Just the Two of Us? Affective inequalities in intimate relationships

Our Academy of Finland funded multi- and transdisciplinary gender studies project Just the Two of Us? Affective Inequalities in Intimate Relationships (project 287983) seeks to theorize the arrangements of gender and sexuality in novel ways as well as to develop new methodological approaches for studying affect. Inequality has been mainly viewed as if it were located outside of or in between different types of intimate relationships, yet our project aspires to open up a new research field by focusing on affective inequalities within heterosexual and queer relationships.

Along with the PI, Academy Research Fellow Tuula Juvonen (UTA), the research team includes one post-doctoral researcher Marjo Kolehmainen (UTA), and two doctoral candidates, Raisa Jurva (UTA) and Annukka Lahti (University of Jyväskylä). Our research design allows us to examine affective inequalities from the communal (Juvonen), institutional (Kolehmainen), interactional (Lahti) and personal (Jurva) perspectives. In our four subprojects we seek to answer the following research questions:

1) How affect produces power relations in intimate relationships?

2) How do intersectional differences shape couples’ (heterosexual) dynamics?

3) How are the new arrangements, classifications and hierarchies of gender and sexuality linked with intimate inequalities?

In our project we, firstly, develop methodologies that provide better access to affect as an embodied experience and, secondly, produce knowledge on the ways in which intersecting inequalities are increasingly mediated affectively. Thirdly, the project at hand will refine the concept of heterosexual dynamics into a theoretical and methodological tool. In this respect, our project, in its aspiration to develop methodological approaches as well as distinct methods, aims at narrowing the gap between sophisticated debates on the significance of affect in indicating and renewing social hierarchies, and turning those ideas into empirical studies. This is done both at the University of Tampere and with the help of our partners while visiting appropriate research centers in the UK and Sweden.

Our results about the affective shaping of intimate relationships, disseminated in conferences, peer-reviewed journals, an edited book, and seminars co-organized with our partners, will be of use to relationship counsellors and other professionals in improving the lives of their clientele. We also look forward to approach general public through our blog.