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Staatliche Fürsorge und gesellschaftliche Marginalität. Geschlechterordnung, Leitbilder und Interventionspraktiken der Sozialarbeit in der Schweiz des ausgehenden 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts

English title Welfare, Marginality and Gender - Social Work in late 19th and 20th century Berne: concepts and practices of intervention
Applicant Schnegg von Rütte Brigitte
Number 69233
Funding scheme NRP 51 Social Integration and Social Exclusion
Research institution Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für Geschlechterforschung Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Humanities and Social Sciences
Start/End 01.09.2003 - 30.11.2008
Approved amount 277'004.60
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All Disciplines (3)

Humanities and Social Sciences
Swiss history

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Social work, welfare and social marginality

What role do mechanisms and ideas of integration and exclusion in the history of social work and welfare play? This project examines the practices of professional social work, welfare institutions, thereby focusing on the question of how they impact on social groups concerned. Of special interest is the function of gender as a structural principle.

This project refers to the debates on the historical significance of social work and welfare. Welfare institutions are part of the administrative machinery that professionally deals with social marginality. Here discourse intersects with mechanisms that integrate or exclude marginalized social groups. There are considerable deficits in the research on the history of social work, its theories and the practices of welfare institutions as well as on the complex interaction between the authorities and clients and between social-work discourses and welfare practices.

Aim and method
The state faces conflicting demands with regard to marginalized social groups. On the one hand, the authorities are obligated to respect and protect the individual rights of marginalized individuals. On the other hand, they are confronted with the demand that they take drastic measures against individuals who represent a risk to public safety. This project will contribute to the historical reflection on these questions. With the method of discourse analysis, it examines the theoretical guidelines of social work in Switzerland and, choosing the city of Berne as a case study, it looks at the development of welfare institutions and the emergence of procedures to deal with social marginality. Special attention is paid to the perspectives of the individuals affected by social marginalization, to their interpretation of social problems and to their options for action - as far as this can be reconstructed on the basis of individual records.

The research aims at giving a sophisticated interpretation of welfare and social work concepts and practices in Switzerland as well as an assessment of their intended and unintended consequences. Knowledge on the microstructures of mechanisms of integration and exclusion shall question both the naive assumptions that continuous progress prevails in social work and the sweeping suspicion that guides some recent examinations of welfare institutions. The analysis of the gendered nature of social-work theories and practices will contribute to a critical reflection on how the gender regime is inscribed to the structures of the welfare state.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


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152094 Das Schweizer Verdingkinderwesen in den Kantonen Zürich, Bern und Basel (20. Jh.) - ein Vergleich (Arbeitstitel) 01.03.2014 Doc.CH