Fattigdomens besvärjelser : visionära ideal och vardagliga realiteter i socialt arbete

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The theme of this dissertation is how changing claims as to what is proper and true social work have been formulated and staged in the twentieth century. From the perspective of cultural analysis I seek to discuss how social work has been formed and changed over a century. I wish to demonstrate how descriptions and narratives, actions and gazes, practice and rhetoric have constituted a changing professional role with differing expectations.

It is a study of how different groups of social workers have made room for themselves and how new fields have been colonized. This process looks different depending on who has had the initiative and the primacy of interpretation.

In the book I juxtapose the grand narrative of social policy with the stories of the young woman who wanted to combat destitution like some gallant knight; of the matron who served too much butter to her alcoholic inmates; of the teenage girl who was transformed by the official records into a sexual girl; of the fieldworkers who wanted to describe the concrete jungle in a new way; of the social medical officer who wished for civic common sense. The maxim is often the same: the modern project with its aspiration for order, or the good intentions with their unforeseen disciplining. Just as often, I have come across unexpected reasons why social work has taken the shape it has.

In choosing a constructivist perspective I have tried to avoid regarding concepts such as therapy, client, or modern social welfare as stable, unchanging entities. By calling them constructions - formed and mutable - one cannot ignore that they are historically and socially constituted.

It would be cynical to claim that social problems do not exist until a social worker names them as such. Men do abuse women, children are badly treated, and money is short - but this does not happen in a vacuum devoid of speech and action. They become realities in perception and conceptualization. How this is captured, described, and made into a reason for intervention is a central theme in the dissertation.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Art History


  • "doing the discoursing", Cultural anthropology, Gender-performances, the State, Social welfare, Modernity, Cultural meanings, History as narrative, Professional identity, Cultural construction, Social work, etnologi, ethnology, Kulturantropologi, Space/Place
Translated title of the contributionInvocations of Poverty. Visionary Ideals and Everyday Realities in Social Work
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1998 May 15
  • Historiska Media, Box 1206, S-221 05, Lund, Sweden
Print ISBNs91-88930-28-9
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 1998-05-15 Time: 10:15 Place: Palestra External reviewer(s) Name: Öhlander, Magnus Title: Ph.D. Affiliation: [unknown] ---