HELSUS Global South Encounters

helsus global south encounters

The HELSUS Global South Encounters is a series of seminars and small talks intended to sharpen critical research in sustainability science. Recognizing the complexities and peculiarities of the Global South, these seminars engage mainstream sustainability science in order to transcend it, among others by decolonizing nature, economy, society and methodologies. The seminars aim to open up space to get prior feedback on a forthcoming talk, an ongoing dissertation, a draft article, and a variety of research from students at all levels, academics, and members of the general public. Encounters also welcome discussions on giving conference papers and celebrate/publicize published papers.

Book Discussion: Coal and Energy in Emalahleni, South Africa: Considering a Just transition 

When? Wednesday 15th December at 12.00-13.00

Where? Recording available on Unitube.


In this talk, Professor Marais will discuss his latest edited book, entitled Coal and Energy in Emalahleni, South Africa: Considering a Just Transition (Edinburgh University Press, 2021) which investigates the complexity that a transition will bring to a place that has historically depended on coal.

Speaker bio

Lochner Marais

Dr. Lochner Marais is Professor of Development Studies at the Centre for Development Support at the University of the Free State (UFS). His research interests include housing policy, small cities in towns (mining and renewable towns and cities) and public health focusing on children. In addition to concentrating on each of these themes separately, he focuses on integrating them. Marais has authored, co-authored and compiled more than 200 research reports, including more than 150 refereed articles in peer-reviewed journals or books. He has also co-edited seven books. Over the past ten years, he has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on several international research grants. He has a specific passion for creating and managing interdisciplinary projects.

Chair of Event and Con­tact for En­quir­ies

Franklin Obeng-Odoom is Associate Professor of Sustainability Science with Global Development Studies and the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, both at the University of Helsinki in Finland.  He can be contacted via franklin.obeng-odoom@helsinki.fi.

Landscape of Displacement: Mega-Plantations in Southeast Asia

When? Wed 8.12.2021 at 13.00-14.00, Helsinki (check the time zone), via Zoom

Where? Recording available on Unitube


Professor Noboru Ishikawa, Kyoto University, Japan. 


Dr. Helena Binti Muhamad Varkkey, University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Chair of the Event and Con­tact for En­quir­ies

Professor Maria Brockhaus


One significant feature of the Anthropocene, the geological epoch under discussion, is the repeated transportation of plants from different locations and their subsequent successful cultivation in other locations in the equatorial zone. After 1492, signaling the start of the so-called Columbian Exchange, plant commodities – such as rubber, sugarcane, coffee, and banana harvested and processed by the hands of enslaved and indentured labor – brought enormous fortunes to a global plantocracy and capitalism more generally. Focusing on maritime Southeast Asia as a case in point, I explore the displacement of plants and peoples of the Global South, both massively relocated, uprooted, and mobilized for mega-production systems. Special attention is given to key dimensions of oil palm plantation in Malaysian Borneo such as the scale of expansion, multifaceted modes of production, forced juxtaposition of landscapes, habitat fragmentation, socio-economic dispossession, environmental despoliation, and emerging urban-rural continuum.


Noboru Ishikawa (Ph.D. in Anthropology, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York) is a professor of anthropology at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University. He has conducted fieldwork in Sarawak (Malaysia) and West Kalimantan (Indonesia) over the past three decades, exploring issues such as the construction of national space in the borderland, highland–lowland relations, the stateless in Southeast Asian histories, plantation system, commodification of natural resources, and relations between nature and non-nature in the Anthropocene. 

His publications include: Anthropogenic Tropical Forests: Human-Nature Interfaces on the Plantation Frontier (2020 Springer), Between Frontiers: Nation and Identity in a Southeast Asian Borderland (2010 NUS Press; 2010 Ohio University Press; 2010 NIAS Press), Transborder Governance of Forests, Rivers and Seas (2010 Routledge), Flows and Movements in Southeast Asia: New Approaches to Transnationalism (2011 Kyoto University Press), and Dislocating Nation-States: Globalization in Asia and Africa (2005 Kyoto University Press; Trans Pacific Press 2005). 

Pluriverse, Education and Territorial Justice


When? Thu 28.10.2021 at 16:15-17:15, Helsinki (check the time zone), via Zoom

Where? Recording available on Unitube


The comprehensive development project manifested in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) proposes an overall engagement on “quality education for all” and supports social justice by promoting equal access to education for the most deprived groups. However, the SDG4 on quality education does not acknowledge diversity in ways of being (ontologies) and knowing (epistemologies) around the world and the need to support alternative ways to learn and produce knowledge. The role of education to achieve social and environmental justice is not new. At the institutional and international level, the debate around education has become central in the post-2015 development agenda, and within the territorial turn, education engenders and sustains projects with the potential to resist structural socio-environmental injustices and move toward more regenerative futures.

