Constructing social problems as social work worthy interventions: The case of prostitution in Denmark

Primary investigator: PhD Candidate Henrik Karlsson, MA (Department for Social Work, Stockholm University.

Funder: Department for Social Work, Uppsala University

Project description: In this project, I draw attention to exit programs that target sex workers. These programs were originally formulated in the United States but have also spread to countries where selling sex remains legal. Of these countries, Denmark is perhaps the most interesting case to study from a social work perspective because of the prominent role played by social workers in the country’s response to sex work. Besides a ban on third-party involvement, sex work is primarily limited by social work interventions, such as exit programs. In this dissertation, I follow how the problem of sex work and its solution trickles down from the Danish Parliament to municipal policymaking and social work practice. By doing so, I intend to uncover some of the implicit assumptions that social work practice may be contingent upon. This approach provides social work practice with a unique opportunity to reflect on and discuss ideas, notions, and values that may not be expressed explicitly but nonetheless underpin practical work. To deepen my analysis, I draw on Michel Foucault and Carol Bacchi to approach the uncovered assumptions from a perspective of governmentality. This choice of critical theoretical framework means that I aim to explore, for example, what kind of persons the sex workers are expected to become in the exit programs and what strategies the social workers formulate to make them become these persons. I finalize my analysis by discussing how this process could be understood in terms of subjectification.

Advisors to dissertation: Prof. Katarina Alexius and Assoc. Prof. Maritha Jacobsson

Last modified: 2023-12-15