In this year’s REFUTS conference various categorizations will be put to discussion along different scales:

  • scale of “users/recipients/clients”;
  • scale of “social and educational work professionals”;
  • scale of “organizational arrangements/social services”;
  • scale of “regulations/laws”;
  • scale of “political discourse”.

Especially the binary coding’s described below shall become “objects” of reflection, debate or analysis throughout one or several of the abovementioned scales. Bearing this in mind, contributions to the conference can embrace basically all “sectors” or “fields” of social and educational work: health, migration, family, work, non-formal education, disability, etc.

Indigenous/national – extraneous/foreign

Indigenous/national – extraneous/foreign

The frontiers of this distinction can be spatial, material, ideal or emotional. Depending on the relevant domain (immigration, social assistance, health) this distinction is expressed through differences in “status”: migrant, borderer, refugee, asylum seeker, applicant for international protection, European citizen, national resident, etc. Within each domain “status” is bound to the access to rights, based on demarcation lines drawn in a logic of inclusion/exclusion. Contributions can deal with questions such as: How are processes of categorization evolving over time around legal, moral or other frameworks? How does the replication of this dichotomy on different scales and diverse cuttings become a source of contradictions? How are those cuttings re-invented within encounters between social workers and users/recipients/clients? What is becoming visible within these encounters in terms of so-called bricolage work (cf. p.7) and creativity?


Independent/autonomous - dependent

Independent/autonomous – dependent but also: capable – incapable, competent – incompetent

This binary coding, which takes on varying significations along different domains, seems to be intimately linked to the dichotomy of the individual and society respectively, on a smaller scale, with the dichotomy of the individual and the group. In a certain way, the dichotomy of independence and dependence seems to be profoundly inscribed into the collective imagination of “Western culture”, wherein the person constitutes an “individual” or an “agent” within a higher-order substance, i.e. a so-called “structure”, “system” or “institution”. This categorization is also found within ideas about others’ well-being (children or adults considered as incapable of discernment…) as well as about the so-called welfare state. Contributions should revolve around questions such as: How is the categorization of autonomy and dependence of recipients invented within different regulations? Which effects are created through the invention of different “degrees” of autonomy or dependence, with special regard to the stratification of users/recipients/clients? How do social workers replicate or liquefy these categorizations through their practice? Which are the creative strategies they apply? And how do users/recipients/clients as such perform their autonomy/dependence in relations with social and educational work professionals?


Responsible – irresponsible

Responsible – irresponsible but also: guilty/delinquent – not guilty/ not delinquent, diligent – idle, reliable – not reliable

This binary coding might be as old as humankind itself. Therefore, spatio-temporal thematisations are particularly welcome. Furthermore, these kinds of coding’s seem closely interrelated with another “fundamental” distinction, linked to the abovementioned dichotomy between the “individual” and the “society”, that is the person and its environment. Is responsibility to be attributed to disadvantageous environmental conditions or to the person itself? And should aid not be offered as a priority to those who “really” are in need? How is that to determine, though? Contributions to this binary horizon may deal with questions such as: How is the relation between person and environment conceptualized within different configurations (legal, organizational, professional)? How are these categorizations put into practice within encounters between social and educational work professionals and users/recipients/clients, with special regard to responsibility attribution of persons-in-society?


Aid/benefits in kind – aid/monetary benefits

Aid/benefits in kind – aid/monetary benefits but also: so-called activating – passive intervention

Social aid regulations operate on a regular basis with distinctions along this categorization. According political and/or professional considerations mobilize – more or less directly – other dichotomies “inherent” to social and educational work, and which take on questions of “idleness” and potential “abuse of confidence/resources”. In Luxembourg for example – herewith drawing back on an abovementioned dichotomy – the assistance to be provided is amongst others linked to the dichotomy between residents and borderers. As it appears, assistance seems to shift towards benefits in kind, especially when it comes to helping those who are most “disadvantaged”. The contributions may draw on questions such as: How has the pendulum of social redistribution swung between the dichotomy’s two poles over the course of time, with special regard to different domains/sectors? Which discourses appear to be attached to one or the other pole? How do non-profit organizations and professionals take position within this debate?


"Other" binary codings

“Other” binary coding’s

Potential contributors are free to propose other binary categorizations for their own communication, as the list described above is not supposed to be exhaustive. In fact, we would like to encourage explicitly submissions on less “classic” cuttings.



