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University of Humanistic Studies News Dignity in dependence and emotional labour (Symposium 17th May)

Dignity in dependence and emotional labour (Symposium 17th May)

11 April 2017

In a symposium, taking place on the 17th of May, we want to explore the emotional regime of current welfare state reform. The symposium Dignity in dependence and emotional labour is organised by the University of Humanistic Studies and the University of Amsterdam.

Self-reliance, independence and personal responsibility are leading notions of welfare state reform. Citizens are expected to demand less from public services and be more ‘self-reliant’ and ‘independent’ – words that often hide new dependencies, from family members and volunteers as opposed to professional workers. Professional care and support are restricted in terms of time and money, which puts professionals under pressure to compromise their quality standards. 

These reforms are not just about changing ways of thinking about and organising support; they also come with a new emotional regime, with new demands for emotional labour of clients as well as workers, family members, friends and neighbors. A regime that possibly entails feelings of pride about managing to fulfil expectations of self- or family-reliance, but may as well cause feelings of guilt and shame. Professionals and family members might feel guilty for not doing enough. Clients may struggle with shame and guilt for being dependent and being a burden to others or society. 

In this symposium, we want to explore the emotional regime of current welfare state reform. What emotions are at play in current welfare state reform, and how do people subjected to them respond to these appeals? How do they work on feelings of pride, shame and guilt? How does welfare state reform affect peoples’ notions and feelings of self-worth and dignity? Does this new emotional regime also give rise to resistance of clients, family members and or professionals, and if so, how and with what effect for their dignity and self-worth? Or does it cause resentment and anger, resulting in blaming ‘others’ (e.g. migrants or refugees) for budget cuts, the loss of professional support, and collectively financed provisions?

This symposium is organized by the research project ‘The Promise of Proximity’; a project on professionals’ and citizens’ experiences of welfare state reform. More information about the research project can be found here

Keynote lectures 

Vincent Dubois, professor at the University of Strasbourg (Institute for Political Studies), is well known for his work on ‘The bureaucrat and the poor’. He will speak about the role of emotions in bureaucratic settings. 

Hanne Marlene Dahl, professor at Roskilde University, will speak about care professionals’ resistance to the ideal of personal responsibility and the silencing of practices that do not fit dominant discourses. 


Jan Willem Duyvendak, Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology at the University of Amsterdam.

Evelien Tonkens, Professor of Citizenship and Humanisation of the Public Sector.


12:30 - 13:00 - Doors open (lunch provided)
13:00 - 13:15 - Opening
13:15 - 14:00 - Keynote lecture by Vincent Dubois - TBA
14:00 - 14:30 - Response by Jan Willem Duyvendak and questions
14:30 - 14:45 - Coffee/tea
14:45 - 15:30 - Keynote lecture by Hanne Marlene Dahl - 
Searching for words in elderly care: Dignity? Resistance? Silencing?
15:30 - 16:00 - Response by Evelien Tonkens and questions
16:00 - 16:15 - Ending

16:15 - 17:00 - Drinks on location

The symposium is free of charge, but application is required.

Click here to apply now

University of Humanistic Studies, Kromme Nieuwegracht 29, Utrecht. Take a look at this page for travel instructions. 

More information 
Please contact Laurine Blonk 

In a symposium om the 17th of May, we want to explore the emotional regime of current welfare state reform. The symposium 'Dignity in dependence and emotional labour' is organised by the University of Humanistic Studies and the University of Amsterdam.



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