In the dissertation I highlight relations between welfare providers and welfare recipients by focusing on the complex relations between power and resistance, and agency and structure. Theoretically, the project is inspired by Erving Goffman, Michel Foucault, Anthony Giddens and Pierre Bourdieu. Empirically, the research examines care work among Travellers in Norway in the three decades after 1945. Public intervention in Traveller families was part of a wider Norwegian policy aiming at the full assimilation of the Traveller minority into the mainstream settled society. The policy was delegated to and organised by a private Christian charity, Norsk misjon blant hjemløse («Norwegian Mission among the Homeless», or «The Mission»). The research is based on qualitative text analysis of case information available in the National Public Record Office (Riksarkivet) and interviews with 18 Norwegian Travellers. Inspired by Anselm Strauss, I focused on the nature of negotiations between Travellers and the Mission.
Firstly, I studied the relation between Traveller families and the Mission. After up to four years´ stay in a work-colony, the families were settled in houses in rural parts of Norway, far from their relatives and other Travellers. I have focused on how the families, in many different ways, handled the strict routines in the work-colony, as well as their everyday lives after «being settled».
Secondly, I focused on the negotiations between Traveller parents and the Mission. Parents who had lost their children to the Mission negotiated with the Mission to maintain their parenthood. To be able to keep in touch with their children, parents had to demonstrate a conciliatory attitude towards the Mission. The negotiations were influenced by structural changes in the welfare policy towards children under care. Gradually, orphanages where replaced by foster-cares. This change reduced the possibilities for parent´s negotiations.
Finally, I looked at the relation between Traveller children and the Mission. The Mission maintained a therapeutic perspective towards the children under care, whereas the children tried to sustain the relation without renouncing their identities.
The dissertation shows how these client-patron relations were formed within the larger framework of the developing welfare state. It especially draws attention to the high human costs of the policy of normalisation as the only means to inclusion of marginal groups.