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Religion as a lifeworld : an alternative to secularist concept of religion in social work

Weber, Magnus (författare)
Malmö universitet,Institutionen för socialt arbete (SA)
Björngren Cuadra, Carin (preses)
Malmö universitet,Institutionen för socialt arbete (SA)
Herz, Marcus, Docent, 1978- (preses)
Malmö universitet,Institutionen för socialt arbete (SA)
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Cavanaugh, William, Professor (opponent)
Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, Chicago, USA
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ISBN 9789178772131
Malmö : Malmö universitet, 2021
Engelska 260 s.
Serie: Malmö University Health and Society Dissertations, 1653-5383 ; 2021:8
  • Doktorsavhandling (övrigt vetenskapligt)
Abstract Ämnesord
  • The discourse on religious extremism and jihadism has stimulated deep interest in religion as a factor in social problems. So have other religion-related issues such as honour-related violence, migration and integration, and female circumcision. Given that social workers are often mentioned as pivotal actors when it comes to preventing and working long-term with extremism, radicalisation, and related issues, religion has acquired increased visibility in social work. This has reinvigorated discourse on religion within social work practice, policy and research.This dissertation attempts to grapple with and theorise about the implications of this new visibility of religion in social work. Its starting point is an analysis of the tacit assumptions about religion revealed in interviews with practitioners in the field of preventing violent extremism and promoting democracy. Genealogical analysis then contextualises these tacit, secular assumptions in a historical, philosophical and theological setting, so denaturalising them. This work clears the way for developing a new and innovative path that holds promise for more productive work in relation to religious social problems.The main argument in this dissertation is that a secularist concept of religion falls short when doing social work with religious citizens. This is because a secularist concept of religion regards religion either as a set of doctrines or teachings or as purely subjective and emotional. Practitioners who take the former position often try to disprove specific doctrines, as if doctrines produce religious extremists. Practitioners who adopt the latter position try to change the inner inclinations of the subjects from, say, an extremist disposition to a democratic one, or from radical Islam to ‘mainstream’ Islam. Both approaches are inadequate because by depriving religion of its bodily and institutional setting, religion is reduced solely to its intellectual or emotional elements, while overlooking its practical, social, institutional and embodied aspects.The alternative conceptualisation of religion proposed in this dissertation is rooted in phenomenology. If religion is conceived of as a horizon of meaning that precedes and supersedes individual choice and preference, while simultaneously being construed as contextual and open to reinterpretation, encounters between social workers and religious clients can be guided by openness, interest and curiosity, even reconciliation. Change could, then, be achieved from within the clients’ lifeworld, rather than through confrontation and the advocating of drastic alternatives to their present lifeworld. Such an approach to social work with religious clients is likely to be more successful than one rooted in a much narrower understandings of religion.


SOCIAL SCIENCES  -- Sociology -- Social Work (hsv//eng)
SAMHÄLLSVETENSKAP  -- Sociologi -- Socialt arbete (hsv//swe)
SAMHÄLLSVETENSKAP  -- Sociologi (hsv//swe)
SOCIAL SCIENCES  -- Sociology (hsv//eng)


Violent extremism
social work

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