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Accepted Paper:

The making of capable parents and caring experts through bureaucratic processing of cases in an Ivorian social welfare centre  
Konstanze N'Guessan (Mainz University)

Paper short abstract:

By exploring street-level bureaucrat's interactions with parents and the emotional labour involved in the production, processing and eventual closing of cases, my paper will shed light on the making of capable parents and caring experts in an Ivorian social welfare centre.

Paper long abstract:

Following de Koning et al (2020) I look at “parenting encounters” between parents and representations of state institutions as performances, negotiations and contestations of normativities of good parenthood. What it involves taking good care of a child is partly determined by state policies or transnational conventions (thus as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child), but is enacted and interpreted on the grounds in the interactions between social welfare officers and parents. These interactions involve emotional labour of building trust with clients and "fighting" for those who are considered vulnerable subjects in need of protection and care, and translating policies of good parenthood into the social world of their clients.

In my paper I will engage with Ivorian social welfare officers and their bureaucratic working routines in the processing of cases. By focusing on the bureaucratic aspects of their work (categorizing, documenting, writing, producing reports, numbers, statistics) and ethnographically exploring how cases are produced, discussed, processed and eventually solved and closed, my paper will shed light on the actual making of capable parents and caring experts at once. In fact, I will show how these two are represented as mutually connected. The paper is based on ethnographic research in an Ivorian social welfare centre and will build on ethnographic date produced from both sides of the desk: participating in counselling and evaluating good parental care with the social welfare officers and accompanying parents in search of expert assistance in times of crisis.

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