Participation and critique

Practice Research between eulogic espousal and academic arrogance


Irene Højlund, Line Lerche Mørck, Morten Nissen and Ida Schwartz






This presentation will outline practice research as a method and approach to the investigation of social work. Starting from our different empirical-practical projects, we will discuss some of the issues which are in play and which we grapple with, as well as our considerations about how to transform or transcend them. The overall problem is the simple fact that living practice is at once turned into an object of study and recognized as a subject of dialogue and cooperation.

Morten Nissen (Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen) is working on a theoretical problem about objectification and prototypes as key concepts in practice research. The chief concern is with understanding research as a practice like and among others: in particular, as a production and exchange of objects that in turn are used in, regulate, and constitute present and future practices.  The "germ cell" of relations between prototypical practice, model object, and general relevance is developed into issues of ideology critique and democratic research.

Line Lerche Mørck (Department of Educational Psychology, Danish University of Education) details how in her practice research she developed the prototype of marginalized young people transcending marginalization in a complex, zig-zag type of process, as a social process across contexts, and as always a partial overcoming. Line places this prototype as an alternative to three dominant discourses. One of them about pattern-breaking as a relatively individualized process of overcoming an unambiguously negative social inheritance and then living a positive and "normal" life. Line discusses how the prototype came about: How it is both informed and developed from a theoretical perspective of critical psychology and situated theory of learning and at the same time grounded in the joint venture with the 'wild social street workers', whom she was doing research with and about.

Ida Schwartz (Institute of Pedagogical Science and Development, University of Southern Denmark) describes a cooperation with a leader of a residential home on the writing of a paper on the issue of "the residential institution as part of the family's network" (see her general description of the project). She reflects on practice research as a joint venture, and on how a joint construction may contribute to the development of new concepts about and for practice.

Irene Højlund (Department of Educational Psychology, Danish University of Education), takes up the issue of contract research in which particular theoretical frameworks and knowledge requirements may be expected (in this case, effect studies of psycho-dynamic therapeutic community treatment). As this coexists with wishes on the part of the independent researcher (eg as doctoral student) for a critical investigation, the result may be dichotomic and perhaps utopian patterns of develpment. An attempt at handling this dilemma is considered starting from the theories and methods of practice research in critical psychology.


Morten Nissen: Prototypes as objectification[1]

The problem of objectification of practices in research

"Practice Research" is an approach to research basically as a practice among others – and engaged in exchange with those others. Yet it it also a special kind of practice which turns other practices into its objects while establishing forms of dialogue directed at development.

This already leaves us with a problem. Dialogue is a recognition that practices are subjective and that humans are reflexive, so that the relation between researchers and practitioners is an intersubjective relation in which both are participants. This appears to contradict turning practice into some kind of thing, an empirical "material", objectifying it, in order to be able to view it and handle it, deal with it from the outside, according to certain standards,- or in a word: critically. This contradiction appears as a strong force in structuring relations between theory and practice, often in the shape of a dichotomy: the dilemma of rigour or relevance

But what is objectification, really? Viewed in terms of cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT), human subjects do not necessarily suffer when we are recreated as objects. On the contrary: this is at the core of the productive process in which we form our conditions and ourselves. Objectification and subjectification are two faces of the same coin. This is as true of research as of any other practice. In fact, research may be approached as the"general labour" (in Marx' terms), i.e. the  specific kind of practice that contains and unfolds the general qualities of praxis (Ruben, 1978) , as well as deals with the general in other practices (Jensen, 1992) .

The CHAT approach, however, should not make the contradiction disappear in neutral universalities. Rather, it gives us a way of approaching it - what we need to to is to go deeper into the process of objectification. Eventually, we will reencounter the problem - in the shape, perhaps unexpectedly, of ideology.


Objectification as exchange: practice research as a joint transformation of references

Inspired by Marx' analysis of production and social exchange (Marx, 1974) , we can approach research as a unity of exchange and transformation. Any objectification recreates subjective human practice as objects that are circulated, exchanged, and used. This objective relevance, at once a social and a material force, returns to discipline practice and constitute its subjects as disciplined practitioners. Although all phases in the movement are simultaneous (e.g. the practioner objectifies with a view to relevance), they are also diachronic and realize transformations (e.g. relevance still returns as a surprise to recreate the practitioner, who in turn creates a novelty etc.).

