Dr. Maaret Jokela-Pansini


Social and Cultural Geography

+41 31 631 80 14
Postal Address
University of Bern
Institute of Geography
Social and Cultural Geography
Hallerstrasse 12
CH-3012 Bern
Consultation Hour
upon request

I’m a social and cultural geographer studying individuals’ embodied experiences and practices related to socio-political and environmental phenomena such as environmental pollution, discrimination and violence. I draw on qualitative methods and also interested in the ways that knowledge is produced in research settings. My research focuses on people and places that are often overlooked in academic research and/or stigmatised in public discourse. I seek to understand the diverse experiences and responses of people living in such environments. My research combines environmental justice scholarship, political ecologies, feminist theories and health geographies. I have conducted fieldwork in Honduras, South Africa and Italy.

My current research project explores how individuals experience and respond to environmental pollution in Taranto, a city located by one of the largest steel plants in Europe.

I graduated from Humboldt University Berlin and University of Potsdam in political sciences and Scandinavian studies in 2008. After working at non-governmental women’s organisations in Honduras and Switzerland for three years I started my doctoral studies at the Institute of Geography in Bern. I worked as an assistant in the Cultural Geography unit in 2014-2018 and was also co-coordinator and research fellow in the Swiss-South African research project Safeguarding democracy: Contests of values and interests funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. I was visiting fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in April-May 2015. In May 2018 I finished my thesis titled Imagining, negotiating and transforming space: women human rights defenders in Honduras in a global context. Since August 2018, I’m a postdoctoral researcher in the Social and Cultural Geography unit.

Fields of Research

  • Environmental justice
  • Gender and Diversity
  • Health geographies
  • Environmental pollution
  • Embodied violence
  • Feminist ecologies
  • Transnational activism
  • Human Rights
  • Regional foci: Honduras, South Africa, Italy


Since 2018 PostDoc in Social and Cultural Geography, University of Bern
2011-2018 PhD in Geography, University of Bern
Title of dissertation: Imagining, negotiating and transforming space. Women’s human rights struggles in Honduras in a global context
2011-2018 Participant at the Gender Studies Graduate School of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies, University of Bern
2014-2016 CAS (Certificate of Advanced Studies) principles of academic teaching, Centre for University Continuing Education, University of Bern
2015 & 2016 Field research in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa
2015 University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Visiting PhD-student
2013 Field research in Honduras
2010 6th Annual International Leadership Training Programme on Human Rights, UNESCO Chair & Institute of Human Rights, University of Connecticut
2001-2007 M.A. in Political Sciences, University of Potsdam and Humboldt University of Berlin
2004-2005 Studies in Political Sciences and Italian language, Università degli Studi di Bari, Italy (Erasmus exchange)
2003-2005 Studies in Political Sciences and Scandinavian Studies, University of Greifswald, Germany
2001 Graduation, Deutsche Schule Helsinki (Abitur)

Professional career

Since 2018 Research assistant and lecturer in Social and Cultural Geography, University of Bern
2014-2018 Research assistant in Cultural Geography, University of Bern
2014-2018 Research associate and coordinator of the gender work package in the Swiss South African Joint Research Programme (SSAJRP) of the SNSF project "Safeguarding Democracy. Contests of Values and Interests"
2011-2013 Project assistant and communication manager, PeaceWomen Across the Globe, Bern
2008-2009 Project worker (volunteer), Centro de Estudios de la Mujer, Tegucigalpa, Honduras
2008 Intern, Department of International Relations, Ministry for Education of Finland, Helsinki
2005-2010 Further work experience in tourism and financial administration

Affiliations and memberships

  • AK Geography and Gender
  • Institute for Social Movement Studies
  • Intermediate Staff Association, University of Bern (MVUB)

Jokela-Pansini, M. (forthcoming) Body mapping: Exploring the field through the body. In: Raphaela Kogler and Jeannine Wintzer (Eds.) Raum und Bild. Strategien visueller raumbezogener Forschung. Heidelberg: Springer.