In this seminar, the panelists discuss how territorial justice and education offer paths toward the pluriverse by touching upon knowledge, politics and pedagogical visions, ecocultural identities, humilocene, socio-environmental consciousness, place-based education and community experiential calendars. The seminar connects with the Academy of Finland’s DEVELOP programme project “Goal 4+: Including Eco-cultural Pluralism in Quality Education in Ecuadorian Amazonia“.


Paola Minoia

Paola Minoia is a Senior Lecturer in Global Development Studies at the University of Helsinki, and an Associate Professor in Political and Economic Geography at the University of Turin. Her research interests intersect the fields of political ecology and development studies with a focus on territoriality, state- and minoritized groups relations, socio-environmental justice, eco-cultural knowledges and the pluriverse. She is the Principal Investigator in the project Ecocultural pluralism in the Ecuadorian Amazonia (funded by the Academy of Finland 2018-2022) and a WG leader in the EU/COST Network Decolonising Development: Research, Teaching and Practice (2020-2024).

José Castro-Sotomayor

José Castro-Sotomayor PhD. is an Assistant Professor at California State University Channel Islands, U.S.A. He investigates ecocultural modes of human and more-than-human communication and how they influence our relationships with the Earth’s vitality. His work focuses on transversal forms of communication, agency, and dissent that inform participatory models for environmental peacebuilding and decision and policymaking. He is co-editor of The Routledge Handbook of Ecocultural Identity (2020), a transdisciplinary volume seeking to foster a radical epistemology by investigating ways ecocultural identities are being, and can be, thought, felt, performed, and experienced within wider sociopolitical structures in ways relevant to regenerative Earth futures. Originally from Ecuador, he worked as an independent consultant for environmental NGOs in Ecuador and Colombia.

Tuija Veintie

Tuija Veintie is a postdoctoral researcher in Global Development Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland. Her current research focuses on the integration of ecological and Indigenous knowledge in intercultural bilingual upper secondary education in Ecuador. Her study is part of a research project ‘Goal 4+: Including Eco-cultural Pluralism in Quality Education in Ecuadorian Amazonia’. Veintie has a multidisciplinary background in education, anthropology, and Latin American studies. She received her PhD degree in Educational Sciences from the University of Helsinki in 2018. Her research interests include social justice and diversity issues, epistemic power hierarchies, intercultural and Indigenous education as well as minority and Indigenous peoples’ rights.

Johanna Hohenthal

Johanna Hohenthal is a postdoctoral researcher in Global Development Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki. She has worked in a research project ‘Goal 4+: Including Eco-cultural Pluralism in Quality Education in Ecuadorian Amazonia’ that studies intercultural bilingual education and eco-cultural knowledges of the Amazonian Indigenous groups. Her interests focus on the accessibility of intercultural bilingual education and its relation to Indigenous territoriality and place-based learning as well as on participatory research methods. She received a PhD degree in Geography in 2018. Her doctoral research focused on water resource governance and local ecological knowledge in the Taita Hills, Kenya.

Chair of Event and Contact for Enquiries

Chaitawat Boonjubun is a postdoctoral researcher at Global Development Studies, the Faculty of Social Sciences, the University of Helsinki, Finland. His research interests focus on understanding the social, political, economic, and cultural determinants of sustainable urban land use, the discourses and practices of urban regeneration, the politics of public lands, urban informality, religious land, and inequalities in cities. He can be contacted via chaitawat.boonjubun@helsinki.fi.  

Global Green New Deal: The Case of China

When? 30.6.2021 at 16:15 Helsinki (check the time zone)

See the record in Unitube

The Global Green New Deal (Global GND) literature has largely viewed finance and technology transfers as the most effective solution to address the imbalance between the Global North and Global South.Yet the internal socioeconomic structures within countries in the Global Southand the likely barriers they could createfor the transition towards a green economy are largely under-analyzed. This presentation highlights that,without addressing the structural issues such as informalitythat are prevalent in the Global South, the potential benefits of a Global GND are less likely to be fully realizedon a global scale. The discussion will mainly draw on the example of China, the country that assumes the seemingly contradictory role of the largest investor of renewable energy and the largest carbon emitter at the same time. Finally, the presentation callsfor a more organic integration of a Global South perspective in the studies of a Global GND.