The construction of social work as an generalized object in research is made with theoretical concepts whose meanings are given and reflected in a network of theories developed dialogically in scientific traditions. This rearticulation provides new relations, new gaps and connections, new identities and differences, which in turn are abstract-general concepts, that is, hypothetical action possibilities that may be taken up and concretized in particular social work practices – including, but not limited to, the one that was originally objectified. On the other hand, the empirical-practical reference calls for a rearticulation of theoretical concepts whose possible implications resonate through the landscape of theories. Viewed thus, practice research is a name for the junction or exchange itself in the form of a deliberate practice, a joint venture that transforms the practical experiences as well as the theoretical concepts that are taken up and given meaning indexically as references.

Altogether, the transformations occur in a) a local cooperation, b) an exchange between different practices (social work and research), and c) an appropriation of concepts by the different practices and of the practices by the concepts.


The three moments of the prototype

At a closer look, however, "concepts" cannot be purely abstract. Even in research, when they are dealt with as generals (as "mediated simplicities" according to Hegel), they are embodied in objects. Objects specialized for this function (or viewed in the light of it) we can call models (following Wartofsky, 1979).

The transformations that take place in a practice research joint venture can be regarded as the production of a prototype, since a prototype differs from a "case" or a "sample" precisely by being (seen as) intentionally constructed as an artificial model (rather than an instance of virgin nature)[2].. A prototype, then, embodies a triangular structure whose moments are internally related and define each other:

1.      The prototypical social work practice – or the particular social work practice appointed, delimited and approached as prototypical

2.      The model – or the prototypical practice recreated as model object, as an artifact

3.      The general relevance - the iissues, relations, problems, possibilities etc. for which the practice is (perhaps) prototypical

This triangle allows us to approach a number of issues that are often implicit or even repressed in methodology because they touch the (constitutive) boundaries of the taken-for-granted standards of academia.

Firstly, the wide range of material conditions, forms, and  use values of artifacts that objectify social work and may serve as model objects. It becomes obvious how academic texts, numbers and graphs are but a few of the many "inscription devices" that exist and join in the "intertextuality" of the prototype – together with such varied media as offices, keys, one-way-mirrors, hair-styles, body postures etc. and a wide array of textual genres such as jokes, narrative plots, websites, case files, TV programs, project sketches, program evaluations etc. etc. Significantly, the distinction between "abstract renderings" and "the prototype and associated practices as directly embodying the design" (Suchman, 2002, 166), that is, between (abstract) textual representations and (concrete) situated artifacts is no longer considered absolute; rather, it can be usefully regarded in terms of the relative and interconnected concepts of kinds of artifacts according to levels of modelling suggested by Wartofsky (1979): since (primary) artifacts themselves embody generalized action possibilities, the modeling of those socio-material configurations in linguistic forms can be called "secondary" artifacts (language is the "tool of tools"), and the remodelings of language in representational objects (e.g. texts) are then "tertiary artifacts".

Secondly, the general meaning and relevance of the prototype appears as a differentiated, volatile, contentuous relationship, in a flow of time, rather than a simple, neutral and instantaneous relationship of identity (or "reflection"). Thus, the prototype may be the first ever of its kind, and yet generally relevant if corresponding conditions are provided (just as the automobile's relevance – as against that of, say, trains and bicycles – was and is still expanded and developed [concretized] with the infrastructure of motor roads). A model is a model for as well as a model of something, pointing towards past, present and future (Goffman, 1986; Wartofsky, 1979) .


The prototype as ideology critique - and ideology

Thirdly, it follows that the prototype implies a critique, a replacement of older forms with the new (why else would a generalization be justified? In fact, only specifics can be exclusively reproductive – particulars are bound to be situated uniquely, and generalities can only make sense as generalities dialogically,  in a critical relationship to others [a transformation of references]). This places it between modernist social engineering, academistic utopianism, and conservative or postmodern nihilism as radical options to be contemplated, all of which are strong forces in current CHAT and other kinds of off-mainstream psychology and social theory, and all three representing ways of ultimately misrecognizing research as a cultural-historical practice that must aspire to relevance. To overcome those pitfalls, the CHAT methodological reflection can learn much from a tradition that has often been almost complementary to thinking in terms of models and prototypes – that of a theory and critique of ideology (Althusser, 1994; Haug, 1979, Nissen, 2004a , Zizek, 1993, 1994b) .

The concept of ideology directs attention to how concepts and models create, transform or maintain communities and participants, i.e. subjects. This is an aspect of objectification that is often hidden or implicit, since it not only regulates practices in terms of power – the "productive relations" of research, if you will – but also shapes the very subject-positions from which it is carried out.

