Kick-off event: Singlehood Studies. December 16-17, 2019 Tampere University (Finland)

Welcome to the kick-off event on Singlehood Studies at Tampere University on December 16-17, 2019

The number of people living without a partner is growing in Finland, in Europe, and globally. However, this demographic change has not disrupted the tenacity of the couple norm, and despite the shift, there is a paucity of research on singlehood. This event brings together scholars from different fields of social sciences and humanities to discuss singlehood, in particular from the perspective of technology and well-being. It aims at sparkling academic discussion on singlehood, serving as a kick-off event to a series of future collaborations.

The event consists of three parts: 1) Public keynote talks by four distinguished scholars 2) Workshop for invited researchers who are currently conducting research on singlehood or related themes 3) A launch event of the recently established Research Network of Singlehood Studies and a related panel discussion on couple-normativity.

The keynote talks and the launch event are open to the public and participation is free of charge. All welcome!

The Keynote talks will be livestreamed:

Registration to the Launch event is recommended but not required:

(Scroll down for full abstracts and bios by the keynote speakers, as well for more info on the panelists)

Day 1: Mon 16 Dec Day 2: Tue 17 Dec
9.45-10.00 Registration

10-10.45 Opening words, introduction

10.45-11 Coffee



10.45-11 Coffee

11-13 Workshop: Session 1

Hanna-Mari Husu (University of Jyväskylä): Staying alone: Hikikomori’s withdrawal from ‘social relationships’

Eliisa Vainikka (Tampere University): ”The truth about women and other “truths” – Public pedagogy of relationships in online discussions”.

Varpu Alasuutari (University of Turku): Shadows in Friendship – Breakups, Crises and other Negative Aspects of Friendship

Kitti Suoranta (University of Eastern Finland): Journeys to (Late) Modernity: Intimacy, Agency, and Class in the
Social Networks and Biographical Narratives of Older Men Living Alone in Finland


11-13 Workshop: Session 2

Jiby Mathew Puthenparambil, Lina van Aerschot & Tiina Sihto (University of Jyväskylä): Single-living older persons and the risk of care poverty

Annukka Lahti (University of Jyväskylä): Becoming of the family relations and circle of friends after a bisexual break-up

Matias Nurminen (Tampere University) “The Big Bang of Chaotic Masculine Disruption”. A Critical Narrative Analysis of the Radical Masculinity Movement’s Counter-Narrative Strategies

Marjo Kolehmainen (Tampere University), Annukka Lahti (University of Jyväskylä) & Anu Kinnunen (Tampere University): Affective intensities of single lives: An alternative account of highs and lows of everyday life

13-14 Lunch 13-14 Lunch
14-16.30 Keynote 1 & 2 (Linna K103)

Christopher Swader: Disentangling Living Alone, Being Alone, and Feeling Alone: between Cultural Pessimism and Optimism with ‘Modernity’ at Stake

Andreas Henriksson: The communal lives of singles. How singledom reproduces and reconfigures social communities

Commentary: Marjo Kolehmainen (Tampere University)

14-16.30 Keynote 3 & 4 (Linna K103)

Rachel O’Neill: Singlehood and Seduction: Reconsidering the Category

Katrien De Graeve: The figure of the polyamorous single woman in ethical non-monogamy discourse in Belgium: reflections on an unfinished (online) ethnographic study

Commentary: Tiina Suopajärvi (Tampere University)

17 Drinks & mingle






17-18 Launch event: The Research Network of Singlehood Studies (Linna K103)

Panel on couple-normativity with Tuula Juvonen (University of Turku), Riikka Homanen (Tampere University) & Annukka Lahti (University of Jyväskylä)

Chair: Anu Kinnunen (Tampere University )

Drinks & nibbles

19 Dinner Restaurant Tampella, Kelloportinkatu 1


Assistant Professor Christopher Swader (Lund University, Sweden): Disentangling Living Alone, Being Alone, and Feeling Alone: between Cultural Pessimism and Optimism with ‘Modernity’ at Stake

