Dr Niina Vuolajärvi

Dr Niina Vuolajärvi

Assistant Professor in International Migration

European Institute

Room No
CBG 7.06
Connect with me

English, Finnish, Swedish
Key Expertise
Migration, Sex Work & Trafficking, Law & Policy, Feminist Studies

About me

Dr. Niina Vuolajärvi is an Assistant Professor in International Migration at the European Institute. Her interdisciplinary research is situated in the fields of migration, feminist and socio-legal studies. Niina received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Rutgers University in 2021 and holds a Master’s degree both in Sociology and Gender Studies. Prior to joining the LSE, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the New School Zolberg Institute of Migration and Mobility, a Global Scholar at the Institute for Research on Women at Rutgers University and Visiting Student Research Collaborator, Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies at Princeton University. 

Niina's projects have investigated migrant sex work, prostitution and migration policies, post-deportation experiences, and race and colonial legacies in Europe. Currently, she is working on her first book “Sex Work, Migration and the ‘Nordic Model’” which examines a feminist-inspired prostitution and anti-trafficking policy approach and its intersections with immigration controls from the perspective of sex workers and people in the sex trade. This work is based on a vast three-country ethnographic research including 210 interviews in the Nordic region (Sweden, Norway, Finland) where the policy approach originates. The policy-relevant findings of this study are published in LSE Centre for Women Peace and Security policy brief series and translated into Spanish, German, French, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish. You can also see the release event recording at the LSE here

From 2015-2017, Niina was the main researcher of the multidisciplinary Deported project funded by the Kone Foundation that brought together artists, journalists, activists and researchers to raise awareness of the effects of border regimes and criminalization of migration. The project won the Visual Journalism of the Year Award in 2017. 

Niina's scholarship has been supported by the Mellon / American Council of Learned Societies and the Fulbright Foundation and recognized by the Law and Society Association and the American Sociological Association.

Expertise Details

Migration and Border Studies; Sex Work & Critical Trafficking Research; Law & Policy; Feminist Studies; Ethnography & Qualitative Methods

Selected Media


Vuolajärvi, Niina (2023). The Discipline of Hope: Abolishing the Prison of Immobility in Post-Deportation Narratives. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 49(19), 4907-4927. 

Vuolajärvi Niina (2021). "Sex Workers Experiences Need to be Centered in Discussions on Sex Work," Ilmiö, Sociological Online Journal, Special Issue "Work" (in Finnish). 

Vuolajärvi, Niina (2019). “Governing in the Name of Caring – The Nordic Model of Prostitution and its Punitive Consequences for Migrants”, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 16(2), 151–165.

* Law and Society Association Article Price Honorable Mention 2020.

*Winner of the American Sociological Association Sexualities Section Best Graduate Student Paper Award 2019.

* Translated into Swedish in Annelie De Cabo, Charlotta Holmström & Jari Kuosmanen (eds.): Anthology of Swedish Research on Sex for Sale, Lund: Studentlitteratur(2021).             

Crowhurst, Isabel, Vuolajärvi, Niina and Hausbeck Korgan, Kate (2019). “Sexual Commerce: Troubling Meanings, Policies, and Practices.” Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 16(2), 135–137.

Vuolajärvi, Niina (2018). “Precarious Intimacies: Europeanized Border Regime and Migrant Sex Work”, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 45(97), 1090–1107. 

Vuolajärvi, Niina (2016). "Human Trafficking Narratives and the Reality of Sex Work” Sosiologia - Sociology –journal, 3/2016, 318–324 (in Finnish). 

Vuolajärvi, Niina (2015). "Precarious Intimacies: The European Border Regime and Migrant Sex Work", Viewpoint magazine, 5/2015.

*Translated into Finnish: Vuolajärvi, Niina (2017). “Prekaarit Intiimisuhteet: Euroopan rajajärjestelmä ja siirtolaisten seksityö.” by Elina Halttunen-Riikonen. In Veera Nuutinen (ed.): Uusi työväki: Työ ja yrittäjyys prekarisoituvan palkkatyön yhteiskunnassa, Helsinki: Vasemmistofoorumi. 

Vuolajärvi, Niina (2013). "When Ideology Becomes Practice – On the Politics of Prostitution, Knowledge, and Research." Naistutkimus – Women’s Studies journal, 1/2013, 33–40 (in Finnish). 