One classical trope, thus, is to turn attention toward the subject-positions that are objectified in research, such as the hidden rules, compulsory statements, absenses etc. that regulate authorship and readership etc.  An important contemporary example in social work is the production of various kinds of "user perspectives" ( Nissen 1998, 1999; Houborg Pedersen, 2003) that has come to replace the silencing of clients and patients which was almost as predominant just a couple of decades ago. The democratic recognition of the voices of various practices - professional, unprofessional, everyday life etc. - presupposes inquiry into their social construction, since such recognition is itself a critical transformation rather than an empty "moral" obligation.

Another classic that is as relevant as ever is to regard any announcement of a prototype – supposed to be "alternative", "best practice", "critical practice", "democratic" etc. – with some suspicion as possibly the expression of the "repressive tolerance" of a practice field that reproduces power relations in the form of distributing contradictions between sites and places - as well as by constituting sites as heterotopia[3], or "sites of alternate ordering". Thus, social work has a long tradition of idealizing "authentic" community work or cultivating certain "free spaces" that appear to contradict the overall instrumental rationality, oppressive power relations, or dehumanizing stigmatization in society, while it is really that very distribution that characterizes the ideology that objectifies social exclusion[4].

Both in terms of voice and space, ideology critique aims to reconnect the links of mutual presupposition that have been cut into dichotomies. In the place of totalized domains and absolute distinctions (appearances that anyway require a constant keeping-up), practice research looks for the movements, transformations, mediations, and sublations of which we are ourselves inevitably part.

The concept of prototypes even helps us understand that any critique of ideology is itself inevitably ideology, since it points to the mundane, real-life practices, the manufacture of communities and participants, and the artifacts with which we are objectified. Not in order to make us despair or return to the illusion of immaterial ivory towers – but to help us reflect what we are doing.


The problem revisited

Returning to our initial dilemma, we can see that "eulogic espousal" is rarely a mere reproduction of an already existing ideology. Rather, it is when a local social work practice is announced as prototypical that research is appropriated as an ideological objectification (although usually as one among several). Academic arrogance, on the other hand, is just as far from simply leaving things be – typically, it is a powerful attempt to recruit and align practices claiming the "immutable mobiles" (Latour, 1987) of research as a copyright to the prototype, provided the practical transformations ("ad-hoc'ings", Garfinkel, 1984) that take place can be kept unnoticed.

Finally, our ideal of a participatory critique, as the third and transcendent position, must be equally viewed as exchange and transformation, as the production of prototypical models the relevances of which are hypothetical, contentuous, and constitutive of our communities and ourselves as participants.


But I must warn you: this is a far from innocent statement. To quote Paulo Freire:

"In the revolutionary process there is only one way for the emerging leaders to achieve authenticity: they must "die", in order to be reborn through and with the oppressed" (Freire, 1996; 127).


Line Lerche Mørck: Learning and transcending of marginalinalization. A prototype developed in a joint venture with and about the wild social street workers

This presentation will focus on:

1)      Introducing the prototypical model of Learning and transcending of marginalinalization

2)      How the prototype of Learning and transcending of marginalinalization is informed by the  joint venture with the wild social street workers of Copenhagen

3)      How the prototype is a critical alternative to dominating discourses within the area

4)      How is this Practice Research participatory critique? How are the prototypes relevant for practice? In what ways are they pointing practice in a direction producing expanded action potency? Thereby reflecting consequences for practice.

1. The prototypical model of ‘learning and transcending of marginalinalization’

On the ground of theories of situated learning and critical psychology I have objectified ‘Learning and transcending of marginalinalization’ as a personal trajectory, a complex, social, zigzag type of process, taking part across action contexs and communities of practice. This process is always only a partial overcoming with continuing struggles. In this prototypical model the transcending is supported by ideological interpellation in communities of boundary practice (In short form I will call it ‘boundary communnities’). Within these boundary communities other participants take part and support the process that potential resources of wild youngsters or wild social street workers get more substance. (Ph.d. dissertation Mørck 2003, Mørck 2000).

2. The community of the wild social street workers as border community

24 year old Kevan has a Kurdish background. He was born in Turkey and grew up in Copenhagen inner city. He is one of the wild social street workers, who as young spend his times with the lads around the square of Blågården, at Inner Nørrebro. This is an area in Copenhagen both known for its tough neighbourhood and for its solidarity and many citizen activists. Kevan came to participate in wild social work projects, runned by wild social workers in Copenhagen. He participated first as user, later as a resource person, then as part of the staff. The personal trajectory of Kevan has to a very large extend informed the prototype presented above. He is one of the younger generation of wild social street workers, who speaks about him self as both being a social worker and one of the lads at the same time. In an interview he is alternating between in one sentence talking about ‘We’ as the lads from the square and in the next sentence, talking about ‘We’ as the social workers negotiating in conflict among certain groups of wild young lads (see Mørck 2003: 43-44). Kevans ‘ups and downs’ in life as a wild social street worker in the changing social work communities shows how learning and transcending marginalization is a struggle, a process marked by contradictions and conflicts. It’s a zigzag type of process challenged and supported by his participation within various communities of boarder practices. A process where societal changes such as September 11 and a shift in municipal governing all so play an important difference for his daily struggles and the directions his life and orientations takes (see Mørck 2003: chapter 8, Mørck in press). Kevan is as wild social street worker participating as boarder participant and a broker (Wenger 2001) in the social street workers boundary practice overlapping four other communities:


