Dr Maaret Jokela-Pansini

Honorary Research Associate

Academic Profile

Since 2021, Maaret has been a research fellow at the School of Geography and the Environment, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF. She has an 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 teaching assistant (2014-2018) and lecturer (2018-2020) in social and cultural geography at the University of Bern. From 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 the UK, Honduras, South Africa, Italy and Switzerland.

Maaret is interested in people's embodied experiences of (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’s research is heavily inspired by community-engaged research and participatory approaches. She is particularly interested in the ways that arts-based 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 a current project titled Visualising Long Covid, she works with Long Covid patients and patient-led organisations to understand, communicate, and visualise patients’ experiences of the illness to health practitioners, patients’ families and friends, and the public.

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

Current Research

Women living with Long Covid: a participatory approach to study access to healthcare services and support (UK and Switzerland) (2024-2025)

This study (2024-2025) explores patients' experiences of Long Covid in two different contexts in Switzerland and the UK. According to studies, Long Covid still dominates the daily lives of many patients, most of whom are women, and a key challenge for Long Covid hauliers is finding adequate support for their condition, which changes constantly. More information is therefore needed on the ways that Long Covid affects the everyday lives of patients and the ways they experience access to healthcare services and support from health professionals, family and friends. Research questions include:

  1. How do women experience Long Covid, and how does it affect their everyday lives?
  2. How do patients experience support and access to healthcare services depending on different social identities (gender, age, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and socioeconomic background)?
  3. In what ways do these experiences differ (or share similarities) between women Long Covid hauliers in the UK and Switzerland?

This project draws on a patient-centred participatory approach in collaboration with the patient-led organisations Long Covid Support (UK) and Long Covid Switzerland. The study will draw on 1) interviews in the UK and Switzerland and 2) body mapping workshops. The comparison will help understand how access to services in two different settings shapes the overall experiences of Long Covid patients. Resulting in concrete visualisations – life-sized drawings of women’s bodies – the project will raise awareness of the illness to a broader public. The body maps will, moreover, help communicate patients’ needs to family, friends, health professionals and the broader public, and the study results will be disseminated beyond academia. The study is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation Grant P5R5PS_222164. It is based at the Department of Geography at the University of Zurich and the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford.


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.