Speaker bio

Ying Chen

Ying Chen  is Assistant Professor of Economics at the New School and holds a Ph.D. in Economics from University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her work mainly explores the contradictions within capitalism and how they unfold across time and space. Topics she has studied include economic development, labor, and climate change, with a special focus on the global south. She has published in journals including Environment and Development Economics, Economics and Labor Relations Review, Journal of Labor and Society, Review of Radical Political Economics, and the International Review of Applied Economics. 


Chair of Event and Contact for Enquiries

Franklin Obeng-Odoom is Associate Professor of Sustainability Science with Global Development Studies and the  Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, both at the University of Helsinki in Finland.  He can be contacted via franklin.obeng-odoom@helsinki.fi

Alternative Models of Development: Becoming the Change We want to see in the world

When? 22.4.2021 at 13:00 Helsinki (check the time zone)

Recording available on Unitube.

Slide presentation

Other lectures of Dr. Asad Zaman: Spirituality and Development: part 2, development, Spirituality and Develpment

A materialistic approach to life locates problems in external reality, and attempts to find technological, political, or economic solutions. This represents a misdiagnosis which makes cures impossible to find. The anthropocene was brought about by the spiritual stunting now widespread across the globe due to our common materialistic education. Solutions lie in re-educating ourselves, to enable ourselves, and all of humanity, to achieve the potential for excellence which lies within our souls.

Speaker bio

Picture of Dr. Asad Zaman

Dr. Asad Zaman is currently serving as external advisor on the Monetary Policy Committee of the State Bank of Pakistan, and as Director of Social Sciences on the Al-Nafi online educational platform.  He received his BS Math from MIT in 1974, MS Stat, and Ph.D. Econ from Stanford Univ in 1976 and 1978 respectively. He has taught at Economics Departments of highly ranked international universities like Columbia, U. Penn., Cal. Tech.  and Johns Hopkins as well as Bilkent University, Ankara and Lahore University of Management Sciences. His econometrics textbook Statistical Foundations of Econometric Techniques is widely used as a reference in graduate econometrics courses, internationally. He is managing editor of International Econometric Reviews and Pakistan Development Review.  He has more than 100 publications, in top ranked journals like Annals of Statistics,  Journal of Econometrics, Econometric Theory, and Journal of Labor Economics. He has published widely in Islamic Economics, and is a leading authority in the field.  

Chair of Event and Contact for Enquiries

Chair Franklin Obeng-Odoom is Associate Professor of Sustainability Science with Global Development Studies and the  Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, both at the University of Helsinki in Finland.  He can be contacted via franklin.obeng-odoom@helsinki.fi

When? 24.3.2021, 3pm (Helsinki, Finland)/9am (New York, USA)

Recording of the seminar visible here.

Australian Wildfires: Climate Emergency signals need to Decolonise

The Australian wildfires have been particularly severe but as with many things that are seen to be a part of Australian experience, the problem is transnational. And it will be increasingly a world-wide problem with the impacts of climate change. While Australia is a dry continent the world is becoming more dry over time. Climate change is now inexorably affecting the whole of the planet and the raging wildfires threaten to engulf areas of the world that have never experienced them before. Australian Aboriginal practices of burning country are important for preventing “hot” out of control wildfires and they also promise to restore the land to its former level of moisture retention. Controlled fire as a means of land management in Australia is mirrored in other Indigenous land management practices in the Americas, Africa and in Asia.

In this session Victoria Grieve-Williams outlines the extent of the crisis in Australia and the world that has come about through settler colonials overriding the land management practices of Indigenous peoples. she references the work of George Main who writes of the need to regenerate Aboriginal Australia’s landscapes through understanding the land management practices of the original people, her work on the impact of the plough on land degradation, as well as that of the journalist Nance Haxton who has recently interviewed Aboriginal people about the use of fire in land management.

The extent of this crisis is such that every region of the Earth needs to be thinking deeply and planning for the future – how to prevent wildfires from destroying the planet and humanity.

Speaker Bio 

Image of the presenter

Professor Victoria Grieve-Williams is Warraimaay - an Aboriginal Australian – and historian who has published on Aboriginal family history, slavery, activism and the history wars in Australia. She works in interdisciplinary ways to progress the development of Indigenous knowledges, positioning Aboriginal spirituality /philosophy as the baseline for this development, with a focus on establishing the values and ethics inherent in what it means to be human in a changing world. In this connection she is highly engaged with the impacts of climate change on the natural world and the place of humans in it as we move further into the Anthropocene.

