The Boundaries of Welfare – Migrant Groups and National Minorities in Scandinavian Social Policy, 1918-1940 | Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik - MPISOC

Research Projects

03.09.2018 - 31.08.2021 / Foundations of the Social State

The Boundaries of Welfare – Migrant Groups and National Minorities in Scandinavian Social Policy, 1918-1940

This book project places the relationship between territorial borders and the welfare state into a historical context by looking at processes of 'inclusion' and 'exclusion' of minority and migrant groups in Scandinavian welfare laws during the interwar period. What the project intends to do is to unsettle the idea that national welfare states emerged out of clearly defined national borders and fully homogenous populations. It seeks to examine the porous and contested boundaries of the emerging Scandinavian welfare states, with a particular focus on how these were negotiated and rationalised across different national, political and economic settings.

In order to examine the contested and changing boundaries of the Scandinavian welfare states, the project focuses on groups of individuals whose status was either ambivalent or contested. One focus is on 'internal' groups such as indigenous populations, including the Sami and the Inuit. Another focus is on 'external' groups, by which are meant migrant groups crossing nation-state borders. These include migrant groups first entering the national territory, such as migrant labourers or refugees, as well as returning national citizens, foreign spouses and multi-national families.

The project examines the legal frameworks governing access to various types of public welfare as well as the discourses and debates on the status of these groups within the various welfare systems. In doing so, it looks on the one hand at the rationales of policy makers for either granting or denying access within a nation-state context. On the other hand, it looks at how welfare boundaries were negotiated and contested across the Scandinavian region by focusing on the various formal and informal fora of Scandinavian social policy cooperation that evolved during the interwar period.

The project draws on a wide range of archival and published primary sources. The main source base comprises legislative documents, commission reports, ministerial archives and parliamentary debates. In addition, the project looks at various non-state publication formats, including academic and policy journals. Finally, in order to understand how ideas traversed national borders and how access to welfare systems was coordinated across Scandinavia, the project examines the archives of Scandinavian social policy cooperation during the interwar period.

The findings will be published in a book on what is presently an understudied period of Scandinavian welfare state formation. Examining the early stages of Scandinavian welfare state development enables us to gain a differentiated view of its various driving forces and normative underpinnings, and challenges the image that there was ever a single set of values or a homogenous national polity that defined them.

Contact Person(s)

Dr. Anika Seemann, LL.M. (Cantab)

Presentations and Contributions
Dr. Anika Seemann, LL.M. (Cantab)
The Boundaries of Welfare – Migrant Groups and National Minorities in Scandinavian Social Policy, 1918-1940