Vuolajärvi, Niina (2012). "Dishonorable Daughters of the Nation? – White Women in Interracial Relationships: Experiences of Racism and Sexual Othering." Kulttuurintutkimus – Cultural Studies -journal, 4/2012, 17–30 (in Finnish). 

Vuolajärvi, Niina (2011)."The Materiality and Realness of Race." Naistutkimus – Women’s Studies - journal, 2/2011, 54–60 (in Finnish). 

Vuolajärvi, Niina and Peltonen, Salla (2010). "Taking the Question of Sex Work Seriously: A Commentary on Gender, Work, and Migration." Ikaros – Journal on humans and science, 4/2010, 9–12 (in Swedish). 

Vuolajärvi, Niina and Peltonen, Salla (2010). "Civilized Finns and Dangerous Foreigners – Violence and Cultural Agency in the Finnish Immigration Debate." Ikaros – Journal on humans and science, 3/2010, 29–31 (in Swedish).

Book chapters

Vuolajärvi, Niina, Marttila, Anne-Maria, Viuhko, Minna & Kantola, Johanna (2018). "Finland." In Jahnsen, Synnove and Wagenaar, Hendrik (eds.) Assessing Prostitution Policies in Europe, Milton Park, UK: Routledge. 

Vuolajärvi, Niina (2014). "The Problem of Race in Ethnic and Migration Studies." In Sari Irni, Mianna Meskus & Venla Oikkonen (eds.): Technoscience, Gender and Society, Helsinki: Vastapaino, 264–301 (in Finnish).

Special issues edited

Monish Bhatia, Matilde Rosina and Niina Vuolajarvi.  ”Critical Engagements with Gender, Race and Class in Crimmigration Control,” in Critical Criminology (forthcoming) 

Crowhurst, Isabel, Vuolajärvi, Niina and Hausbeck Korgan, Kate (2019). “Sexual Commerce: Troubling Meanings, Policies, and Practices,” in Sexuality Research and Social Policy.

Research reports and policy briefs

Vuolajärvi Niina (2022) “Criminalizing the Sex Buyer: Experiences from the Nordic Region,” in LSE Women, Peace and Security Policy Brief Series.

* Translated into Spanish, Italian, French, German, Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish. 

Vuolajärvi, Niina (2013). The Effects of the Sex Purchase Act in Sweden. A research report commissioned by the Finnish National Association for Women’s Studies, Centre for Gender Equality Information in Finland (in Finnish). 

Vuolajärvi, Niina (2011). Thai Massage Parlor Workers’ Access to Public Health Services and Language Training.Pro Centre Finland, (in Finnish).

Book reviews

Vuolajärvi, Niina (2019). “Unruly Marginal Histories.” A book review on Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen Musta-Maija ja Kirppu-Kaisa: Seksityöläiset 1800-luvun alun Suomessa [Sex Workers’ in the Early 19th Century Finland]. Niin & Näin 2/2019, 143–145 (in Finnish). 

Vuolajärvi, Niina (2018). A book review on Julie Ham’s Sex Work, Immigration and Social Difference. Gender & Society, 32:02, 739–741. 

Vuolajärvi, Niina (2015). “Unfinished Lessons from Sweden: The Importance of Paying Attention to the Unintended Consequences of the Sex Purchase Act.” A book review on Jay Levy’s Criminalising the Purchase of Sex: Lessons from Sweden. NORA – Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, 23:2, 144–147. 

Vuolajärvi, Niina (2011). "Migration, Sex Work, and Agency: Deconstructing the Trafficking Discourse." A book review on Rutvica Andrijasevic’s Migration, Agency and Citizenship in Sex Trafficking. Naistutkimus – Women’s Studies - journal, 4/2011, 68–70 (in Finnish). 

Lyytinen, Suvi, Mankki, Laura, Repo, Helka, Vuolajärvi, Niina (2011). "A Handbook on Diversity, a Handbook on Gender." A book review on Tuija Saresma, Leena-Maija Rossi and Tuula Juvonen (eds.): Handbook on Gender. Naistutkimus – Women’s Studies -journal, 1/2011, 83–86 (equal authorship, in Finnish).