He opined that it is a distinct possibility that the next Parliamentary elections next spring will be fought largely over immigration. The True Finn Party, the spearhead of the anti-immigrant movement, has been gaining on the traditional parties in polls, and they might well be a power-broker in the formation of the next government. Their rise has led to more traditional and moderate parties to toughen their stances on immigration. The Social Democratic Party, for instance, has emphasized that immigrants either have to integrate into the Finnish way of life, or leave.  

All the major parties decry racism, but there is a growing discourse against anti-racism. It is very typical in online discussion forums and blogs to claim that the the attempt to avoid racism can justify anything, or even that it is the native, white and Christian population which is facing discrimination. The discussion is deadlocked – those favouring liberal immigration policies accuse the other side of racism, and the opponents of immigration say that they are not racist, just realistic, and that an increase in the number of immigrants will have seriously detrimental effects on the country.

Year 2008-2009

Alina Pathan
BBA, M.Sc. Undergraduate Alina Pathan is a development studies student from the University of Helsinki and an environmental consultant at Gaia Consulting Ltd.

Her Visiting Report

My Research Fellowship was part of the Indo-Finnish exchange segment in the Sixth Winter Course on Forced Migration. I would like to thank Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (CRG) and the Finnish Government for enabling me an opportunity to gather information for my Master Thesis in Kolkata. I would like to thank Dr Ranabir Samaddar for providing me some good contacts, Mrs. Chatterji for arranging my flights and accommodation, Ishita and Geetisha for their good company, Samaresh for helping me with IT and library issues and my friend and CRG alumni Ksenia for providing me with the relevant information before my visit.

During my visit in Kolkata, I did research for my master thesis on impacts of climate change to human displacement in India. My first week consisted mainly of literature review and writing and the second week of conducting interviews. At the end of the research fellowship, I gave a presentation at CRG about information I had gathered during my stay and common themes which arose in the interviews I conducted.

I interviewed altogether 11 people from seven organisations. I interviewed Saswati Sen and Subhro Sen from WWF India, Bodhisattva Gupta and Sonali Bhattacharya from Greenpeace India, Dr. Abhijit Mitra and Dr. Kakoli Banerjee from the University of Calcutta (Marine Science), Prof. Sugata Hazra (Oceanographic studies) and Prof. Joyashree Roy (Economics) from Jadavpur University, Prof. Kalyan Rudra from the West Bengal Pollution Control Board, Mr. Debal Ray from the Government of West Bengal and Mr. Subir Bhaumik from BBC World Service.

Climate change will indeed be a severe question for India in the future. Poor people on coastal regions will above all be the ones suffering the most. Land and housing will be a problem in the future but the main problem will be finding a livelihood in changing circumstances. Extreme weather events, rising sea level, among others, will diminish agricultural potentials and threaten livelihoods. Thus, especially farmers and fishermen will face severe challenges. Poorest people will also have the least means to migrate and will keep trying to cope with climate change impacts in their habitat areas. According to the interviews, actions from different actors are needed. Climate change is too big of an issue to be placed only in the government’s hands. Grassroots level as well as NGOs and corporate and governmental actions are needed to tackle some of the worst climate impacts in India. Interviewees emphasized especially the vulnerable situation of the Sundarbans, where some islands have already submerged and people have had to migrate to nearby islands.

In Finland my multitasking between studies and work will continue. I will return to my hectic work of never ending deadlines and projects and start my master thesis to which my research fellow in Kolkata gave a good start and laid out many important questions to continue working on. Also professionally-wise the interviews I conducted in Kolkata touched many subjects I have worked on such as climate change, water and other natural resources, and therefore deepened my knowledge on these topics.

Year 2007-2008

Chathuri Jayasooriya,
Programme Officer – Adv ocacy, Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies, Colombo , Sri Lanka

Her Visiting Report  

I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (MCRG) for offering me an opportunity to work as an intern with the organization. It was indeed an honour and a privilege to have had the opportunity to work under the guidance of Dr. Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury and associate with such passionate intellectuals, academics and activists who inspired me not only with the wealth of knowledge and experience that they possess (and were never hesitant in sharing) but also with the devotion and fervor that they invested in their intellectual explorations and academic activism. The close ties they have with Sri Lanka and the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA), the organization that I represent, created an immediate bond and rendered my stay, though brief, more pleasurable. I found great stimulation in the limited but insightful conversations I had with Dr. Sabyasachi and found his extensive knowledge and perceptions on Sri Lanka and his interpretations of the socio-political dynamics of the country captivating and thought provoking.