Jump to: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016


Jokela-Pansini, Maaret (2020). Complicating notions of violence: An embodied view on violence against women in Honduras. Environment and Planning. C, Politics and space, 38(5), pp. 848-865. Sage 10.1177/2399654420906833


Jokela-Pansini, Maaret (2019). Imaginarios Espaciales e Identidad Colectiva en las Luchas por los Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres en Honduras. Revista Latino-Americana de Geografia e Gênero, 10(2), pp. 98-124. Universidade Estadual de Ponta Grossa 10.5212/Rlagg.v.10.i2.0006


Jokela-Pansini, Maaret (2018). Multi-sited research methodology: improving understanding of transnational concepts. Area, 51(3), pp. 516-523. Wiley-Blackwell 10.1111/area.12494


Siegl, Veronika; Jokela-Pansini, Maaret (2017). On Love and Courage. Interview with feminist scholar and activist Margo Okazawa-Rey. Genderstudies(30), pp. 4-7. Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für Geschlechterforschung, Universität Bern


Jokela-Pansini, Maaret (July 2016). Maaret Jokela-Pansini, Bern. Regard croisé in feminist methodology. Reflections from two research projects in Honduras and South Africa. Feministisches Geo-RundMail(68), pp. 15-16.

Jokela-Pansini, Maaret (2016). Spatial imaginaries and collective identity in women’s human rights struggles in Honduras. Gender, Place and Culture, 23(10), pp. 1-15. Routledge 10.1080/0966369X.2016.1204998

Environmental inequalities in polluted environments

Duration 2019-2020
Description In times of global environmental crisis, there is an urgent need to study the ways that pollution affects people and their everyday lives. This is particularly important in remote areas like Taranto, in the periphery of Europe, where environmental controls are absent and economic interests and jobs are prioritised over health. Taranto, known as territorio malato (sick environment) is a high-risk environmental area and hosts Europe’s largest and most polluting steel plant. The city contributes to 80% of Italy’s and almost 10% of Europe’s dioxin emissions (European Commission, 2016). Due to the high dioxin levels, Taranto’s residents have higher risk of early death, respiratory diseases, reproductive problems and cancer (Mangia et al., 2013). Despite strong scientific evidence on residents’ health problems related to industrial pollution, politicians and the media often blame residents’ health problems on their ‘unhealthy lifestyles’ such as smoking and bad eating habits (Greco, 2016). As environmental scholars globally have argued, such stigmatisation is based on old stereotypes and historical representations of ‘the South’ as ‘backward’ and ‘inferior’ to the North. The project is situated within health geographies, which explore how the interactions of humans, materials and the environment shape and constrain health, wellbeing and survival (Brown et al., 2018). I combine health geographies with environmental justice scholarship, which argues that pollution affects specific people in specific places and enforces environmental inequalities regarding race, gender, class and other social categories (Pulido, 2017a). This project shows the unequal burdens and benefits of industrial production sites in Europe that still are largely ignored in public discourse and academic scholarship – despite increasing awareness on and protests against global environmental problems. The study therefore asks, whose health matters? How do residents in Taranto experience living in a polluted environment and how does it affect their everyday lives? It responds to the urgent call for identifying what environmental inequality actually means and therefore, complements epidemiological studies on polluted environments.

Imagining, negotiating and transforming space: women human rights defenders in Honduras in a global context

Duration 2012-2018
Description My PhD project analysed how women human rights defenders in Honduras, including feminist and environmental activists, collectively organised for human rights after the coup d’état in 2009. I studied women’s everyday embodied experiences with violence and viewed how violence is entangled with global processes – rather than merely based in one place. My research revealed that collective self-care practices were central for women activists to bear and transform their experiences of injustice.

Jokela-Pansini, M. (2020) ‘Complicating notions of violence: An embodied view of violence against women in Honduras’. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space. Published online 16 February 2020. doi/10.1177/2399654420906833

Jokela-Pansini, M. (2019) ‘Imaginarios espaciales e identidad colectiva en las luchas por los derechos humanos de las mujeres en Honduras’. Revista Latino-americana de Geografia e Gênero, 10(2), 92-124 (translation). doi.org/10.5212/Rlagg.v.10.i2.0006

Jokela-Pansini, M. (2016) ‘Spatial imaginaries and collective identity in women’s human rights struggles in Honduras.’ Gender, Place & Culture, 23(10), 1465-1479. doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2016.1204998

Safeguarding Democracy: Contests of Values and Interests

Duration 2014-2018
Funding Swiss South African Joint Research Programme des SNF
Description This project explored how values are negotiated in different social and political contexts and what significance these have for knowledge production, for policy development and above all for safeguarding democracy in South Africa and Switzerland. It is not only important to understand the values that underpin our democracies but also to engage with the threats that emerge from conflicts in everyday life. The sub-questions focus on the changes in the meaning of values that have taken place historically in each society. Are there non-negotiable values that are key elements of democracy? In what ways do Swiss and South African democracies live up to the democratic values they promote?

