Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In contemporary Denmark early interventions promise solutions to many problems – lack of integration, problematic parenting practices, criminality, and radicalization – that beset marginalized urban neighborhoods on the official Ghetto-list (CFBU 2017; Johansen and Jensen 2017). This paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork in a community-based center for inter-disciplinary social work targeting (to be) mothers under 30 years, in an area defined as a “hard ghetto”. With the conceptual lens “states of intimacy”, I wish to critically examine the logic and practice of “early interventions” that enter deep into family life in an attempt to try to identify and act on potential problems before they turn into actual social problem. The paper explores how such ambiguous “states of intimacy” are produced over time and how they are experienced by state actors and mothers/families respectively. Based on two ethnographic accounts, I reflect on the delicate balance between instances in which the efforts of social workers are experienced as fruitless or as forms of “coercive concern” (Jaffe-Walters 2016), as well as the instances in which they are experienced as genuine care and presence (Kleinman 2019).