Story behind the course: Meet Violeta Gutierrez and Jasmin Immonen

September 15, 2021

Meet Violeta Gutierrez (VG) and Jasmin Immonen (JI), the masterminds behind "Decolonising Sustainable Development? Introductory lessons from the Global South" course which btw has obtained the most registrations this Fall!

Jasmin Immonen
Violeta Gutierrez

What is your professional background?

JI: My background is in social anthropology, but I have worked and continue working in different fields outside academia. My research was on Peruvian education and youth, urbanism, and citizenship discourses. I have taught environmental anthropology in the UK, where I did my studies.

VG: I hold a Master of Social Sciences Degree from the University of Helsinki and a Bachelor’s Degree (Licenciatura) in Sociology from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). I’m currently putting the final touches to my PhD dissertation based on the project: Power, Conflict, and Collaboration in Community Forestry: The case of Oaxaca, Mexico (CoForMex). In my project, I brings insights from feminist and decolonial political ecology and ethnographic research to bear on community forestry and territorial forms of environmental governmentality in Mexico. Since, 2017, together with other PhD students, we organized the Research Group Environment, Society and Development in Latin America (ESDLA) at the Department of Geographical and Historical Studies at UEF. I have been an activist in grassroots organizations and collectives like Sin Fronteras I.A.P in Mexico, Maanvoima Collective and more recently with Somos La Colectiva and Armadillo in Finland.

What do you do in your free time? Hobbies/Interests?

JI: I rarely have free time, which is something I wish to change. I am thinking of starting swimming. I also like to walk with my dog and read something light.

VG: I love cats, cactus, and literary fiction. I like to bike and hike in the forest but also to go out with friends.

What inspires you?

JI: Many things inspire me. Lately, I read the book "Living Underwater" by Kati Lepistö, a model who suffered a stroke and became paralyzed. Her tips on life inspire me.

VG: Random stories of people and places.

How do you update yourself in your field/ how do you update your course?

JI: Webinars, conferences and readings keep me updated on the latest trends. I take part in the work of different (activist) collectives and have been organizing events. The networks established are great and give new ideas. For example, I am now interested in the challenges of care work in Finland through a contact who is studying something similar in Brazil. Exchanging points of views keeps me motivated.

VG: I have subscriptions to academic journals, but I also read newspapers, listen podcasts, watch movies, documentaries, and series that my friends and colleagues recommend

What kind of content do you consume?

JI: Today I have been watching videos from Sadhguru on Youtube. I am also a Russel Brand fan.

Why do you teach this course?

JI: I think the course is pertinent to today's critical questions, mainly deriving from the dissonance between the demands set by society on the one hand and the reality of multiple crises that we are experiencing on the other. The time is fertile for ways of thinking that aim to challenge our thought patterns.

VG: I teach this course because through the years that I have done my research and studied in Finnish universities, I have realized that much of the teaching and research, especially in sustainable development, still is very centered on traditional European and Anglo-American knowledge, meaning that it is often biased in understanding what is happening in the rest of the world. Little by little it has been changing, but in everyday conversations, I realize that what is called the “coloniality of knowledge” persists in how we understand work, economy, and nature (human and non-human). I believe that we need more spaces where such kind of discussion can take place.

Why should students take the course?

JI: Decolonization is a theme that has been pushed forward for a while; it's hard to ignore it anymore.

VG: I consider that education based on diversity and critical reflection are necessary for constructing alternatives and for facing the multiple overlapping crises we are living. Taking this course may support their creativity and openness to other's people worldviews.

Can you recommend podcasts, literature, movies etc., that discusses the themes of your course?

JI: Many movies inadvertently touch the topics of our course even if they are not from the Global South, especially those that criticize neoliberal restructurings and the way they monitor and evaluate humanity. An example that comes to mind is "I, Daniel Blake" by Ken Loach.

VG: Yes, we have a section in our course for that. We also want to know more about what other people recommend.

Anything else to add?

JI: I hope you enjoy the course and be kind to yourself.

Photo credits: Kelly Sikkema, 2021, on Unsplash.