Few themes are closer to the ‘heart’ of modern societies as the related concepts of individualism and individualization. On the one hand, there is some agreement about the facts of the rise of individualist values in modern societies as well as on the enhanced differentiation of individuals from one another and the radical transformation of forms of family, friendship, and romantic relations this entails. On the other hand, the normative meaning of these shifts couldn’t be more contentious. The sudden concern that journalists and policy makers in some societies show toward an ‘epidemic’ of loneliness has generated polarized reactions. Cultural optimists, such as Klinenberg, the author of Going Solo (2012), are careful to separate loneliness from cultural trends such as living alone and singlehood, while ‘cultural pessimists’ seem to claim that loneliness is a direct outcome of our greater independence and freedom, the theme of works such as the documentary The Swedish Theory of Love (2016). This talk focuses on the multi-valent empirical realities and theoretical consequences of ‘aloneness’ by analyzing the overlaps as well as the contrasts between the conditions of living alone, being alone, and feeling alone. The focus will be on making a fine-grained differentiation between types of aloneness while highlighting the moments of intervention where a limited set of policy, technology, and cultural advances may be harnessed to combat a limited set of harmful social and health outcomes.


Christopher Swader is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with Lund University. He has held previous academic appointments with the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and the University of Bremen in Germany. Overall his work engages with the connection between intimacy and normative order, and he has published on themes close to family sociology, anomie, the commodification of sex, post-socialism, moral economy, and the life course. He has written a book on value change and economic modernization, entitledThe Capitalist Personality: Face-to-Face Sociality and Economic Change in the Post-Communist World (2013). His current main research endeavor is a multi-method investigation of loneliness in cities, for which he has written an article entitled “Loneliness in Europe: Personal and Societal Individualism-Collectivism and Their Connection to Social Isolation” (2018). The project continues now with an ethnography on the relationship between everyday loneliness ‘management’ and social infrastructure.



Senior Lecturer Andreas Henriksson (Karlstad University, Sweden): The communal lives of singles. How singledom reproduces and reconfigures social communities

What is the place of singledom in social communities? While singledom is often researched as an issue of personal life and of family, it is also a relevant topic in studies of civil society and working life. My own previous research has considered singles’ activities, including internet dating and singles’ clubs, that are of course important ways in which singledom and communities intersect. However, the intersection of singledom and communities can be considered in a much wider context. From monasteries to modern day working organisations, singledom has taken on several meanings and functions. An example comes from a recent research project, where we study widespread singledom among migrating men. Are there patterns to these intersections? One theory would insist on singledom as freeing the individual from certain personal relations, but this is not the only possible interpretation. Another theory would understand singledom to free personal relations from private life and make them available to wider communities. I discuss how we could study and understand this significance of singledom for the intimacy of communities, including modern work organisations.


Andreas Henriksson is a senior lecturer of Sociology at Karlstad University. His dissertation concerned singles’ activities, while his post-doc project focused on familial brothers and masculinity. He is presently involved in a research project on transnational bachelorhood and one on suicide among men in rural Sweden.



Dr Rachel O’Neill (University of Warwick, UK): Singlehood and Seduction: Reconsidering the Category

Promising heterosexual men greater choice and control in their intimate lives, the seduction industry elaborates a distinctive system of expertise. Its central organising premise is that interactions between women and men are subject to certain underlying principles that, once understood, can be readily manipulated. While those who take up the knowledge-practices the industry makes available have a wide variety of relationship histories, they are typically single when enrolling on commercial training programmes or signing up for one-to-one coaching. And yet singlehood is not an especially remarkable category within the seduction industry, nor has it been substantively explored in academic research on this cultural formation to date. In this talk I revisit the original data underpinning my 2018 book Seduction: Men, Masculinity and Mediated Intimacy, in order to explore this discursive and analytic lacuna.