My work as an intern comprised mainly of the compilation of a paper on internal displacement in Sri Lanka which critiqued the right of the internally displaced to return home and the issues surrounding it, based on the recent return movements which took place in Batticaloa, in the east region of Sri Lanka. This was followed by a presentation of the paper at the CRG premises, which was commented upon by those present, especially by Dr. Paula Banerjee, whose critiques and suggestions inspired me to add a novel perspective to my analysis.  

As someone involved in advocacy in the field of humanitarian work, I found the internship extremely rewarding, both intellectually and professionally. In our workaday lives we rarely get the opportunity to pause and reflect upon the work that we engage in and its impact on the larger society, the micro effect on the macrocosm. The internship, and specially the process of drafting my paper on ‘The Right to Return’, gave me the time and space to reflect, and identify some of the gaps and traps in humanitarian processes, advocacy endeavours and ‘good governance’, which Dr. Paula perceived to be a solid basis to advocate for policy changes with regards to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and their return home, and in finding durable solutions for ending displacement. It was also useful in understanding the cultural implications in policy formulation as well as application, and the scope and potential for improvement. There are certain aspects of a particular issue that one is able to identify only with exposure to different contexts, and I realized that it’s extremely important for those playing an active role in the field of development to have exposure to ‘differences’, for it nurtures understanding, it enriches one’s consciousness, which capacitates and motivates the individual, and thereby the community, to strive towards peaceful co-existence. To advocate, one needs substantial understanding of different contexts, and the lengthy conversations, comparisons and critiques I had with my colleagues at CRG, Sanam and Ishita, on diverse aspects of social life in India and Sri Lanka, were illuminating and contributed towards broadening the sphere of my perceptions. It was also instrumental in making me realize many of my professional limitations as well as the scope for improvement.  

There was also great intellectual stimulation especially during a day long workshop  on ‘Social Justice and Law in India’ which I was privileged to attend, where the articulation and the application of ‘social justice’ was extensively debated. The exposure to the zealous deliberations of renowned intellectuals and experts in the field was a unique experience and motivated me to contemplate on a variety of issues and concepts ranging from ‘the Anti-Citizen’ to ‘transitional justice’. This intellectual stimulation and the exchange and exploration of ideas, I realized, are extremely important in the field of development, specially in advocacy. For in Sri Lanka, as elsewhere, there is a considerable gulf between theory and practice. Concepts, theories and ideas are articulated at a different level, yet rarely step down from their pedestal to reach the ground, whereas the implementation of development projects and proactive advocacy takes place at another level. It’s rarely that one finds equilibrium, an interesting fusion. However, reflections upon the discussions made me realize that advocacy efforts could be strengthened to a great extent and rendered more meaningful if theory, philosophy and practice could somehow be merged, and the individual given exposure to a holistic experience.  

Back in Sri Lanka, the exposure and the experience gained at CRG has become invaluable when engaging in advocacy efforts, specially in relation to internal displacement. Not only has it developed my sensitivities and understanding of the socio-political complexities and the host of issues associated with the prolonged plight of the internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka but has also enhanced my capacity in dealing with these issues while giving me a clearer understanding of the method of advocacy that is required to redress the situation, which, in my personal capacity I attempt to pursue to the greatest extent possible.  

The experience in its totality was extremely rewarding and enriching, and I’m much indebted to CRG for this exceptional experience. It was a great pleasure working with the CRG team and their gracious hospitality will always be remembered with earnest appreciation. I hope for future collaborations with the organization and to sustain the close bonds that were formed with my colleagues there.

Year 2007-2008

Tiina Kanninen
Tiina Kanninen is currently working on her Master’s Thesis Titled as “Refugees, Camps and Practices of Humanitarianism: Liminal Subjects in Spaces of Exception, or Human Experiences of the Political” at University of Tampere.  She is a student of International Relations at the University of Tampere. 

Her Visiting Report

First, I would like to thank the Calcutta Research Group and all the people there for making the two week long internship program possible for me in the first place: Professor Ranabir Samaddar for providing me with some useful contacts and phone numbers; my friends Sanam Roohi and Ishita Dey for further guiding me around the city during their office hours and beyond; Mrs Chatterji for fixing my flights (and yet trying to reschedule them) as well as the rest of the staff at the office, who took care of me in the most hospitable way during my stay. 

The internship consisted of helping out in the compilation of the Winter Course evaluation report at the office and conducting a brief study on the broad variety of NGO action taking place in the city of Kolkata.  

