Touko  Vaahtera

Touko Vaahtera

Post doc researcher

My current project ”Compulsory able-mindedness in the era of digitalization” interrogates the societal aims around the so-called digitalization. Drawing on critical disability studies, cultural sociology, cultural studies, science and technology studies, and the field of affect study, the project offers new approaches not only to the scholarly debates on digitalization, but also to the theoretical underpinnings which emerge from the current understandings of the digital society. The project builds on my previous research on cultural attachments to able-bodiedness.

My book Biopolitics of Swimming and the Re-articulation of Able-Bodiednes: Bodies of Latent Potential (2022, Palgrave Macmillan) explores the cultural mechanisms that stabilize the imaginary of capability as an obvious framework for thinking about the body.


“This wonderfully written book subjects swimming to a much-needed queer and disability analysis. Vaahtera asks us to reconsider the innocence of the question— can you swim?—and to explore together wider societal assumptions that we hold over ourselves and others associated with capacity, capability, and ability.” (Dan Goodley, Professor of Disability Studies and Education, University of Sheffield)

“Tackling urgent questions regarding the biopolitics of transnational and local bodily ‘capabilities,’ Touko Vaahtera challenges us to examine how we oriented towards able-bodiedness. Focusing on a wide range of cultural texts, and challenging what we might understand as both culture and text, this book offers a queercrip methodology for analysing the intersectional politics of embodied, collective living. It opens up how we read, understand and experience collective bodily norms and their contexts, whilst offering specifically queercrip ways of imagining alternative modes of being.” (Donna McCormack, Author of Queer Postcolonial Narratives and the Ethics of Witnessing; School of Humanities, University of Strathclyde)

My latest article:
Touko Vaahtera & Sirpa Lappalainen (2022) Able-mindedness and citizenship in education policy discourses on digital skills, Pedagogy, Culture & Society, DOI: 10.1080/14681366.2022.2156583


Other publications:

On disability studies and ableism

Honkasilta, J. & Vaahtera, T. 2022. Vammaistutkimuksen teemanumero. Oppimisen ja oppimisvaikeuksien erityislehti NMI-Bulletin E/2022.

Vaahtera, T. & Savallampi, M. 2020. Kulttuuriset valtasuhteet ja antihierarkkiset mahdollisuudet koronaepidemian aikana [Cultural power relations and anti-hierarchical possibilities in the epidemic era]. In Rehearsing Hospitalities Companion 2. Berlin: Archive Books, 127–139.

Vaahtera, T. & Lappalainen, S. 2018. Bodies of latent potential: abled imaginary and national belonging in Finnish cultural texts about swimming. Pedagogy, Culture & Society 26:4, 593–607.

Vaahtera, T. 2016. ‘We swam before we breathed or walked’: able-bodied belonging in popular stories of evolutionary biology. Disability & Society 30:5, 591–603.

Vaahtera, T. [E.] 2016. Biopolitics and the repressive hypothesis of the body. The case of swimming training in Finland. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research 18:2, 142–153.

Vaahtera, T. [E.] 2012. Compulsory able-bodiedness and the stigmatised forms of nondisability. Lambda Nordica 17:1–2, 77–101.

On education

Mononen-Batista Costa, S. (Eds. A. Paakkari, H. Guttorm, E. Ikävalko, T. Kurki, M. Pyykkönen & T. Vaahtera). 2022. Yrittäjyys tyhjänä merkitsijänä – Tiedon ja subjektiuden tuotanto yrittäjyyskasvatuksessa. Helda Open Books.

Juva, I. & Vaahtera, T. 2017. Getting along – social skills required to be normal in the Finnish school. In T. Vaahtera, A-M Niemi, S. Lappalainen, and D. Beach (eds.) Troubling Educational Cultures in the Nordic Countries. London: The Tufnell Press, 52–67.

Vaahtera, T.; Niemi, A-M; Lappalainen, S. & Beach, D. 2017. Troubling Educational Cultures in the Nordic Countries.The Tufnell Press.

Guttorm, H.; Arvola-Olander, A.; Niemi, A-M; Vaahtera, T. [E.], et. al. 2014. Akateeminen kapitalismi ja kollektiivisuuksien paradoksaalisuudet tohtorikoulutuksessa [Academic capitalism and the paradoxes of collectivity in doctoral studies]. Aikuiskasvatus 34:2, 121–128.

On affect studies

Vaahtera, T. 2020. Empatian kulttuurinen politiikka [The cultural politics of empathy]. Aikuiskasvatus 40:3, 187–190.