Universiteit Leiden

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The Psychic Life of the Welfare State

Monday 15 April 2024
CADS Research Seminars
Pieter de la Court
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden

Welfare states embody a number of constitutive contradictions. They join notions of social rights with biopolitical concerns; they are there to help but also monitor and control. Welfare states are there for all citizens and residents, irrespective of background, but some groups are seen as more in need, more problematic and more risky. They promise decent lives for all but are bound by the parameters of capitalist relations, for which they function as a safety net. These contradictions shape the everyday lives of welfare state institutions, such as Amsterdam’s Parent and Child Teams. Drawing on my research with these Teams, I demonstrate how these contradictions translate into organisational dynamics akin to a psychic life, replete with fantasies and desires, as well as haunting disavowals. 


Anouk de Koning is associate professor at the department of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology. She leads two major research projects (2022-2027), Prototyping Welfare in Europe: Experiments in State and Society (financed with a Vici Grant) and Social Work and the Art of Crafting Resilient Societies (financed with a NWA Grant). These projects explore the new socio-political worlds brought into being in welfare experiments in Europe.

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