Considering what import singlehood might have in understanding the operations of the seduction industry, and elucidating what this example can tell us about contemporary constructions of the category, I consider how and for whom singlehood comes to be regarded as a social problem. I focus particularly on how singlehood among heterosexual women is framed as a problem for heterosexual men, often through recourse to reductive logics of ‘supply and demand’. Here singlehood enters the terrain of identity politics, becoming a vector around which to organise and articulate grievance, most conspicuously through the emergence of ‘incel’ (involuntary celibate) as a singlehood subcategory. I argue that attendant calls for ‘enforced monogamy’ and other forms of ‘sexual redistribution’ must be understood within a wider framework of masculinist sexual politics, of which the seduction industry is a constitutive part.


Rachel O’Neill is a Fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick, UK. Her research centres questions of gendered subjectivity and social inequality, primarily in the contemporary UK context but with an awareness of and interest in transnational circulations of culture and capital. She is the author of Seduction: Men, Masculinity and Mediated Intimacy, published in 2018 with Polity. Ongoing projects in this vein include a study of men’s engagements with and responses to #MeToo.



Associate Professor Katrien De Graeve (Ghent University, Belgium): The figure of the polyamorous single woman in ethical non-monogamy discourse in Belgium: reflections on an unfinished (online) ethnographic study

The figure of the solo-poly woman is often praised in ethical non-monogamy circles for representing the most rebellious stance against oppressive hetero-patriarchal relationship systems (as the archetypal solo-poly woman not only refuses to romantically commit to only one partner, she is also sexually explorative and refuses to lose her position of a free agent for instance in terms of housing and finances). Through the figure of the ‘solo-poly’ woman in ethical non-monogamy discourse in Belgium, I explore the political potential of relationship styles that defy the hetero-patriarchal norms. How the strong commitment to choice, autonomy and self-management that is often implicated in non-normative relationship styles can prevent to be colonized by self-entrepreneurial and consumerist capitalist imageries and postfeminist neoliberal economies? I propose a feminist queer-political ethics as a radical erotic and relational strategy, which merges an ethics of destabilisation/deconstruction with an ethics of care/solidarity.


Katrien De Graeve is an associate professor at Ghent University (Belgium), affiliated to the Centre for Research on Culture and Gender. She is the recipient of an ERC starting grant for her project ‘Later-in-Life Intimacy: Women’s Unruly Practices, Places and Representations’ (2020-2025). She obtained a PhD in Comparative Sciences of Culture (Anthropology) from Ghent University in 2012 and she worked as a postdoctoral research fellow, both for the Research Foundation Flanders (2013–2019) and the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (2013–2014). Her research focus so far has been on transnational adoption, guardianships for unaccompanied minors and non-monogamous sexual-romantic relationships.


Panel on couple-normativity hosted by Anu Kinnunen (Tampere University)
Dr. Tuula Juvonen Collegium Researcher at TIAS (University of Turku, Finland). PI: Just the Two of Us? Affective inequalities in intimate relationships (Academy of Finland, 2015-2019). Her current research project, The Materialisation of Affective Attachments, focuses on sexualities and genders in flux.
Dr. Riikka Homanen Academy Research Fellow (University of Tampere and University of Helsinki, Finland). PI: Everyday Ethics of Reproductive Outsourcing: Making Good Life in the Era of Biocapitalism (Academy of Finland, 2019-2024) and Technology, Ethics and Reproduction: Controversy in the Era of Normalisation (Kone foundation 2019-2022)
Dr. Annukka Lahti Postdoctoral researcher (University of Jyväskylä, Finland). PI: When the rainbow ends (Alli Paasikivi Foundation, 2017-2018)


The keynote talks are open to the public and participation is free of charge. In case you are interested in attending the workshop, please contact workshop assistant Tuuli Innola  (

More info:

Dr Marjo Kolehmainen (

Dr Annukka Lahti (

The event is organized in collaboration with Gender Studies at Tampere University and with the Academy of Finland-funded SRC project Intimacy in Data-Driven Culture

The kick-off event is funded by The Sustainable Welfare Systems (SWS) initiative by Tampere University

Organizing team: Marjo Kolehmainen (Tampere University), Anu Kinnunen (Tampere University), Annukka Lahti (University of Jyväskylä) & Tuuli Innola (Tampere University)
The Research Network of Singlehood Studies