As for the independent research, my original plan was to focus on one or two aid or human rights organisations more thoroughly during the two weeks’ visit, in order to do a more participatory ethnographic study on the human encounters in the practice of care. My forthcoming Master’s thesis touches the topic very closely and hence the interest in such a research question. For various reasons this plan could not be realised, however. Instead, with the help of the many contacts I received at the office, I got a chance to go and meet a range of NGO representatives working with issues such as human rights, disaster relief, health care, poverty reduction, education and children’s needs.  

The organisations included Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR); the Calcutta Samaritans; Indian Red Cross Society’s West Bengal State Branch; Child in Need Institute (CINI) and Howrah Pilot Project – school in the former jute workers slum. Some organisations I only visited once, while often for long discussions with their representatives, while others I had a chance to visit on two or more days.  

Although being a plan B, this small research project on the vast range of NGO work in Kolkata turned out to be an interesting and eye-opening experience in many respects. Not only was I perplexed by the sheer number of NGOs operating in Kolkata, but also impressed with their level of innovation and specialisation. Although I only visited few organisations only - representing a tip of the ice-berg if even that in the NGO activities available in the city – the visits evoked myriad observations and further questions regarding the politics of care and responsibility.  

Also, the mere exercise of getting around the city – my field – spiced up my research adventure considerably. Somehow, the exhilarating experience of successfully using the Kolkata public transport on my own, or searching and finding addresses and buildings in different parts of the immense city brought the ever-present questions of space and locality into a more concrete level. And of course, the people I met during my visits are likely to be useful contacts also in the future and I am very grateful for them also for sharing with me their time and interesting insights. 

I am writing this report back in Finland, in the room where I work at the university. The daily routines of balancing between my office job and completing the Master’s thesis have taken over now, a month after my return. Thanks to the travel, the people I met and the things I saw, however, the routines and writing look slightly different now. The internship as well as the Winter Course were deep learning experiences, not only about issues of forced migration and politics of care, but also about myself and my ways of being and seeing. I am very grateful to CRG for providing me with this opportunity to learn and truly hope us to collaborate also in the future.

Year 2006-2007

Eeva Puumala,
Ph.D. Candidate, Tampere Peace Research Institute, University of Tampere

Her Visiting Report

First of all, I would like to thank the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (CRG) for accepting me as a short-term junior research fellow in the organization. My tasks involved helping the preparation of the report of the Fourth Winter Course on Forced Migration, but mainly concentrating on increasing my understanding of migration issues and movements, especially in the city of Kolkata. Meeting, working and discussing with academics who were activists also, was of great use to my own research on migration issues. I was guided by Prof. Ranabir Samaddar and Dr. Paula Banerjee during my internship. Prof. Samaddar's excellent knowledge of the city, not to mention philosophy, theory, and ethics, greatly enhanced my understanding and offered me a chance to gain valuable information and understanding. Also, Dr. Banerjee's interest in the gender dimensions of migration and her vast experience in empirical knowledge of the issues of forced migration, and in field work will help me a long way in my own future research.

The opportunity to be part of the research group enabled me to establish valuable contacts with various researchers, and be familiar with relevant literature, which will be of great help to me in the future. I was particularly impressed with the CRG library, it combined with the references and articles that Prof. Samaddar kindly provided me with, and the bibliographic list I gained will contribute to my work for many years to come. Although the internship did not directly address my Ph.D. studies, it offered - especially when combined with the knowledge gained from participation in the Fourth Winter Course on Forced Migration - such insight into the theme that would have not been possible to achieve otherwise.

As mentioned above, my tasks were two-fold. The preparation of the report on the Fourth Winter Course involved writing a short chapter on participants' evaluations. Mostly, however, my internship was dedicated to exploring and thus trying to understand the "city of migrants". I was able, with the assistance of Prof. Samaddar, Dr. Ramaswamy and Prof. Siddiqui, to discuss the dimensions of migration in Kolkata, and go to the right places to meet migrant workers. The places that I thus visited included Dakshineswar, Alam Bazar, Kasipur Road, Narkeldanga Main Road, Tangra, Howrah, Garden Reach Road and Barabazar. During these "field days" I was able to see the dailyness of life in railway workshop areas, jute mill areas, "Chinatown", port and dock areas. The variety of these regions was great, and I am quite sure that I gained from visiting and meeting these workers and dwellers not only professionally, but also personally.

After my return to Finland, my Ph.D. research continues, but now it is guided with the experience with CRG, and the activists and academics that form the organization. CRG was a wonderful host to me during my visit, hospitable to the extent that I would have never expected. I truly hope that the contacts established would not end but continue, and that future collaboration and association with the Group would be possible.

Madhuresh Kumar       Home