Figure 1: A community of wild social street workers boundary practice overlapping four other communities


3. A critical and transcending alternative to discourses within the area

The prototype of learning and transcending of marginalization is a critical alternative to three discourses or ideologies which are dominating the Danish medias presentation of marginalized youth and how to deal with them. The most mentioned marginalized group in the media is the criminal; as a young male ‘2. generation immigrant’. The solution presented is mostly how professionals should use more discipline and consequences. The more general pattern-breaking of marginalized persons is mostly presented as a relatively individualized process of overcoming an unambiguously negative social inheritance and then being able to living a positive and "normal" life (becoming educated, getting a job, a family, not using drugs, not being criminal etc.). The social street workers are often also presented in the media as ‘the former tough lads’ able to solve very complex societal problems (of criminalized immigrant youth), because of their unique personality. I call this the discourse of ‘the social street workers as superheroes’ (Mørck 2003: chapter 9). All three discourses pose a very individualized picture of both processes of human subjectification and societal solutions. 

4. Practice research as participatory critique

This critical psychological practice research project underline ideology critique and democratic research practice. The case of Kevan and the community of wild social street workers were examples of how theory and prototypes are constructed as part of and informed by the joint venture. The researched practice being both a research object and a coresearcher and active subject at the same time. The prototype of the wild social street workers as boundary community and the prototypical model of Learning and transcending of marginalization both underlines how Kevan and the wild social street worker community are both social workers and still ‘one of the lads in certain ways’.  

The prototypes mentioned directs practice in certain directions. Compared to the discourse of the former lads as ‘superheroes’ they underline that it is important to keep on being a boarder community overlapping the other communities. The prototypes point to the importance of continuing close connections, recruitment and training of new members from the communities of the wild youngsters into the wild social street worker community. My research there by underline the importance of the wild social street workers solidarity with the wild youngsters, e.g. the orientation of relating to the wild youngsters in a kind of ‘friendship way’ (Kevans point), being in contrast to tendencies of the professionals to underline professional distance to the clients. (See Mørck in press.a+b).

But how do I make sure that these prototypes points the practice in a direction of expanded action potency, and that they do not undermine or harm the practice? What do I do when leading wild social workers feel that it’s not in the interest of wild social work to keep on highlighting the overlaps of the communities, the close connection and solidarity with the communities of the wild youngsters? What if it in the short time makes the wild social work community more vulnerable for critique under this changed more polarized society? What if the overlaps actually have changed or are about to disappear as result of this more polarized society?

Al these questions are example of how it is important as practice researcher to keep on reflecting the relevance and the consequences of the prototypes for both the researched practice and other related areas of practice. Including how the prototypes might affect practice in positive and negative ways (seen both in a long time and short time perspective).


Ida Schwartz: Concepts about and for practise

The discussion about the relationship between theory and practice arises again in connection with the latest governmental changes in the Danish educational system. Training-colleges for social workers and other professions connected to teaching and nursing are now integrating more academic knowledge in their curriculum while continuing to train students on developmental processes in practice (Gleerup 2003). These duelling demands appear to pull these educations in two directions, and it creates a new agenda which integrates both practical professional development and scientific knowledge. In connection with this demand, the societal division of labour between scientific knowledge and professional practice reappears.

As a teacher in a pedagogical training college and a PhD student, I research social-psychological problems from both the standpoint of professionals as well as users of social help systems in order to advance the development of professional practice. This research requires professionals to become partners in the research process in order to develop knowledge through a practical perspective (see also Rasmussen 2003). This paper discusses the difficulties in establishing the cooperative tranformation processes and gives an example of how to overcome these issues.

In my research project, I follow the stay of nine children over 1 ½ years in a residential institution for children in care. I conduct participatory observation in everyday life, interview parents and children about the support they receive, and interview professionals across institutional contexts asking for their thoughts about the support they are providing. My focus is on professional organization of the residential institution as a context for children’s development of social participation.

