EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

Raising Europe: managing parents and the production of good citizens
Location U6-34
Date and Start Time 20 July, 2016 at 14:30
Sessions 2


  • Anouk de Koning (Radboud University Nijmegen) email
  • Synnøve Bendixsen (University of Bergen) email
  • Charlotte Faircloth (University of Roehampton ) email

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Short Abstract

This panel examines how European welfare states attempt to produce good citizens. Starting from the realm of parenting, where new citizens are literally moulded, it studies how different parents are managed and how parents respond, illuminating European states' attempts to raise their citizens.

Long Abstract

European national publics are diversifying. Governments often see this diversity as creating challenges with respect to the fabric of national society, social cohesion, and the production of good future citizens. Simultaneously, in times of economic crisis and neoliberal reforms many governments redefine their role vis-à-vis citizens and society, stressing citizens' 'responsibility', their 'own strength' and mutual aid. This panel examines how, against the background of these governmental concerns, European welfare states attempt to produce good citizens. It does so by using the realm of parenting as its vantage point, since this is the space where new citizens are most literally moulded, both in the intimate sphere of the family and in public institutions.

This panel invites papers that discuss how governmental agencies, such as schools and health care institutions, manage parents through a range of policies, institutional arrangements and professional practices, and how various parents respond to such attempts at governing. In what ways do various institutional actors attempt to govern and foster the production of future citizens? What are the parental responses to governmental interactions and interventions related to their parenting? What might be some of the unintended or corrosive consequences of these interventions at the level of intimate family relations, and society more widely? By comparing cases from across Europe, this panel will provide insights into European welfare states' attempts to raise their citizens in the context of diversifying national publics and neoliberal reforms.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Governing parenting and the contradictions of postneoliberalism in Amsterdam

Author: Anouk de Koning (Radboud University Nijmegen)  email

Short Abstract

The Dutch post-neoliberal model stresses volunteering and citizens’ ‘own strength’. This focus clashes with continuing concerns about weak social cohesion due to ethnic diversity. I explore how these tensions play out in policies related to (migrant) parenting in Amsterdam.

Long Abstract

Like other European states, the Dutch state attempts to develop a post or late neoliberal model that combines state retrenchment with an emphasis on neighbourliness, volunteering and citizens' 'own strength'. Such discourses entail the devolution of responsibilities and action to the local level, often the neighbourhood, and a reliance on notions of active citizenship and communal care and solidarity. These new tropes are markedly at odds with concerns about weak social cohesion at the level of the nation, city and neighbourhood on account of growing ethno-cultural diversity, which have dominated politics and policies in the Netherlands for the last decades. The language of local community and active citizenship sits uncomfortably with images of problematic diversity and the emergence of parallel ethnic life worlds.

This paper uses municipal policy related to the governance of parenting in Amsterdam to explore how these tensions play out. Policy engagements with migrant parents in particular can bring out the contradictions of the present post or late neoliberal moment in the 'new Europe'. On the one hand, migrant parents are called upon to take on a more active or 'responsible' role in their children's lives, while, on the other, governmental actors fear that these parents' initiatives and their notions of good parenting may be at odds with the 'Dutch values' and be detrimental to the 'full' integration of people with migrant backgrounds, which would entail a threat to the much desired cohesive society.

Reproducing citizens, remaking social solidarity in Italy

Author: Milena Marchesi (University of Massachusetts Amherst)  email

Short Abstract

Over the past two decades, Italy’s welfare model has been transformed, while concerns over birth rates and immigration persist. Through analysis of three government documents on welfare, integration and reproduction, I show the centrality of the family in the remaking of citizenship.

Long Abstract

Over the past two decades, Italy's social welfare model has been transformed by the neoliberal requirements of European integration and by austerity measures. These changes intersect and resonate with concerns over persistently low birth rates, intensifying (bio)political battles over reproduction, and a diversifying citizenry driven by immigration.

The bases of social solidarity and citizenship in Italy, as elsewhere in the New Europe, are being redefined through these debates. Informed by ethnographic research conducted in Milan in 2007 with feminist and migrant activists, healthcare providers, and cultural mediators, I trace these debates through three government documents: 1) "The White Paper on the Future of the Social Model: The Good Life in the Active Society" (2009), which introduces a new model of welfare in which the normative family plays a key role in fostering social solidarity; 2) "The Charter of Values of Citizenship and Integration" (2007), which argues that monogamous heterosexual marriage is the basis of gender equality and a core European value; and 3) the Italian Minister of Health's "National Plan for Fertility" (2015), which identifies low birth rates as a threat to social welfare and calls upon parents, pediatricians, and teachers to educate children about their health and sexuality, with the aim of protecting their future fertility. Through analysis of these official moments of articulation of values related to welfare, integration and reproduction, I show that the family emerges as a key political subject in the remaking of citizenship in Italy.

Positive parenting, moderate measures: teaching motherhood in North Dublin

Author: Rodolfo Maggio (University of Oxford)  email

Short Abstract

This paper illustrates, with a particular focus on the interface between mothers and mentors, how an ethnographic approach can illuminate the responses of families enrolled in an early intervention programme aimed at improving parenting skills, school readiness, and child development in North Dublin.

