Social Movements Claims and Public Responsibility:Gender, Ethnicity, Disability, Sexuality, and the Politics of Needs.

Primary investigator: Prof. Christine Roman (Örebro University)

Collaborator: Associate Prof. Agneta Hugemark

Grant: The Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare [FORTE]

During the last decades, Swedish welfare policy has increasingly been criticized by various social groups for reflecting a hegemonic culture, and for producing inequalities in social citizenship. In the social sciences, as well, there is a lively ongoing discussion about citizenship and social justice. The Swedish state has eventually tried to meet the critique from marginalized or subordinated social groups. One evident example is the foundation of special public authorities, so-called ombudsmen: the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman (JämO), the Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination (DO), the Disability Ombudsman (HO) and the Ombudsman against Discrimination on grounds of Sexual Orientation (HomO), assigned to cover and improve the situation of particular groups of citizens. Starting out from the assumption that the interpretation of needs and how needs can best be met, are subject to constant struggle between social groups, this research project takes a closer look at the mentioned public authorities: their coming into being, their activities as well as changes in these activities. The study aims at illuminating the processes in which claims from social movements were transformed into governmental responsibility, the discourses that were important, and the role played by the social sciences in these processes. The overall purpose of the investigation is to increase knowledge about the interaction between social movements, the social sciences and politics. The specific purpose is to increase knowledge about the creation, and changes in the activities, of the above mentioned authorities. Three kinds of empirical material are analyzed: policy documents, academic texts and interviews with key persons.