The research focused on the dynamics between the state and different groups in society in the negotiation and interpretation of values. Two major fields were the focus of the empirical research undertaken to answer these research questions: social movements, migration and the media and women’s human rights and gender-based violence.

The project applied a postcolonial methodological concept on North-South collaboration called ‘crossed gazes’, which aimed to move away from Eurocentric ontologies and research practices. I applied this methodology in my PhD research and combined it with feminist activist scholarship (e.g. Okazawa-Rey 2016) in which I frequently crossed spaces as an academic and activist. For example, during my fieldwork in Honduras, I volunteered in a feminist electoral observation group, participated in trainings for women human rights defenders and accompanied activists at international meetings. Reflecting on my positionality in these various spaces was an important part of my research: I developed a framework for multi-sited methodologies through fieldwork in South Africa and Honduras and analysed how engaging scholars and activists in different places in our research improves our understanding of transnational concepts, such as women human rights defenders (Jokela-Pansini, 2018).

Collaborators Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für Gender Studies (IZFG), Universität Bern
History Workshop and National Research Foundation Chair in Local Histories and Present Realities at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg
Centre for African Studies, Universität Basel
Output Jokela-Pansini, M. (2018) Multi‐sited research methodology: Improving understanding of transnational concepts. Area, published online 28 September 2018. https://doi.org/10.1111/area.12494

Selection since 2016

April More than health: Reviewing environmental inequalities through care activities in polluted environments (Taranto, Italy)’. Oral presentation at the Annual Conference of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), Denver.
November ‘Uneven geographies of toxicity and everyday practices of care in in territorio malato, Taranto (Italy)’. Oral presentation at the Feminist political ecology workshop with Prof. Sharlene Mollett, University of Bern.
October "Governing space - governing security? Feminist organizations' approaches on genderbased violence in two cities in Honduras." Präsentation an der IGU Annual Conference "Local Governance in the New Urban Agenda", Università di Salento, Lecce.

"Multi-sited research methodology: Improving understanding of transnational concepts."
Präsentation an der final conference des SSAJRP/SNF Projekts "Safeguarding Democracy. Contests of Value and Interests" in Bern.

December "Studying women's human rights activism 'across worlds'". Presentation at the Swiss Researching Africa Days, Bern.
September "Intercultural, feminist research. Reflections from two research projects on women's human rights activism in Honduras and South Africa". Presentation at the PhD workshop organised by the SSAJRP project 'Safeguarding Democracy: contests of values and interests', Cape Town.
July "Applying intercultural methods in feminist research". ISA Forum of Sociology, Vienna.
March Perceptions of women human rights defenders on violence against women in Honduras. Presentation at the AAG Annual Meeting, San Francisco.


Selection since 2017

September Workshop on participative research methods at the feminist summer school 'Gender & Place' in Herzberg, Switzerland (together with Tina Büchler and Margo Okazawa-Rey)
May Workshop on Mentoring for doctoral students of the University of Bern (coordination)

Current Teaching

Spring 2020 Challenges in Geography II (co-teaching)
Spring 2020 Studio Digital Geography (co-teaching)



Past Teaching

Fall 2019 Tutorium "Human Geography I"
Fall 2018 Tutorium "Human Geography I"
Fall 2018 Tutorium "Spaces of Globalisation"
Fall 2017 Tutorium "Human Geography I"
Fall 2017 Lecture "Human Geography I"
Lecture unit 'Perspectives of Globalisation'
Fall 2016 Tutorium "Human Geography I"
Fall 2016 Lecture "Human Geography I"
Lecture Units 'Spatial Concepts of Human Geography', 'Social Inequalities in Cities I' and 'Social Inequalities in Cities II'
Fall 2016 Lecture "Human Geography I"
Lecture Units 'Spatial Concepts of Human Geography', 'Social Inequalities in Cities I' and 'Social Inequalities in Cities II'
Fall 2015 Tutorium "Human Geography I"
Fall 2014 Tutorium "Human Geography I"
Fall 2014 Lecture "Human Geography I"
Lecture Unit 'Cities and Gentrification'
Fall 2014 Lecture "Political Geography"
Lecture Unit 'Social movements'
Fall 2014 Tutorium "Globalisation of Cultures"
Fall 2014 Lecture "Globalisation of Cultures"
Lecture unit 'social movements' and coordination
Spring 2014 Colloquium "Inter- and transdisciplinary colloquium in Gender Studies at the ICFG"
Colloquium unit 'Transdisciplinary research and social movements'