Valuating Lives through Infertility and Dementia: Science, Law and Patient Activism


The VALDA project investigates globally salient citizen welfare problems of infertility and dementia in the technologically advanced society of Finland. It explores and compares the phenomena of reproduction and aging from the perspective of valuation as practice. Using ethnographic and text analysis methods, we study how experts in biomedicine and legislation and patients and their peer support communities order, manage and valuate infertility and dementia.

Our research output can be found here.




Lotta2 pieni

Lotta Hautamäki, post doc

How does modern medicine deal with the discrepancy between the need for objective and universal scientific knowledge and the messy reality of individually experienced illness and disease? What is good medical care and who defines it?

In the attempt to answer these questions, my research draws from science and technology studies, medical anthropology, sociology and philosophy. I use qualitative mixed methods to understand the interplay between human and non-human actors in life sciences and medicine.

In my dissertation, I explored how scientific knowledge, care practices and patient experiences came together in the case of psychiatry and neuroscience. In the VALDA project, I study the hope invested in the research of gut bacteria and human microbiota in treating mental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. I am also engaged in projects studying the human-animal interaction in the case of animal and nature assisted care practices.

I supervise Master’s theses on topics loosely related to mental health, neuroscience, psychiatry, pharmaceutical industry or human-animal interaction and related health care practices. But I’m happy to consider any topic, if you feel I could assist you with your thesis. Please contact me at lotta.hautamaki [at]



Elina Helosvuori_E3F7567Elina Helosvuori, PhD student

My PhD research is grounded in sociology, science and technology studies, and gender studies. I focus on the question of how reproductive technologies such as infertility treatments change the notions of what it means to be fertile or infertile in contemporary high tech society. I apply ethnographic methods to explore the affective and embodied experiences of normality and pathology in the area of reproduction. I am interested in how these experiences are grounded in the medical interventions to overcome involuntarily childlessness. In addition, I explore the valuation conducted in selective practices such as embryo selection in IVF.

You can contact me at elina.helosvuori [at]



Riikka Homanen_pieni

Riikka Homanen, post doc

My research explores social relations, such as kin, class, gender, sexuality and race/ethnicity, in (assisted) reproduction. More recently, I have inquired into the marketization of reproduction and reproductive healthcare in particular. The fertility markets have grown transnational and involve a multimillion euro donor reproductive tissue industry and multilevel chains of reproductive outsourcing. I am interested especially in the ethical and political work involved in maintaining, altering, advancing and participating in such a market. My work is ethnographic and firmly grounded in gender studies, sociology and feminist science and technology studies.

Before joining the VALDA project I worked as an Academy of Finland postdoctoral researcher. I have been a visiting research fellow at London School of Economics and Political Science, University of California Berkeley and Lancaster University.

I am also currently the editor-in-chief for the Finnish peer-reviewed journal on Sociology, Sosiologia (2018–19) and co-founder and leader of the Finnish Reproductive Studies Network (FiResNet) together with Dr Meskus.

I am interested in supervising master’s thesis studying gender, health, medicine, medical technologies and reproduction through qualitative methods. You can contact me at riikka.homanen [at]


Kaisa Kivipuro_pieni

Kaisa Kivipuro, PhD student

In my PhD research, I study the involuntary childlessness that originates from the medical condition of absence of a uterus. I explore how the phenomenon is constituted and framed in medical practices, legal processes and everyday life of the women in question. I study womblessness as a phenomenon, which cannot be reduced to a medical problem but relates to the realms of society and the multiplicity of human life. I examine how the ability to procreate is understood in the age of assisted reproductive technologies, when procreation is possible also for women without a uterus. My research data consist of expert and patient interviews, articles in Finnish medical journals and legislative materials. 

Among my other research interests are family studies, disability studies, sexology and gender studies.

You can read more about my research from my homepage. I am also the Managing Editor in Finnish family studies blog called Perhe, suhteet ja yhteiskunta. You can contact me at kaisa.kivipuro [at]


Marianne pieni

Marianne Mäkelin, PhD student

My PhD research explores the political and societal dimensions of genetic modification, specifically concerning the recently developed genome editing method called CRISPR-Cas9. Rather than a tool fit for a specific purpose, CRISPR-Cas9 is an enabling technology, bringing about possibilities in a wide range of research, from biomedical research to plant genetics.

The multi-sited ethnography looks at the hopes, fears and imagined futures in the possibilities attributed to genome editing in two separate cases: in human biomedical research and in genetic modification of non-human animals and plants. My research asks how these imaginaries are deployed in regulating and domesticating genome editing, and how its uses in human and non-human genomes are negotiated differently. 

Previously I have studied anthropomorfization and evolution narratives in nature documentaries.

In 2018–19 I am the Managing Editor the Finnish peer-reviewed journal on Sociology, Sosiologia.

You can contact me at marianne.makelin [at]


VALDA project pictures by Henna Koponen