Long Abstract

Preparing For Life (PFL) is a community-led initiative (funded by the Irish Department of Children and Youth Affairs and The Atlantic Philanthropies) that seeks to improve the lives of children in Dublin 5 and 17. It provides local families with a set of early intervention services ranging from antenatal care to home visiting, covering the children's first five years of life. In this paper, I concentrate on the Home Visiting Programme (HVP), in which mentors help families with parenting, child development, and school readiness.

The PFL Evaluation Team at the UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy reported that the initiative had a moderately positive impact. Interestingly, it appears that PFL is delivering better results if compared with home visiting programmes in other places and times. However, 35% of families dropped out of the study due to attrition or disengagement. Why are these families responding in this way? How do they understand the initiative? How does their ideal of a 'good mother interact with the values inspiring the PFL programme, its managers, and mentors?

My aim in this paper is to illustrate how an ethnographic approach can illuminate the response of these families. This early intervention programme, though intended to improve the life of their children, can be perceived in different and unexpected ways. I argue that important insights can be collected with a focus on how parenting values are concretised and negotiated in the everyday interaction between family members, as well as at the interface between mothers and mentors.

Raising Europe? Parenting trends and social solidarity in Norway and the UK

Author: Charlotte Faircloth (University of Roehampton )  email

Short Abstract

This paper outlines a project designed to investigate the social implications to the way we raise the next generation. Norway and the UK are contrasted as European welfare states with differing orientations to the question of social coherence, parenting and the production of ‘good citizens’.

Long Abstract

In Norway, parents routinely leave children in pushchairs outside shops whilst they run errands. The same practice in the UK is considered unusual at best; probably illegal, at worst. Examining parenting trends in the European context, this paper outlines a project designed to investigate the social implications to the way we raise the next generation.

Many scholars, particularly in Anglophone countries, have observed that mothers and fathers are now expected to do much more explicit 'parenting' than in the past. Rather than being a common sense activity, parents must act as expert-informed risk managers who will protect and optimise the development of their offspring, in a highly individualistic model of care. To investigate both the 'management of parents' and creation of 'good citizens', the project outlined here uses the case studies of Norway and the UK as examples of welfare states with different historical orientations to social coherence, equality and diversity.

Drawing on classical sociological themes, the research is designed to investigate how the 'intensification' of parenting has affected social solidarity or 'gemeinschaft' relations. In particular, it considers the effect of a more individualistic narrative around parenting (arguably, part of a move towards 'gesellschaft' society) on notions of trust and social cohesion in the two settings. Focussing on sites of potential antagonism in Norway and the UK - such as between the generations, genders and classes in the context of rising migration - the paper outlines potential ways of investigating the relationship between intensive parenting and notions of social corrosion.

"They should learn how to eat in a normal way": struggles over food habits of the future generation in Poland

Author: Zofia Boni (SOAS, University of London)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic research in Warsaw, this paper discusses attempts to create “good” future citizens in Poland with the means of food, by governing parents in their feeding practices and children in their eating practices; and how people appropriate these influences in their everyday lives.

Long Abstract

Parents and children in Poland have not been managed before on such a scale and so intensely with the means of food as today. Different groups of adults want to shape the future generation and feed children in particular way to make them into particular eaters. If children eat in the "right" way, this means that their parents are good and proper parents. But it also means that teachers have fulfilled their responsibilities; that the state has healthy citizens and lowers the health costs arising from "bad" food habits; and that the food industry has created "good" consumers and food companies have loyal customers. However, the ideas of what is "right" and what constitutes the "good" food habits often differ between these groups and within them. Moreover, both parents and children appropriate these influences in their own ways.

This paper draws on 12 months of ethnographic research conducted in Warsaw in 2012 - 2013, which included studying working class and middle class families, primary schools, state institutions, market agencies, non-governmental organisations and media. By discussing few examples from my fieldwork, I show how food is used to govern and mould people, and how people who are being governed react to and appropriate these influences in their daily practices. Building on food and discipline/governmentality studies, I discuss the current tensions and struggles regarding children's food habits and analyse the broader politics of food, class and food education in Poland.

Other people's children: dealing with diversity in multi-ethnic and class differentiated schools in Norway

Authors: Synnøve Bendixsen (University of Bergen)  email
Hilde Danielsen (Rokkan Centre )  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines how parents in a multi-ethnic and class differentiated borough in Norway are dealing with diversity and in so doing take part in creating parenting cultures.

Long Abstract

This paper examines how parents in a multi-ethnic and class differentiated borough in Norway are dealing with diversity and in so doing take part in creating parenting cultures. The parents' engagement takes place in the context of the Norwegian welfare state with growing expectations of parent's school involvement.