Public initiative – private initiative

Public initiative – private initiative

The organization of assistance and the repartition of “roles” between the state and private organizations is subject to continuous debates. Advocates of extensive state intervention often argue that only the state can constitute an appropriate guardian of national solidarity and equality of treatment. Their opponents and partisans of a subsidiary model advance that the state should only intervene in the last instance and leave room for initiative to the people. The dichotomy public/private takes on other dimensions as well, for example when it comes to the responsibility of the state vis-à-vis the family in child education and care. The contributions may revolve around questions such as: How have the relations between the state and private organisms or between families and public initiatives evolved throughout the course of time? Which effects are created through shifts in these relations, with special regard to financial, organizational and conceptual planning? How do social and educational work professionals experience “hybrid” configurations within this dichotomy, i.e. when private organizations work with stately subcontracts? Which effects are created through the defamiliarisation of child education on organizations, professionals or children and their parents?


Polyvalence – specialization

Polyvalence – specialization

Another ongoing debate revolves around the division and differentiation of aids/benefits/services in relation to the needs/problems/demands of users/recipients/clients/trainees. In a certain way, this dichotomy puts the whole notion of professionality at stake. Which kind of professional does one “really” need? The advocates of specialization assume a necessity to optimize services, be it with regard to the flow of users/recipients/clients/trainees or the adequacy between “problems” and “solutions”. At the same time, they argue that the quality and efficiency of services rely on the staff expertise, i.e. the quantity of similar cases treated over a year. In contrast, advocates of polyvalence point to the risk of a fragmentation of the person-clients, i.e. the latter no longer being taken care of in their wholeness. The contributions may deal with questions such as: How have services and professions recomposed themselves throughout the course of time along paradigm shifts between the dichotomy’s poles? Which political, associative and professional discourses can be identified with regard to this dichotomy? What effects are created by specialization respectively polyvalence on the users/recipients/clients? How do professionals practice their specialization within daily work?


Strong coupling/coordination – loose coupling/coordination

Strong coupling/coordination – loose coupling/coordination

This dichotomy is linked to the ones aforementioned. Throughout time and with the cutting of aids/benefits/services into ever more specific categories, the question of how to coordinate link-ups has gained in importance. Especially in Luxembourg, there is an ongoing debate on the link-up of social and educational support systems. Within the domain of children’s aid and family services, posts have been created for “coordinators of individualized projects”. In other domains, such as professional orientation, services of the same type have been regrouped under one umbrella. In Germany, drawing back on the domain of children’s aid and family services, so-called integral aids/benefits have been offered since the 1990s. Amongst others, the reduction or avoidance of “revolving doors” and “abuses of multiple benefits” have been put forward as arguments in favour of a stronger coupling. Furthermore, so to say as a “secondary” effect, it has been argued in favour of a recourse on shared databases for services and professionals. The contributions may revolve around questions such as: How have coordination related discourses and practices evolved over time? How much has the question of coordination impacted social workers professional secret? Which effects might strong coupling create on users/recipients/clients as well as on relations between professionals and users?


Professional – amateur

Professional – amateur but also: employee – volunteer

Freely inspired by Wagner’s (1981) suggestion regarding anthropology, one could raise the question if we are not all, in some way or other, social and educational workers. Howsoever, this very dichotomy raises questions about the social and educational work professions themselves, their interventions and regulations – once again we are coming back to the distinction between the individual and the state. Within the domain of child education, the demarcation between professionals and amateurs seems to be sketchiest. What is the difference between a professional educator and a parent by “vocation”? Or how to be a good educator? Do you become a good educator through experiencing parenthood and raising your own children or rather through acquiring knowledge on specific educational techniques?  Furthermore, professionalism is regularly debated in situations of “crisis”, just like in the recent “refugee crisis”. In the daily life of associations amateurs and professionals mingle as members of executive boards as well as staff… Contributions could deal with questions such as the following: What kind of vision is transported by ideas of professionalism? What are possible effects of the distinction between professionals and amateurs on the invention of social problems – do problems have to be complex to require professional intervention? How has the distinction evolved throughout time and with regard to specific locations? Which models of cooperation between professionals and amateurs exist in social work practice within non-profit organizations, humanitarian aid or other frameworks?