Depicted welfare-recipient stereotypes in Norway and Denmark: a photo-elicitation study

  • Sofie Dencker-Larsen SFI - The Danish National Centre for Social Research & University of Copenhagen
  • Kjetil G. Lundberg Uni Rokkan Research Centre
Keywords: welfare recipients, stereotypes, work ethic, photo-elicitation, visual culture, visual methods


Welfare recipients are continuously subjected to media debates and governmental campaigns drawing on images and symbols encouraging improved work ethic and individual responsibility. Only few studies, however, have analysed how welfare recipients as ‘othered’ citizens react to these often stereotypical symbols and images targeting them. In this study we have investigated how welfare recipients in Norway and Denmark, and caseworkers in Denmark, understand and account for images which, through the use of stereotypes, directly or indirectly may question welfare recipients’ work ethic and deservedness. Analysing photo-elicitation interview data, we have uncovered a variety of reactions characterized by ‘problematization’. The interviewees problematize the image and depicted stereotypes, which they link both with motif and symbols and with surrounding public debates on the work ethic and deservedness of welfare recipients. Furthermore, as photo-elicitation is a rarely used tool in welfare research, we address methodological aspects of using photo-elicitation in a study of ‘othered’ welfare recipients.

Author Biographies

Sofie Dencker-Larsen, SFI - The Danish National Centre for Social Research & University of Copenhagen

Sofie Dencker-Larsen is a PhD Fellow at SFI – The Danish National Centre for Social Research & Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. She is MSc and BSc in Sociology from University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She specialises in analyses of social marginalisation, unemployment and well-being. The autumn semester of 2014 she spent as a Visiting Student Researcher at the School of Social Welfare, University of California at Berkeley, USA.

Kjetil G. Lundberg, Uni Rokkan Research Centre

Kjetil G. Lundberg holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Bergen (2012), and is a Senior Researcher at the Uni Research Rokkan centre in Bergen, Norway. He specialises in welfare sociology, and has worked on several projects related to activation and organizational reform in Norwegian welfare systems, as well as on health care services and labour migration. From July through December 2014 he was a Guest Researcher at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit (SCWRU), King´s College, London, England.


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How to Cite
Dencker-Larsen, S., & Lundberg, K. G. (2016). Depicted welfare-recipient stereotypes in Norway and Denmark: a photo-elicitation study. Nordic Journal of Social Research, 7.