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About the research programme Social Exclusion and Pedagogy in the Welfare State (SEP)

The SEP research programme examines how social exclusion processes inside and outside the educational institutions have an impact on the everyday lives of children, adolescents, adults and the elderly, including conditions of social and learning development and opportunities for active participation in communities.

For children, adolescents, adults and elderly people, social exclusion can be experiences of feeling left out, not belonging, loneliness, anxiety, depression, apathy or anger as well as experiences of having difficulty or not being able to be included in various social and learning communities, e.g. in daycare, school, leisure and youth, education and the labor market.

The societal and institutional “responses” to children’s, adolescents’, adults’ and elderly people’s experiences of not belonging, being disintegrated may take the form as stigmatizing, exclusionary and problematic descriptions and interventions that at the same time are in risk of causing double exclusion. Social exclusion, already present at a societal and institutional level, often and in almost invisible ways turns into a problem belonging to the individual child, the individual adult or the individual elderly, a self-stigmatization that may lead to further exclusion processes and a fundamental feeling of weak affiliation both within educational institutions and in daily life.

The research programme SEP is organized around two main research methodologies, each of which contributes to the overall pedagogical agenda; to identify significant conditions that can help prevent social vulnerability and stigmatizing and socially excluding living conditions, thereby helping to enhance and improve the social, mental and learning well-being and development of children, young people, adults and the elderly:

  • The first one is oriented as fundamental research with sociology, psychology, anthropology and history as main disciplines. Here, the research program focuses on analyzing the social conditions in the welfare state, which both historically and currently relate to social exclusion processes, for example children and adolescents upbringing in poverty and socially deprived housing areas, unequal opportunities in joining school, leisure, education and the labor market, and especially vulnerable groups such as the disabled and the mentally disordered. This also includes a research theme on how power relations and dominance relationships enhance social exclusion in different contexts and at different levels.

Theoretically and analytically, the research is engaged in exploring questions to the meaning and consequences of these societal conditions, e.g. in the form of segregation, stigmatization and marginalization of groups and individuals.

  • The second one is more application-oriented with action and practice research in a more significant role. Here, the focus is to explore – together with children, young people, adults and the elderly – the observable empirical social exclusion processes brought into play at a societal and institutional level. How these processes unfold in practice and their impact on children’s, adolescents’, adults’ and the elderly’s opportunities for community participation, their learning, well-being and development, feelings of loneliness, anxiety and anger, as well as feelings of not belonging to educational institutions or to society as a whole.

Under the second approach, the research programme also focuses on the welfare state’s professional and voluntary actors working in the educational institutions or in local areas, for example pedagogues, teachers, psychologists, social workers and health workers. How are these professionals and volunteers concerned with preventing social exclusion processes in different educational contexts? How do the professionals experience these processes, their working conditions and self-understanding?

Fundamentally, research tasks carried out in a collaboration between researchers and the practice fields are prioritized, in which professionals actively help identify important conditions that can help prevent vulnerable and stigmatizing living conditions and socially exclusion and enhance social and educational well-being and development of children, adolescents, adults and the elderly.

The research programme is thus interdisciplinary, and works with theoretical and methodological inspiration from pedagogy, sociology, psychology, anthropology / ethnography and history.

The research programme is generally located in the field of the human and social sciences and more specifically in the social research field aimed at children, young people, adults and the elderly. This implies a special emphasis on social and special education (including special efforts for people with disabilities) as well as social work, health care and social psychiatry.

The research is carried out within both qualitative and quantitative research traditions, including ethnographically inspired fieldwork, practice research and mixed methods.