Dr Maaret Jokela-Pansini

Honorary Research Associate

Academic Profile

Maaret is a research fellow (funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF) at the School of Geography and the Environment. She has a MA from the Humboldt University of Berlin and the University of Potsdam (Germany) and a PhD from the University of Bern (Switzerland).

Prior to her fellowship in Oxford, Maaret was a PhD candidate (2014-2018) and lecturer (2018-2020) in social and cultural geography at the University of Bern. In 2014-2018, she was project coordinator and research fellow in the SNSF project titled Safeguarding democracy: Contests of values and interests, which looked at (women's) human rights discourses and practices in South Africa, Switzerland and Honduras. Maaret was a visiting fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 2015. She has conducted fieldwork in Honduras, South Africa and Italy.

During 2008-2013, Maaret worked in women's rights organisations in Honduras and Switzerland and her research is heavily inspired by activist scholarship and participatory approaches.

Maaret is interested in people's embodied experiences related to (ill)health, environmental pollution, violence, and marginalisation, the ways these experiences are linked to global inequalities and power regimes, and the everyday practices people use to respond to such challenges. Maaret is further interested in the ways that questions of social inequality and diversity are promoted in academic spaces.

Maaret applies participatory methods in her research. She is particularly interested in the ways that creative methods such as body mapping enable co-contribution of knowledge between research participants, researchers, and the public.

In her work, Maaret engages with different stakeholders and seeks to facilitate knowledge exchange with and between them. In her PhD research, she worked with activists, non-governmental organisations and UN agencies and studied women's experiences of violence in Honduras and the ways women from diverse backgrounds collectively organised and sought justice on human rights issues on different decision-making levels.

Maaret also teaches courses and supervises MSc student dissertation projects in Geography and in Medical Anthropology.

Current Research

Living in a chronically ill body: Mapping women's embodied experiences with long covid (Oxford, UK)

This project (2022-2024) is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation Grant #P2BEP1_206554. Long covid is a chronic illness and affects one in five COVID-19 patients. Recent studies have found that long covid particularly affects women and according to some studies, up to 70 percent of the patients are female. Female patients' symptoms are often being dismissed or attributed to anxiety or other psychological origin, also known as the 'gender pain gap'. By applying participatory methods, including body mapping and participatory mapping, this project aims to uncover the ways that women experience their (ill)health, manage their health condition, and experience support from health institutions and how these experiences vary depending on race, ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic background. The project aims to offer a space for women from different backgrounds to share experiences of living with long covid by working with long covid patients and engaging with different stakeholders, including patient support networks, local communities, and health professionals.

MISTRAL - a toolkit for dynaMic health Impact analysiS to predicT disability-Related costs in the Aging population based on three case studies of steeL-industry exposed areas in Europe

This interdisciplinary project (2023-2026), funded by the EU funding programme Horizon Europe (EU grant agreement ID 101095119) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), combines epidemiology, biology, medicine, geography, and anthropology with researchers based in Italy, the UK, Belgium and Poland. It aims to develop a technological toolkit to predict the health impact of health-related features, forecasting the trajectories of disability and quality of life reduction. This method will use environmental, socio-economic, geographical, and clinical characteristics. The generated models will be adjusted for lifestyle and individual conditions data sourced from large population-based digital surveys. The models will be trained and validated on three different exposures to the steel plants' pollution: Taranto in southern Italy, Rybnik in Poland, and Flanders in Belgium. At the University of Oxford, our project team (including Prof Anna Lora-Wainwright, Prof Beth Greenhough and Raffaele Ippolito) will be responsible for the social science part of the project.