In the beginning of my research, I interviewed the principal of the residential home about their pedagogical practice to understand how it has developed over the last 20 years. The principal explained how he has been engaged in changing the overall thinking in residential care. He described problems in professional discourse and practices in the area connected to different professional definitions of family problems, the lack of coordination between different social systems, rigid patterns of routines in social systems, and so on. Feeling more and more lost in all these examples, I asked the principal for his opinion as to how he would characterize the developments in this area over time, and it led to this exchange:

Ida: But if you have to – now you have got into details and displayed at lot of examples – if you now have to conclude and very briefly, or as briefly as you can, should sketch out this development, from the time you began working here and until now – how would you do tha

Kaj: You can say – the problem connected to doing that is, that a lot of other things have developed in the same time (…)

(He mentions that children and parents have changed, the quality of the pedagogical education has been reduced and new teachers possess less understanding of working in Vollsmose (an urban area with a lot of social problems) and of cooperating with parents of children in care, and then he suddenly stops.

                                        Kaj: Because… What was your question?

Ida: I asked – now you have displayed and now I would like you to sum up…

                                        Kaj: Yes.

Ida: … and briefly say, what you think has characterized the development your institution has been through – while you have been here?

Kaj: Understood how? (Both are laughing). But, characteristics, what is that?

                                        Ida: What have been the main issues?

Kaj: Well, the main issues have been to… All right, the main issues have been to.. Yes, damn it, what kind of development, has it been?

Apparently we are positioned and are positioning ourselves right in the middle of the classical problems of building understandings across research and professional practise. But how do we understand and explain these problems?

In connection to a positivistic tradition of science, theory is often thought of as something totally different from practice. Theory is reflection and practice is action. Theory can in fortunate cases guide practice, and practice is, in ideal form, applicated theory. Theory is regular and rational, and practice is the opposite – a messy and irrationally organized complexity. This dichotomy, although few would display it from a theoretical point of view, exists in both researcherś and professionals ́way of thinking.

In my interview of the principal of the residential home, the communication does not break down because he is unable to explain his practise. On the contrary, he overwhelms me with rich and detailed knowledge and a lot of reflections about complicated and complex constellations of problems in social systems. I am on the other side, however, requiring explicit theoretical concepts to better understand and analyze this complexity. Children and parents in need are dependent on a very large professional network and professional’s competence to cooperate. None of these processes can be placed on a linear formula.

In a critical scientific perspective lots of efforts are made to overcome the dichotomy of theory and practise. The difference between theory and practice is for example by Staf Callewaert (2003) pointed out as a difference between two kinds of knowledge: theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge. Theoretical knowledge is considered to be about something. Theoretical knowledge is, in this view, reflexive striving to seek understanding and not bound for action. Practical knowledge is part of a process that is connected to action and committed to political and cultural interests. Practical knowledge is for something – the possible future. In that discourse, theoretical knowledge is explicit and practical knowledge is tacit. The dichotomy is established again.

Actually in the interview we talk without use of interpreter. I easily follow in his footsteps around in his practical concerns. The problem is that he is trying to explain a specific critique and some alternative ways of organizing social pedagogical work, but I am not able to figure out where he is trying to lead me.

Two kinds of practices

From a third standpoint in critical psychology (fx Nissen 1998 & 2001; Højholt 1993 & 2001; Dreier 1993), all knowledge, including science, is defined as contextual and located, and scientific work is a practice like others, although research is considered a special practice having other practices as its object. From that perspective, knowledge and action are connected to all practices. Professionals are reflective as well as orientated against acting, and scientists are craftsmen as well as reflective. Both kinds of practices, professional and scientific, use and develop concepts to explain and understand their work (explicit knowledge) while also relying on contextual implicit information (implicit knowledge).

Scientific and professional practice are quite different in productive means and methods connected to different societal context, and in that sense subjects from each locations communicate from very different "worlds". My job is to make abstractions and in that way I am searching for, what his examples are examples of and how to understand and conceptualize these problems. On this point in our cooperation I understand that practice in this residential institution is innovative. They have built a flexible institutional context where children and parents as participants are engaged actively in developing the support they receive – a prototypical practice as Morten Nissen has explained it (see above) – but not yet conceptualized.

As a way of overcoming our problems of understanding from our different perspectives, the principal and I decided to write an article together about the prototypical practice they have developed in the institution (Schwartz & Madsen 2003). We worked in a practical way, sorting out different understandings, discussing concepts, both engaged in the formulation of a critique by setting forth examples as models of alternative ways of doing social work. We did not build a bridge between theory and practise, but in a productive cooperation we developed new understandings on the basis of knowledge developed in both societal contexts - which so to say spoke through our collaboration.


