So what? Who cares?


When we think about what research looks like, we often imagine a researcher with a long list of questions. The research subject says little beyond answering these questions, keeping the focus of the conversation on what has already been defined as relevant. The researcher alone conducts a long and (presumably) complex analysis, emerging from this process with findings about those s/he researched. These findings are communicated in articles that structure real life according to a predefined template of what life looks like. The writing is laden with jargon, written by academics for academics, of whom, very few will ever read the paper, as publishing companies have restricted access to academic journals through exorbitant paywalls.

If many scholars have a problem with such inherent inequalities in academia (and there are many actually doing something about it such as this researcher establishing Sci-Hub, a 'pirate bay' of science that provides access to millions of scientific articles free of charge), we can only imagine how those who our research applies to must experience this multifaceted process of exclusion.

For my own work as part of the ArtsEqual project, I feel like researching equality is not enough. I must do it. I am constantly challenged by things I read[1], and people I meet, to practice what I preach and ground my thoughts in the everyday, and make it matter.   

On the 8th and 9th February I met the other researchers with ArtsEqual and members of the international advisory board at the Sibelius Academy's premises at Kallio-Kuninkala for our first intensive Research Sprint. I was one of a group of researchers invited to give a five minute presentation of my research plan, titled: Sámi Stories of (In)Equality and visions for a socially just basic arts education in Finland.

Two small printed strips of paper hover in my line of sight, just beyond my computer screen. They ask me two important questions: 'So what?' 'Who cares?' In this work, these questions also challenge me to take equality seriously - and do equality from the inside out.

By grounding this study in storied experiences of equality, I interrogate assumptions of what research is, or what it does, and also the basic assumptions of what equality is, for who, and when.

I have not started interviewing people as part of this study yet, and I expect that these research plans will change as I continue to work together with the Sámi researchers, educators and artists that I meet. I hope that through these changes, these plans, and my research as a whole will constantly work towards being more accurate, more responsible, more relevant, more ethical. More equal. My work with ArtsEqual is not about Sámi communities in Finland. It is for them.

Further reading:

Laes, T. & Kallio, A.A. (2016). A beautiful cacophony: A call for ruptures to our 'democratic' music education. Finnish Journal of Music Education, 18(2), pp. 80-83 [available open access in 2017].

Kallio, A.A. (2015). Navigating (un)popular music in the classroom: Censure and censorship in an inclusive, democratic music education. Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki. Studia Musica 65.  *

Text: Alexis Kallio

Alexis Kallio and Tuulikki Laes' blogwriting: ArtsEqual - A Hopeless Cause? Five Rancièrian Anti-Affirmations

[1] Today this is Gert Biesta's (2013) The Beautiful Risk of Education