Whose health matters? Studying environmental inequalities in polluted environments

This project (2019-2022) is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation Grant #P500PS_195576 and is held in collaboration with Dr Beth Greenhough (University of Oxford), Prof Dr Anna Lora-Wainwright (University of Oxford), Dr Elisabeth Militz (University of Guelph) and Raffaele Ippolito (University of Oxford), as well as various local collaborators in Taranto. This project explores how residents in Taranto (Southern Italy), a city located by one of the largest steel plants in Europe, experience and respond to environmental pollution. The first paper on 'Breathing new futures' combined work on futures in (post-) industrial cities with scholarship on the lived experiences of people in polluted environments, and looked at the future-making practices of young people in Taranto. Second, Maaret is interested in questions of gender and the ways women in Taranto make sense of pollution in relation to their reproductive health; beyond bodily toxicity. In a forthcoming paper, she analyses political and social aspects of women's reproductive health in relation to pollution. Her study contributes to our understanding of women's concerns of environment-health relations and seeks to complement epidemiological studies on reproductive health and environmental pollution. Finally, in a collaborative study, the project uses participatory mapping to investigate the spatial dynamics of perceived and experienced health risks in relation to pollution, and how those experiences are shaped by age, gender, and socio-economic background.

Experiences and practices of diversity among academia in geography

This study (2020-2021) was conducted in collaboration with PD Dr Jeannine Wintzer (University of Bern) and examined diversity practices in teaching at a Geography Department in Switzerland. Recent feminist geographic scholarship has urged geographers to distance themselves from androcentric and Eurocentric approaches, and to open up the discipline to diverse perspectives. While numerous studies have focused on diversifying and decolonizing geography through recruitment practices, mentoring, and knowledge production, only few have analysed how diversity translates into teaching practices, particularly in contexts where diversity is relatively well-established among staff. Based on a questionnaire survey among the teaching staff, a content analysis of course syllabi, and a quantitative analysis of the department's employee data, this study explores to what extent diversity within the department leads to diversity in teaching practices.

Safeguarding democracy: Contests of values and interests

In this project (2014-2018), funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation Grant #149053, Maaret was research fellow and project co-coordinator of the working group 'Gender Relations and Gender Violence'. This collaboration was led by Prof Dr Sheila Meintjes and Prof Dr Noor Nieftegaarden from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, Prof Dr Doris Wastl-Walter and Prof Dr Michelè Amacker from the University of Bern, and Elísio Macamo at the University of Basel. This project seeks to understand the role that contests of values and interests play in shaping and challenging democracy in Switzerland and South Africa. More specifically, we ask how commitment to certain values, for example, human rights and dignity, has fostered the emergence and formulation of social interests that through debate and action in the public sphere help sustain democracy in these two countries. We look into how democratic norms, including international norms, as carriers of values and rights, shape political action and the relationship of state and society. The empirical research focuses on two major fields: 'Social Movements, Migration and the Media' and 'Gender Relations and Gender Violence'.

Imagining, negotiating and transforming space. Women's human rights struggles in Honduras in a global context

This PhD project (2013-2018) was supervised by Prof Dr Doris Wastl-Walter (University of Bern) and PD Dr Elham Manea (University of Zurich) examines how women human rights activists in Honduras imagine, negotiate, and transform space in a global context. It discusses how the coup d'état in 2009 merged the spatial imaginaries of different women activists including feminists, indigenous and rural women, students, LGBTQ* activists, and labour unionists. Second, my study demonstrates that 'women human rights defenders' presents activists a new subjectivity and a negotiation position in the international human rights system because the international community recognises activists as witnesses and protectors of human rights violations. Finally, I conclude that 'women human rights defenders' is a form of transnational feminisms, which respond to global economic, political and socio-cultural challenges in the 21st century. Such practices, for example, approach violence as a structural phenomenon. Violence then is perceived as materialising itself through power relations and overlapping scales, including women's bodies, institutional restrictions on women's reproductive rights, and impunity of violence against women. However, human rights framing is confronted with both ideological and institutional challenges. Human rights discourses opened new opportunities for action, but many interviewees felt they remained outside of political decision-making. Others did not identify themselves as women human rights defenders but pursued the same goals. Using the concept can also be dangerous when states shift the concept and portray activists as a threat to national security. 'Scaling up' activism therefore is not only a choice but also a necessity.


Maaret supervises MSc students at the School of Geography and the Environment and the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography.

For the MSc/MPhil in Nature, Society and Environmental Governance, Maaret teaches on the Research Methods and Practices module and the Environmental Justice module.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Book Chapters



  • Siegl, V. and Jokela-Pansini, M. (2017) On Love and Courage. Interview with feminist scholar and activist Margo Okazawa-Rey. Genderstudies, 30: 4-7. Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies, University of Bern.