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Accepted Paper:

Beyond Street-Level Bureaucracy: Enacting the Welfare State in Amsterdam  
Anouk de Koning (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues for conceptualizing the welfare state as enacted, i.e., brought into being in practice in and through a range of sociomaterial contexts. It elaborates this approach through an examination of the ambiguous state-citizen relations that Amsterdam’s Parent and Child Teams enact.

Paper long abstract:

Anthropologists have successfully shown how interactions between citizens and state or state-like actors materialize “the state” and state-citizen relations. Oddly, such approaches have rarely been used with respect to the welfare state in the Global North. Instead, ethnographers working on welfare or public services in Western Europe or North America often turn to an examination of disciplinary aspects of various policies, and the types of subjectification they entail. They follow how policies are translated across different arenas and scales, and analyze such services in terms of street-level bureaucracy. While these approaches generate valuable insights, they tell us less about the ways in which welfare encounters enact wider sociopolitical arrangements and worlds. How “the state” is enacted and how it figures in people’s lives tends to recede from view.

In this paper, I explore what an anthropology of the state has to offer to our understanding of the welfare state in the Global North. I argue for conceptualizing the welfare state as enacted, i.e., brought into being in practice in and through a range of sociomaterial contexts. I illustrate this approach through an examination of the state-citizen relations that Amsterdam’s Parent and Child Teams enact. I show that the Parent and Child Team professionals craft ambiguous state-citizen relations that celebrate self-reliance and empowerment, while maintaining a space for state intervention into family lives in the name of child welfare.

Panel P090a
Revisiting street-level bureaucrat encounters: from discretion and authority to emotional labour and moral contingencies I
  Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -