Ordinary practices and representations beyond scandals
To which degree did the media discourse on social aid stigmatize or banalize "bad" behavior? Did the turning point at the beginning of the eighties mark a true break? This study queries the categories "single mothers" and "substance abusers" in order to identify discursive temporalities as well as the calls for coercive measures for persons considered to be "atypical" and bearing the risk of becoming a burden on society as a whole.
Project description (ongoing research project)
This project analyses discourses of the media, experts, political and public players in the field of social aid and those condemning its misuse. By analyzing the two «objective» categories, that is to say categories considered to be evident by the general public and subject to changing perceptions – the abuse of psychotropic substances and "girl-mothers" – this study wishes to gain understanding for the changes as well as for the continuity of discourse in the Lake Geneva region as well as the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. How have media-effective and professional discourses, on the one hand, and administrative practices, on the other, interacted since 1960? Which discourses developed on practice? Did they support or denounce practice? How, finally, can insight into this development of discourse demonstrate useful possibilities in view of establishing a better balance between support and coercion and which political guardrails for social normativity are necessary in order to prevent a drift?
Apparently, the media seems to have played a role with regard to the propagation of scandals surrounding coercive measures - all the way to accompanying a change in the discourse on coercive measures within the context of involuntary commitment (1981). To this effect, times of lesser will be compared with times of greater media coverage, based on these typologies of social problems, in order to lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms defining the interaction between discourse and practice.
The analysis of the discourses on the articulation between social aid and the two groups analyzed as well as their potential overflow into other social categories aims at achieving a better understanding of the historical changes in view of mastering today’s challenges with regard to the depiction of social welfare practices that are considered to be (un)problematic. Political actors, the authorities, social welfare experts, and the media could have an interest in a better sensitization towards the impact of mutual influencing on discourse and practice.
It is from a scientific perspective that the interaction between state policy, media coverage, and professional discourse as well as its development will be investigated within the scope of an interdisciplinary research project. The historical analysis of the dynamics between the “scandalization” and “banalization” of social welfare practices will provide politicians and social welfare experts as well as the media with valuable information on the “normalization” of practices.
Ordinary practices and representations beyond scandals. Questioning regional dissimilarities (1960–today)