She has published critiques of public policy for Aboriginal people, identifying homo sacer in Aboriginal camps and amongst displaced Aboriginal people and has thus argued for Aboriginal Sovereignty in a newly constituted Republic. Victoria is in the process of establishing a Healing Histories Foundation in which she will apply the Aboriginal principles of healing the wounds of history through "truth telling" from research and reuniting families separated by the vagaries of war.

Chair of Event and Contact for Enquiries

Franklin Obeng-Odoom is Associate Professor of Sustainability Science with Global Development Studies and the  Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, both at the University of Helsinki in Finland.  He can be contacted via franklin.obeng-odoom@helsinki.fi

Nature in the City

When? 24th of February.

Recording of the seminar visible here.


In a rapidly urbanizing India, what is the future of nature conservation? How does the march of development impact the conflict between nature and people in India’s cities? Exploring these questions, Harini Nagendra will briefly examine the past, present, and future of nature in Bengaluru, one of India’s largest and fastest growing cities.

Once known as the Garden City of India, Bengaluru’s tree-lined avenues, historic parks, and expansive water bodies have witnessed immense degradation and destruction in recent years, but have also shown remarkable tenacity for survival. This talk highlights Bengaluru’s journey from the early settlements in the 6th century CE to the 21st century city, and demonstrates how nature has looked and behaved, and has been perceived in Bengaluru’s home gardens, slums, streets, parks, sacred spaces, and lakes. An analysis of the changing role and state of nature in the midst of urban sprawl, and integrating research with stories of people and places, I  present, in this talk, an overview of my book with the same title, listed by the science journal Nature as one of the five best science picks of the week in its issue of July 28 2016. This is a talk about a city where nature thrives and strives.


Harini Nagendra's picture

Harini Nagendra is Professor of Sustainability at Azim Premji University. An ecologist, she uses methods from the natural and social sciences - satellite remote sensing, biodiversity studies, archival research, GIS, institutional analysis, and community interviews, to examine the sustainability of forests and cities in the global South. She completed her PhD from the Centre for Ecological Sciences in the Indian Institute of Science in 1998. Since then, she has conducted research and taught at multiple institutions, and was most recently a Hubert H Humphrey Distinguished Visiting Professor at Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minnesota in 2013. She is a recipient of numerous awards for her research, including a 2017 Web of Science 2017 India Research Excellence Award as the most cited Indian researcher in the category of Interdisciplinary Research; a 2013 Elinor Ostrom Senior Scholar award for her research and practice on issues of the urban commons, and a 2009 Cozzarelli Prize from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (with Elinor Ostrom).

Chair of Event and Contact for Enquiries

Franklin Obeng-Odoom is Associate Professor of Sustainability Science with Global Development Studies and the  Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, both at the University of Helsinki in Finland.  He can be contacted via franklin.obeng-odoom@helsinki.fi

Just Sustainabilites in Policy, Planning and Practice

When? 27th of January, at 4 to 5 p.m. (Finnish time zone, UTC +2, Eastern time zone UTC -5)

Recording of the seminar visible here.


In his talk, Julian will outline the concept of just sustainabilities as a response to the ‘equity deficit’ of much sustainability thinking and practice. He will explore his contention that who can belong in our cities will ultimately determine what our cities can become. He will illustrate his ideas with examples from urban planning and design, urban agriculture and food justice, and the concept of sharing cities. 

Julian Agyeman


Julian Agyeman Ph.D. FRSA FRGS is a Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University. He is the originator of the increasingly influential concept of just sustainabilities, the intentional integration of social justice and environmental sustainability. He centers his research on critical explorations of the complex and embedded relations between humans and the urban environment, whether mediated by governments or social movement organizations, and their effects on public policy and planning processes and outcomes, particularly in relation to notions of justice and equity.

He believes that what our cities can become (sustainable, smart, sharing and resilient) and who is allowed to belong in them (recognition of difference, diversity, and a right to the city) are fundamentally and inextricably interlinked. We must therefore act on both belonging and becoming, together, using just sustainabilities as the anchor, or face deepening spatial and social inequities and inequalities.
He is the author or editor of 12 books, including  Just Sustainabilities: Development in an Unequal World (MIT Press, 2003), Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class and Sustainability (MIT Press, 2011), and Sharing Cities: A Case for Truly Smart and Sustainable Cities (MIT Press, 2015), one of Nature’s Top 20 Books of 2015. In 2018, he was awarded the Athena City Accolade by KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, for his “outstanding contribution to the field of social justice and ecological sustainability, environmental policy and planning“.