Irene Højlund: Dichotomies in developing residential treatment of emotionally disturbed children

The issues that are in play in this fourth presentation, and the issues that I have worked to transcend in a PhD. theses (in prep), starts out as the problem of how to combine different form of research strategies. Using a reference to Morten, how to combine different ways of approaching social work as prototypical, the productions of models and ways of establishing the general.

The area that I have worked in is the residential treatment of emotionally disturbed children.

The outset were an employment as staff on a required research project, and an obligation to participate in an evaluation design resembling an experimental approach asking “what has an effect on who?” An evaluation, which also worked within the official theory and method of the participating institutions, that is the theoretical framework of psychodynamic developmental psychology and a certain kind of therapeutic work called milieu therapy. The research was thought of as a way to increase the quality of the residential work.

The problem was at the outset, if I could combine this kind of research, with at a critical investigation. A dialogical, practice oriented and critical methology?  An approach I found to be a highly relevant and a necessary contribution, but at the same time often an approach presented as a segregated contexts and as fundamentally different from the evaluation strategy.

The first step was to consider this question and problem, as relevant not only for researches to discuss among themselves, or questions only with relevance here. But also as an important questions for such areas as teaching, nursing, social work etc. (As Ida mentioned) Areas that are historically defined though their academic basis also areas that are currently experiencing an increased pressure to integrate and strengthen the academic knowledge forms and methods in their work practices.

How do theses practices interpretate academic basis, and do they also have to or are forced to choose a single or certain academic standpoints, certain academic criteria’s and ways of legitimising there work? Forced by both a political pressure and the political strength of the modernistic paradigm, that is the productive proto-type it represents, intentionally constructed to serve as a model object of rationalism, efficiency and (in this context) healing.

But also by the dichotomised character of critique, that in the same way are producing prototypical structures, but also standing ‘outside’, lacking the ability to “serve”, and there for are being criticised for being difficult to apply, to elitist or based on an utopia.

So the were the dilemmas of finding the good argument for changing the required research project, the getting through the different gate-keepers, the financial supporters, the leaderships, the parents, the caretakers and my difficulties in explaining what I wanted to do ECT. Where they representative of general dilemma?

The consideration and methodology in the PhD. thesis have therefore been secondly to work with the problems of theory and practice, rigor or relevance, participation or critique, eulogic espousal or academic arrogance and so fourth, not as something that stands before me or others, as something to be to be solved or reflected in an abstract way, but as aspects of concrete and contextual practice, - in plural.

The different research strategies are being considered as representing different categories, practices, conditions, interests. Exposed (ore not) thought the distributions of powers in practice (both in the academic, the educational, the residential practises). Different perspectives that we are at the same time imbedded in, but can also strive to think about. What are the conditions for establishing a certain perspective and what are the consequences of it. What kinds of possibilities and restrictions does it contain?

A position and way of working that is defined and formulation partly in Juul Jensens (1999) projection of the work of Marx, and within in the Critical Psychology and Practice research of Copenhagen (e.g. the work of Nissen, Dreier, Højholt and Mørck) and that we try to represent in these ways today.)

Form here is was now possible to return to the required research design. But now as one way of approaching the field, as one kind of experience, as one kind of analytical perspective on this practice containing certain categories, practices, conditions ect. A centred perspective, epistemologically matching the official and dominant categories of the institutions involved, and well argued and politically and financially supported in relation to the historical and contemporary conditions.

The residential treatment of emotionally disturbed children can then, be analytically established as exactly that, as an institutionalised effort to treat the disturbed.

  A practice that is defined though its ways of investigations the problem that is e.g. Rorschach testing of the individual child. Defined though is theoretical grounds such as Sigmund and Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, Winnicott, Bowlby and Stern etc. Which have been central in this line of work in Denmark. Though is different ways of intervention such as therapeutic processes, interpersonal relationships, ways of initiate and handlings conflicts, ways giving the food, etc.

A practice that contains a predefined connection between cause and effect, and that can be established as a sequence of logical and consecutive practices.

A perspective that is fixated by force of choice in the method used and by the distribution of assignment and privilege. As for instance the privilege to define, interpretate, rule, decide and write.

An analytical structure of the institutional practice that contains a number of different ways to increase the quality of the residential treatment such as education in the psychodynamic theories and the milieu therapeutic method, intrapsychological testing, supervisation by experts, refining the written materials, refining the ways of leadership, refining the ways of interpretation, interventions, evaluation ect.

