Dissertation review, by Charlotte Williams

…this research advances the field considerably in terms of our
understanding of issues of responding to diversity, children’s participation and to understanding how knowledge cultures determine outcomes.” (Williams, 2020: 3)

I was very pleased to see Professor Charlotte Williams’ review of my dissertation in Nordic Social Work Research. Williams is a leading scholar in the field and internationally recognised for her research on ethnic diversity, multiculturalism, racism and social justice issues in the context of welfare regimes and practices. Continue reading “Dissertation review, by Charlotte Williams”

Why anthropology?

I was asked the question shortly before finishing my doctoral thesis. “But why anthropology?” It is rather uncommon to refer to so many anthropologists in a thesis in my field, a thesis that is not based on ethnography. In social work it makes more sense to refer to sociologists, psychologists, even political scientists. So “why anthropology?”

Continue reading “Why anthropology?”

Speaking bodies – silenced voices

One of my recently published article, “Speaking Bodies – Silenced Voices: Child Protection and the Knowledge Culture of ‘Evidencing’”, is now freely accessible for downloading.

This study was partially inspired by a comment at a seminar, which I attended  to present what at that point in time was a work in progress but is now a published article “A Cry for Care but not Justice: Embodied Vulnerabilities and the Moral Economy of Child Welfare”. My presentation addressed child welfare as a moral economy and how the focus on care rather than on social justice downplays children’s voices as well as racism, sexual and gender-based violence in childhoods and other violations of children’s bodily integrity. Yet, paradoxically, in the case of children that are not coded as ethnically Swedish, gender-based violations seem more easily imaginable (see Knezevic, 2020b, 2020c, below). One of the participants at the seminar commented on my findings by pointing out that these issues may be related to the difficult task of providing evidence in child welfare. The study “Speaking Bodies – Silenced Voices” was written as a response to this comment – a “write back” – to problematise the idea of viewing evidencing as difficult or easy. 

In this study, I instead discuss how different knowledge cultures generate different ideas about what evidence is, how it is to be achieved, and who should provide it. The downplaying of issues such as racism and children’s voices is not a matter of the difficulty of providing proof. Instead, the problem is that this kind of proof is not always considered the most important one in child welfare and child protection. Another issue relates to the status of the child and their parent(s), which creates differentiations with regards to who can be trusted and whose problems are seen as severe (see also Knezevic, 2020b, Knezevic, 2020c). I relate this status to race/ethnicity, class, gender and age.

My main argument in this study is that the contemporary knowledge culture in child welfare is not well aligned with children’s participation rights “as we know them” (voice). If children participate, they are primarily “heard” as “speaking bodies” because in this context, it is assumed that the “evidence” can be inscribed onto their bodies.

Read it here: Speaking Bodies – Silenced Voices (Knezevic, Z 2020)

The knowledge culture that gives the impression of “speaking bodies” – bodies that speak in distinct ways, that is, of developmental and psychosomatic harm – is closely related to what I refer to as a moral economy of care (see Watters, 2007). A sketch of this parallel can be seen below. It depicts an ear and it is written in Swedish “listen to the ear?”. I had a particular case in mind when illustrating this, the young girl that I have given the pseudonym Bell in another study.

Speaking bodies © Zlatana Knezevic 2020

Bell is responded to primarily as the “forcibly medicated” and “detained” body with “health problems” (ears) rather than a body that might have been subjected to violence and sexual abuse (“touched [ . . . ] bottom and genitals”). There are no words to explain why forced medication is not an issue nor why Bell does not resist receiving medication by her mother. The “will to health” (Rose, 2001, p. 6) of a parent, and here of professionals, is also in this case ruling out suspicions that the parent (or practitioners) violates the child’s bodily integrity. (Knezevic, 2020b: 236)

The case of Bell is interesting because it shows how a child, who gives indications of sexual abuse, is reduced to her ear disorder (medical condition) and how her resistance to medical care makes her concerns less trustworthy in such a health-focused setting. Forced midication is never problematised, which suggests that the medicalisation of Bell is taken for granted. Bell’s body does not “speak” of developmental and psychosomatic harm and given that this type of harm is taken seriously by the Social Services the indications she gives about sexual abuse are never taken seriously.

There are often several testimonies to consider when assessing children in this context: the testimony of the child, the parent(s), the professionals. In this case, child welfare shows a difficulty in hearing Bell, not because she does not raise her voice, but because the parent, the professionals and her medicalised body (but not necessarily her bodily language) do not support her testimony.

Source: Speaking bodies – silenced voices: Child protection and the knowledge culture of ‘evidencing’. Global Studies of Childhood – Zlatana Knezevic, 2020

See also:

Knezevic, Z (2020b) A Cry for Care But not Justice: Embodied Vulnerabilities and the Moral Economy of Child Welfare. Affilia, 35(2): 231-245.

Watters, C (2007) Refugees at Europe’s Borders: The Moral Economy of Care. Transcultural Psychiatry, 44: 394-417.

Barn och moralisk agens

Det har skrivits mycket om barn som sociala aktörer och barns rättighet att komma till tals. Båda diskussionerna brukar mynna ut i talet om barn som kunskapsaktörer – att barn har kunskap om och agens i sin miljö. Min första vetenskapliga artikel började därför med frågan “men hur är det med barns moral?”. Continue reading “Barn och moralisk agens”

Social change in developmental times? On ‘changeability’ and the uneven timings of child welfare interventions 

My first independent scholarly work is published!

…And it is published in Time & Society, one of my favourite peer-reviewed journals! What is the article about, then? Continue reading “Social change in developmental times? On ‘changeability’ and the uneven timings of child welfare interventions “

Independent: How? When? Why? What?

Before I got my doctor’s degree (PhD), different circumstances forced me to choose sooner rather than later, a more independent path. This new path was a very helpful reminder of why I first wanted to be a researcher.

How it all started

I am not quite sure when I got the idea first. I do remember though thinking about what makes you choose the path of independence on the day I met Sara Ahmed.

Continue reading “Independent: How? When? Why? What?”

Funderar du på att bli doktorand..?

Featured image: Med skrivbordet som stöd/writing with © Zlatana Knezevic 2020

Alla erfarenheter är unika och de för med sig olika lärdomar. Det är därför viktigt att utgå från att de råd och frågor jag strax ska lyfta är bundna till ett specifikt sammanhang, mitt eget. Inte alla kommer att känna igen sig i det jag skriver om och inte allt jag tar upp kommer att vara aktuellt för alla blivande doktorander och de som nyligen påbörjat en forskarutbildning. Dessutom är reflektionerna nedan främst av relevans för samhällsvetare och för (blivande) doktorander vid lärosäten i Sverige.

Min tid som doktorand hade varit lättare om jag själv hade fått dessa råd. Jag hoppas därför att de kan hjälpa andra.  

Continue reading “Funderar du på att bli doktorand..?”

Turning a Dissertation into Art

Featured image: Cover image – PhD dissertation “Child (Bio)Welfare and Beyond: Intersecting Injustices in Childhoods and Swedish Child Welfare”. Artwork by Zlatana Knezevic ©Zlatana Knezevic 2020

Some people have asked me about the cover image of my dissertation. Below, you will find slides, which provide some background to the multi-layered image. The cover was my art project in a course called “Konsten i Samhället”, at Folkhögskolan i Angered.  

Another common question is how I would summarise the dissertation in a few sentences. I have started this blog and the instagram account to share my past and ongoing research and make it more intelligible for others. Apart from summarising and simplifying, I am also trying to find alternative expressions. Sometimes, I try to illustrate it! See more by scrolling the slides below!

© Zlatana Knezevic 2020