Border Work: Negotiating Shifting Regimes of Power

Newman, Janet (2016). Border Work: Negotiating Shifting Regimes of Power. In: Gubrium, Jaber F.; Andreassen, Tone Alm and Solvang, Per Koren eds. Reimagining the Human Service Relationship. Columbia University Press, pp. 318–336.



“Transformative change” has long been the rallying cry of those with a stake in human service provision. It has been the call of social movement activists seeking enhanced rights and voice. But it has also been the demand of policymakers seeking to redraw the relationship between state and citizen (shifting responsibility, promoting resilience, and changing citizen behavior). My focus in this chapter is on how these different demands intersect and on the labor at stake in managing the contradictions that arise, especially in conditions of retrenchment and austerity. I address such questions by drawing on the idea of “border work.” The focus on actors working the borders of contemporary policy and politics challenges the concept of “transformation” as a kind of epochal change. It draws attention to the transformative processes of reimagination and reflexive practice on the part of those working for change.

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