This year, Kone Foundation’s Vuoden Tiedekynä prize of €25,000 is awarded to docent Anna-Maria Tapaninen’s article Rajalla laboratoriossa: iän arviointia, iän määrittämistä ja ikämääräyksiä (At the Borderline in the Laboratory: Age Assessment, Age Determination and Orders of Age), published in issue 3/2018 of the magazine Tiede & Edistys. The article discusses the assessment and determination of age in situations where young people who are crossing national boundaries lack reliable documents. Tapaninen reaches the conclusion that when age is determined in situations like these, there is always tension between testing, which is considered objective, and uncertain interpretation. The winner of the Tiedekynä award was selected from among 14 candidates by Professor Emerita Riitta Jallinoja.

No sociological studies on age assessment have been published prior to this in Finland or elsewhere, only narrow reports. The article is based on diverse interview material and written sources. Tapaninen has interviewed immigration authorities, forensic dentists and geneticists, non-governmental organisations’ experts and lawyers, as well as the parties involved. In addition, she has studied administrative documents and court rulings.

Tapaninen begins by examining the role of DNA analyses and medical age determination within the current Finnish immigration policy. She then discusses the nature and probative force of the information pursued in the age assessment process, and examines DNA analyses, X-ray examinations and visual age evaluation. Finally, the author ponders how age determination becomes an order of age, using the concept coined by the young people themselves, and its consequences for young asylum seekers.
She demonstrates how unreliable the information is that the authorities treat as completely reliable, even though there is a great deal of controversy on age analyses. In the decision-making, the unreliability of the result is pushed aside and the evidence is considered objective. The suspicions about their age cause a great deal of pressure on the young people who have arrived unaccompanied.

Anna-Maria Tapaninen is a docent of social and cultural anthropology at the University of Helsinki. Since defending her doctoral thesis in social anthropology, she has studied the anonymous abandonment of children in various institutes in Europe in the 19th century. In recent years, her research has dealt with the use of biotechnology in the management of migration. She is currently studying the reception of asylum seekers who are unaccompanied minors.

The Finnish Anthropological Society would like to warmly congratulate Anna-Maria Tapaninen on receiving the award!

Read more on the website of Kone Foundation.

Photo: Annukka Pakarinen

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