Justice and Power in the context of Global Bioeconomy

Recording of the seminar visible here.

When?  25.11.2020 at 2 p.m. (GMT+2)

How to participate? Zoom 


  • Sabaheta Ramcilovic-Suominen
  • Leah Temper
  • Constance McDermott

Commentator: Juha Hiedanpää

Chairs: Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki and Franklin Obeng-Odoom


In this HELSUS Seminar we tackle the key question: How to avoid dispossession and other forms of injustices in the transitions to low-carbon and bio-based futures and how to facilitate just and socially inclusive transformations globally?

We focus particularly on the policy discourse of bioeconomy, which plays a central role in the industrialized countries’ transitionary pathways towards low-carbon futures. Despite the potential of transitions to low-carbon and bio-based futures, they may also generate externalities of profound socio-economic, political and justice implications. Such implications are usually felt in places distant from where policies are made and by more vulnerable segments of society. The existing instruments commonly put in place to meliorate negative externalities – such as ‘multi-stakeholder’ processes, social licenses to operate (SLO), Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) – are proving ineffective, or in some cases exacerbate and reproduce the existing inequalities and power struggles. Societal transition to bioeconomy and low-carbon futures need to be socially inclusive, incorporate and consider the intersectional power dynamics, and strengthen commitment to the different dimensions of environmental and social justice.

In JUST GLOBE project, we study how transitions to bioeconomy relate to, and affect the existing socio-ecological injustices and power asymmetries at different policy scales, and what kind of conflicts emerge between those who do not share same aspirations, worldviews and interests. By identifying the social and environmental injustices, risks and conflicts, we aim to identify the conditions towards socially inclusive, fair and just climate and bioeconomy policies. If these research topics interest, you please join us and consider contributing to our Special Issue on Power and Justice in Bioeconomy. The CfP is open until 31.3.2021.

Sabaheta Ramcilovic-Suominen will introduce the JUST-GLOBE project. Leah Temper will address the relevant environmental justice dimensions in the context of bioeconomy and Constance McDermott will highlight the power dynamics and inequalities in the global natural resource governance. Juha Hiedanpää will provide a commentary concerning the role and significance of different institutions in sustainability transformations.

Global South Encounters speakers

Sabaheta Ramcilovic-Suominen, Leah Temper, Constance McDermott and Juha Hiedanpää

Speakers’ bios:

Sabaheta Ramcilovic-Suominen is Academy of Finland Research Fellow in the Bioeconomy and Environment unit of the  Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). Her research focuses on the international forest policy and governance and just transitions to bioeconomy. Fuller bio: https://www.luke.fi/en/henkilosto/sabaheta-ramcilovik-suominen/

Leah Temper is an ecological economist, scholar activist and filmmaker based at McGill University, Montreal and the Autonomous University of Barcelona. She is the founder and co-director of the Global Atlas of Environmental Justice (www.ejatlas.org), Research Associate for the Leadership for the Ecozoic program and PI of the ACKnowl-EJ project (Activist-academic Co-production of Knowledge for Environmental Justice). Fuller Bio: https://theconversation.com/profiles/leah-temper-612983

Constance McDermott is a Jackson Senior Fellow and Chair of Environmental Change Institute (ECI) Ecosystems Governance Group, based at and the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford. Her research addresses the linkages among diverse local, regional and global priorities for sustainable forest management and examines how dynamics of trust and power shape environmental and social policies. Fuller bio: https://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/people/cmcdermott.html

Commentator’s Bio: Juha Hiedanpää is a research professor at the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). He teaches Global economy and environmental problems at the University of Turku and writes about the institutional and social aspects of natural resources and environmental policy and governance. Fuller bio: https://www.luke.fi/en/henkilosto/juha-hiedanpaa/

Chair of Event and Contact for Enquiries

Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki, (PhD) is an Adjunct Professor in environmental policy. She works as a Program Director of the Finnish Academy strategic research programmes “Changing Society and Active Citizenship”  and “Adaptation and Resilience for Sustainable Growth”, and as a researcher and research coordinator at Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, HELSUS. She has over ten years of experience on forest and climate policy and governance research particularly in the Global South as well as expertise in comparative policy analysis, on which she has published widely. Currently her research interests also focus on science-policy interface, SDGs, transformative policy-making and  sustainability transformations as well as innovative knowledge co-production research methods.

Franklin Obeng-Odoom is Associate Professor of Sustainability Science with Global Development Studies and the  Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, both at the University of Helsinki in Finland.  He can be contacted via franklin.obeng-odoom@helsinki.fi