But simultaneously with this work, it has now also been possible to work with different kinds of approaches to research and theory (that is establishing a dialog with the people involved) exposing and establishing both the same analytically structures as the practitioners reproduce the official prototype, but now also different kinds of perspectives, experiences, categories, practises, though otherwise suppressed or unofficial, that is de-centred and critical perspectives. Which creates a mixture of viewpoints.

 The practitioners are now also very occupied with a lack of realization of the theoretical formulated strategies of intervention (and that is even though they in the framework of a self-evaluation, rapport a high level of realization).

 They express the will and interest in transforming the existing ways of working, presenting a line of problems as a general critical awareness, (but are at the same time listing all of the reasons to work as they do).

 The institutional practice can be analytically established as circular and tautological practice (but also as both progressive and consecutive).

 The practitioners do often not know what to say or think, as a loss of experience (even though they are at the same time working within a practise that are both massive in the quantity of words and arguments, and even though they are familiar with these words and arguments).

 And the children who live at the institutions, can be analytically established as skilful and rational participants in a somewhat confusing and assaulting environment, but can at the same time be analytically turned, also to be emotionally disturbed from at traumatic childhood, now finally in a care giving environment.

The transformation of the dichotomies, and that is also the dichotomies as they appear in similar ways in educational and academic contexts or formulated differently; the developmental efforts in and a cross the various and different centred and de-centred analytical perspectives of the same practise and same participants, is again not something for the researchers to invent, enunciate or find.

But something to reflect and experience again in a dialogue and exchange with the practitioners in question. Taking of in the problems that is surfaced and found relevant here, the local conditions, limitations and possibilities for a redistributions of powers, in connections with the general (and historically) structures available. Just as in the work of Morten, Ida and Line. And which the work referred to here, is also trying to be a part of.

 As yet another type of prototypical acedemical intentionally constructed artificial model of the residential treatment, but also as a prototype of yet another way of answering the demand for integration and strengthening the academic knowledge in a variety professions.



Althusser, L. (1994). Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Towards an Investigation). In S.Zizek (Ed.), Mapping Ideology (pp. 100-140). London: Verso.

Callewaert, S. (2003). Profession og personlighed - to sider af samme sag? I: Person og profession - en udfordring for socialrådgivere, sygeplejersker, lærere og pædagoger. København: Billesøe og Baltzer.

Dreier, O. (1999a). Personal Trajectories of Participation across Contexts of Social Practice. Outlines 1, 5-32.

Dreier, O. (1999b): Læring som ændring af personlig deltagelse i sociale kontekster. I Nielsen, K. &  Kvale S. (1999a): Mesterlære.Læring som social praksis. Hans Reitzels Forlag.

Dreier, O. (1993). Psykosocial behandling, en teori om et praksisområde. København: Dansk psykologisk Forlag .

Foucault, M. (1986). Of Other Spaces. Diacritics, 16, 22-27.

Freire, P. (1996). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Penguin Books.

Garfinkel, H. (1984). Studies in Ethnomethodology. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Gleerup, J. (2003). Forskningstilknytning og professionsudvikling. I: Jørgen Gleerup og Finn Wiedemann (red.). Pædagogisk forskning og udvikling. Syddansk Universitetsforlag

Goffman, E. (1986). Frame Analysis. An Essay on the Organization of Experience. Boston: North Eastern University Press.

Haug, W. F. (1979). Umrisse zu einer Theorie des Ideologischen. In Projekt Ideologie-Theorie (Ed.), Theorien über Ideologie (pp. 178-205). Berlin: Argument Verlag.

Houborg Pedersen, E. (2003). Producing the Voice of Socially Excluded People. In: Pedersen & Tigerstedt (eds.). Re. : , 33-52. In E.H.Pedersen & C. Tigerstedt (Eds.), Regulating Drugs - between users, the police, and social workers (pp. 33-52). Helsinki: Nordic Counsil for Alcohol- and Drugs Research.

Højholt, C. (1993). Brugerperspektiver. Forældres, læreres og psykologers erfaringer med psykosocialt arbejde. København: Dansk psykologisk Forlag.

Holland, D. & Lave, J. (2001): History in Person. Enduring struggles, Contentious Practice, Intimate Identities. SAR-press. James Currey.

Højholt, C. (2001). Samarbejde om børns udvikling. Deltagere i social praksis. Kbh: Gyldendal.

Ilyenkov, E.V. (1977). Dialectical Logic. Essays on its History and Theory, Moscow:Progress Publishers

Jensen, U.J. 1987. Practice and Progress: A Theory for the Modern Health Care System, Oxford: Blackwell

Jensen, U. J. (1992). Humanistisk sundhedsforskning. Videnskabsteoretiske overvejelser. Udkast, 20, 113-131.  

