Participation & the power from within

Lars Bo Andersen, Peter Danholt, Peter Lauritsen

Research output: Contribution to conference without a publisher/journalAbstractResearchpeer-review


The Danish welfare system is intimately interwoven with forms of surveillance enabling practitioners to know the citizens for whom they must care. However, as Foucault argued, the relation between surveillant practitioner and surveilled citizen is by no means straightforward. It drifts along action upon action in an evasive tangle.This paper investigates one example of such a tangle: Namely, the case of social workers and placed children working to become better related through video conferencing, texts and chat.In Denmark, social workers working with the municipalities are responsible for surveilling, controlling and caring for the wellbeing of placed children. Similarly, social workers are also obliged to include children as participants in their own case.To this end, social workers are dependent on intimate and trustworthy knowledge of children's everyday life. However, as Latour argued with the oligopticon, this type of knowledge is difficult to obtain and always only partial. And, decisively, it often requires some degree of cooperation from children. However, social workers are not simply accepted by children who often struggle with the 'woman from the municipality' who, in some cases, instigated their removed from home.The observed situation thus complicates both the ambition of participation and the need for a surveillant welfare practice.Consequently, this paper explores three questions: a) how do social workers manage to surveil the wellbeing of children, b) how do children relate to social workers' surveillance, and c) how could we conceptualise the relation between welfare and surveillance in an age of participation.
Original languageDanish
Publication date2 Sep 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes

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