Professional Interventions as a State-Crafting Grammar: Using a Sociological Concept of State in Historical Research

Christian Ydesen, Trine Øland

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    This article is written in connection with a joint research project which adopts a comparative outlook in investigating post-war Danish professional interventions aimed at immigrants. Specifically, these interventions are investigated as a state-crafting grammar. One project primarily focuses on Danish professionals. It is based on a large-scale interview study and is titled “The space of professional interventions and agents addressing ‘the immigrant’ 1970-2012”. The other project is designated “Professional categorisations of normality and deviation, 1945-1970”. Addressing a Danish case and an English case, it is primarily based on archival studies. Both projects share the same theoretical orientation.
    The joint research interests of the two projects are how professional interventions addressing “the immigrant” have appeared, been legitimized and been transformed, and how professionals and their practices have related to the state and acted on its behalf. In essence, what the projects seek to understand is two-fold. First, they address the boundary work of the professionals in defining both professional work and “the immigrant”. The aim is to capture the way in which professionals symbolically participate in (re)identifying and (re)problematizing “the immigrant”. The second aim is to understand the state’s complex work of group-making and how it targets “the immigrant”, continually re-constructing the politics of belonging in the state-crafting activities of professional intervention.
    This research endeavor calls for a sociological theoretical framework, and in this connection we have found help in Bourdieu’s and Wacquant’s concept of state as a bureaucratic field and their concept of state-crafting. The aim of this article, then, is to show how it is possible to use Bourdieu’s and Wacquant’s sociological concept of state in historical research and to put it to work empirically.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationChallenging Ideas? : Theory and Empirical Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities
    EditorsMaren Lytje, Torben K. Nielsen, Martin Ottoway Jørgensen
    Number of pages20
    PublisherCambridge Scholars Press
    Publication date2015
    ISBN (Print)978-1-4438-8372-6, 1-4438-8372-7
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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