We base our analysis on fieldwork pursued at two elementary schools in a socially differentiated area in Bergen, Norway's second largest city. The area caters to social-housing clientele, highly skilled laborers and a growing number of migrants. It is defined as problematic by the municipality and receives targeted governmental social and economic resources. Ethnic diversity is a recent social phenomenon here and how to deal with it is currently enfolding. In the paper, we discuss how being a parent is constructed and played out at two places: Parents' Council Working Committees and through school practices. How are diversity imagined, talked about and played out at parent's meetings and how are parents dealing with that diversity? What parenting cultures are promoted and produced through these discussions and practices? On the other hand, how are the schools dealing with diversity? What is the role of the school in producing specific kind of parenting ideals and norms? We suggest how diversity is fronted as a social value, and how parents negotiate the kind of diversity that should be encouraged or prevented. This is pursued partly in order to limit the potential risks that diversity and difference could represent for the pupils, the school and neighborhood.

”This is private”: negotiating the teaching of religion at a Danish school

Author: Marianne Holm Pedersen (Danish Folklore Archives at the Royal Danish Library)  email

Short Abstract

This paper argues that while both teachers and Muslim parents at a Danish school view religious belonging as a private matter that does not concern the school, they have different understandings of what this means and what it should imply for the children’s participation in school activities.

Long Abstract

The Danish state school (folkeskolen) is generally considered a secular institution, but the course Knowledge of Christianity is part of its basic curriculum. While the teaching in the course is not supposed to propagate Christianity, it could be argued that it implicitly conveys particular understandings of what religion is and what the role of religion in public space should be. In this way, the course is part of the civil enculturation taking place in school, shaping not only children, but also their parents to become proper citizens in the Danish nation state.

Although the teaching of religion in school is a widely debated issue in Denmark, little knowledge exists about how parents of Muslim background relate to the role of religion in the children’s daily school life. This paper explores how teachers and Muslim parents interpret the course ‘knowledge of Christianity’ and how they view the division of responsibility for teaching children about religion. Based on interviews with school leadership, teachers, parents and children at a school in the Danish province, the paper argues that while both parents and teachers understand religious belonging as a private matter that does not concern the school, they have different understandings of what this means and what it should imply for the children’s participation in school activities. The paper further argues that the so-called encounter between ‘Muslim practices’ and ‘Danish values’ rather constitutes yet another example of negotiations that have always taken place in modern Danish society between the institutions of family and school.

Home encounter as state act: Romanian Roma new migrant mothers negotiating rights of residence

Author: Rachel Humphris (University of Oxford)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores how assessments of good motherhood become crucial to Romanian Roma ability to 'make place' in the UK. The home encounter as a private site of value-exchange is presented as a public 'state act' determining access to membership.

Long Abstract

This paper explores how assessments of good motherhood become crucial to Romanian Roma families and their ability to 'make place' in the UK. The paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork living with three families between January 2013 and March 2014, marking the shift in labour market regulations and the end of UK transitional controls for Romanians in January 2014. Through mapping families' networks and connections, I identify mothers' encounters in the home with state actors whose duties stemmed from safeguarding children define their access to the state.

Tensions and negotiations emerged through perceptions and expectations surrounding toys, child development and 'healthy food'. Different notions of the public and private space are mobilised through the bureaucratic gaze with repercussions for fixing families, denoting their deservingness and making decisions regarding the form and manner of formal or informal support and resources they offer.

The home encounter as a private site of value-exchange (Skeggs 2004) is presented as a public 'state act' (Bourdieu 2012; Dubois 2010; Thelen 2014) determining access to membership and welfare resources. In addition, blurring boundaries between welfare regulations and immigration control mean that these actors' seemingly small decisions have far-reaching consequences.

State and family borderlands: the production of complex intimacies between welfare state agencies, migrant communities, and refugee families in Denmark

Author: Mette-Louise E. Johansen (Aarhus University)  email

Short Abstract

Exploring the ambiguity of “good parenting” at the interface between welfare state agencies and migrant families in Denmark, this paper argues that the imaginary of good citizenship is shaped through the negotiation of multiple moral orders between the state and the migrant community.

Long Abstract

This paper explores what shapes images and performances of good parenting among migrant parents of Palestinian descent in Denmark. Parenting has become a battlefield in which migrant families need to position themselves in order to be politically and socially recognized. Based on one year of fieldwork among Palestinian families in the largest immigrant neighborhood in Denmark, Gellerupparken, the paper asks how a group of marginalized Palestinian refugee parents with children engaged in crime experience and navigate local welfare state interventions in their family life. I argue that the parents experience the welfare state as endangering family intimacy and parent-child relationships and, thus, their interactions with welfare agencies become centered upon symbolic boundary making between state authority and family privacy. The relationship between the parents and state agencies may be highly influential in the parents' life-world, but it does not constitute their primary point of orientation in questions about good parenting practices. Instead, the parents negotiate between a plurality of moral orders and loyalties in a 'borderland' between the state, their own close kin-relations, and the local Palestinian community in Gellerupparken. In order to explore dilemmas and struggles parents experience as they are caught between competing moral orders, this paper investigates the underlying ambiguity that shapes "good citizenship" vis a vis "good parenthood" in various community relationships. The paper brings new insights into the communicative character of boundary making interactions between state and family, and the sensitive maneuvering of public performances of family practices.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.