Jensen, U.J. (1999). Categories in Activity Theory: Marx' Philosophy Just-in-time. In: Activity Theory and Social Practice: Cultural-Historical Approaches, edited by S. Chaiklin, M. Hedegaard, and U. J. Jensen, Aarhus:Aarhus: University Press, p. 79-99.

Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991): Situated Learning. Legitimate Peripheral Participation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Latour, B. (1987). Science in Action. Cambridge. Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Marx, K. (1974). Indledning til kritik af den politiske økonomi. København: Rhodos.

Mørck, L.L. (2000): Practice Research and Learning Resources. A joint Venture with the initiative 'Wild Learning'. P.61-84. Outlines Critical Social Studies, vol. 2, 2000.

Mørck, L. L. (2003): Læring og overskridelse af marginalisering. Studie af unge mænd med etnisk minoritetsbaggrund. Danmarks Pædagogiske Universitets-Forlag.

Mørck, L. L. (in press.a - 2004): Forbindelser og nye grænsefællesskaber – på tværs af socialarbejdere og marginaliserede unge. I bog som redigeres af Klaus Henriksen. Planlagt udgivelse december 2004 på Forlaget Alinia.

Mørck, L. L: (in press.b – 2004): Bidrag til en social læringsteori. I bogen Voksnes Læringsrum, redigeres af Carsten Nejst. Planlagt udgivelse december 2004 på Forlaget Billesø & Baltzer.

Nissen, M. (2004a). The Subject of Critique. Printed in Forum Kritische Psychologie, 47, as "Das Subjekt der Kritik"

Nissen, M. (2004b). Communities og interpellerende fællesskaber. I: Berliner, P (red.). Community Psykologi. København: Frydenlund Grafisk, 93-120.

Nissen, M (2003). How can "young drug misusers" become "persons"? Presentation to the First International Symposium: Health, Humanity, and Culture - Comparative Social Practices, Malibu, Cal., October 2003  

Nissen, M. (2000): Projekt Gadebørn. Et forsøg med dialogisk, bevægelig og lokalkulturel socialpædagogik med de mest udsatte unge. Frederikshavn: Dafolo.

Nissen, M. (1999). Subjects, discourse and ideology in social work. In (Ed.), Challenges to Theoretical Psychology (pp. 286-294). North York, Canada: Captus Press.

Nissen, M. (1998). Ideologies and developments in practical dealings with addiction. In: Erkenntnis und Parteilichkeit. Kritische Psychologie als marxistische Subjektwissenschaft, edited by B. Kaindl C. Markard M. Fried and G Wolf, Berlin/ Hamburg:Argument Sonderband 254, 1998, p. 229-240

Rasmussen, O. V. (2003). Viden i praksis. Nordiske Udkast 31: 1,  3 – 26.

Ruben, P. (1978). Dialektik und Arbeit der Philosophie. : PRV. Köln: Pahl-Rugenstein Verlag.

Schwartz, I. & Madsen, K. (2003). Døgninstitutionen som en del af familiens netværk. Social Kritik  89.

Suchman, L., Trigg, R., Blomberg, J. 2002. Working artefacts: ethnomethods of the prototype. British Journal of Sociology 53 (2):163-79.

Wartofsky, M. W. (1979). Models. Representation and the Scientific Understanding. Dordrecht / Boston / London: D.Reidel.

Wenger, E. (1998): Communities of Practice. Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge University Press

Zizek, S. (1993). Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology. Durham: Duke University Press.

Zizek, S. (1994a). How Did Marx Invent the Symptom? In S.Zizek (Ed.), Mapping Ideology (pp. 296-331). London / New York: Verso.

Zizek, S. (1994b). The Spectre of Ideology. In S.Zizek (Ed.), Mapping Ideology (pp. 1-33). London / New York: Verso.


[1] This presentation being both very short and intended to introduce the examples of Højlund, Mørck, and Schwartz, allow me to refer to an example of my own practice research: {Nissen 2003}

[2] The term "prototype" is normally associated with technological invention. Following recent science studies, however, even such prototypes should be seen as not merely dead "things" but as socio-material configurations with shifting textures of relevance (Suchman et. al., 2002). The generalized use of this concept is here derived mostly from the works of Uffe Juul Jensen (1987, 1999).

[3] Cf. Foucault, (1986).

[4] There is a sense in which the ideological problem is not that we do not know what we do, but that we must do it even as we know better – like we must every time we act on the market, vote etc. – cf. (Zizek, 1994a)