In the Summer of 2015, in all European welfare nation-states professionals, policy makers, administrators, and civil society organisations were in highest alert over the major refugee arrivals from Afghanistan, Syria, and the African continent. In Denmark, in particular, the government responded with stricter border controls and containment of refugees in temporary tent camps. Local administrative and professional bodies created panics about the lack of resources and lack of professional knowledge for managing the new refugee groups. The professional panics are particularly interesting in a historical perspective of earlier administrative and professional responses to the arrival of new refugee groups: The Afghans in the 2000s, the Bosnians in the 1990s, the Iranians in the early 1980s, the Vietnamese in the 1970s, the Jewish Poles in the late 1960s, the Hungarians in the 1950s, and not least, the Germans in 1945-46.
This paper suggests we understand the professional panics as a multi-professional state-of-alert. The state-of-alert points to professional confusion, disruption, and anxiety about not being able to manage a presumably new target group with the professional repertoires already available. This state-of-alert crystallises welfare professional problematisations of the new target groups and becomes an occasion for the mobilisation of joint forces to manage and solve the imagined problems, thereby generating new professional tasks and needs for professionalization.
This paper examines what professional actors and organisations contribute to the state-of-alert, with what agendas directed against whom? How were the newly arrived refugee groups described and problematized, and what solutions and interventions were suggested and set into action? The paper examines similarities and differences across four major welfare professions; teacher, social educators, nurses, and social workers. The refugee family as a shared object of problematisation and intervention is what binds these professional groups together in the historical educational practices under investigation. For example, professionals express concerns regarding single male refugees (without family), polygamous refugee families, unaccompanied refugee children (broken families), dysfunctional (traumatised) families etc.
Analytical questions that reflect a theoretically informed understanding the object of study based on readings of Jacques Donzelot, Edward Said and Frantz Fanon, will be put to use in the analysis. Donzelot’s genealogical study of public intervention in family life and how professions partake in molding the social body through the family since the 18th century is setting the scene for focusing analytically on the refugee family in our study (1997). Said’s analysis of Orientalism as willed human work (2003: 15) inspires us to analyse professional work addressing refugee families as willed human work in its historical complexity of politics and culture. It furthermore emphasizes representation of the Other as representations (Ibid.: 21), i.e., problematisations made up of everyday knowledge constructs and myths about the exotic stranger, and also scientific interests in managing the truth about the stranger. Thus, we analyse what professional energies went into the making of a state-of-alert in response to the arrival of new refugees, and focus on changes, modulations and refinements within multi-professional thought about the refugee family. Finally, we also look to Fanon to be able to uncover the complexity and ambiguity of how race and racialization work in professional imaginations and problematisations. Fanon’s analyses points to how racism (and colonialism) is embedded in European civilizational culture in both tangible social and refined symbolic forms, and not least how racism as culture transforms and renews itself (1967, 2009). Therefore, racism must continually be carved out analytically in all aspects of social life (Fanon 1967: 81). Such notions encourage us to analyse the refinement of professional work tangled up with the refinement of racism, e.g., in terms of racialization practices (Larsen and Øland 2011; Øland 2012).
Donzelot, J. (1997): The Policing of Families. Baltimore: The John Hopskins University Press (original French version 1977). Fanon, F. (2009): The Fact of Blackness, In: Back, L. and Solomos, J. (eds.): Theories of Race and Racism. A Reader. London: Routledge (original French version 1952), Fanon, F. (1967): Racisme og kultur. Sirius (original French version 1956). Larsen, Vibe, and Øland, T. (2011): ”Integrationisme i pædagogisk forskning og professionalisme” Praktiske Grunde. Tidsskrift for Kultur-og Samfundsvidenskab 5 (1): 5–16. Padovan-Özdemir, M. (2016): "Racialised Entanglements of Teacher Professionalization and Problematised Immigrant Schoolchildren: Crafting a Danish Welfare Nation State, 1970-2013”, Paedagogica Historica. Said, E. (2008): Orientalism. London: Penguin Modern Classics 2003 (Original version 1978). Øland, T. (2012): “Human potential” and progressive pedagogy: A long cultural history of the ambiguity of “race” and “intelligence.” Race, Ethnicity, and Education 15 (4): 561–85.
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