About the conference


Tracing social problems and racialization in Europe:

social control, violence and ethnic others


An interdisciplinary conference hosted by

Roskilde University, Denmark

4 - 5 November, 2019


Keynotes by

  • Professor Claire Alexander, University of Manchester
  • Professor Suvi Keskinen, University of Helsinki
  • Professor Thomas Ugelvik, University of Oslo


Conference theme

European mass media and politics have over the years articulated shifting, urgent social problems – from honor-based violence, social control, youth gangs, to radicalized and terror-prone Muslims. Images of suppressed Muslim women, urban deprivation, ghettoization, and the underclass combined with growing fears surrounding national security and masculinities-in-crisis position ethnic minorities, and especially Muslims, as a recurrent folk devil in European imaginaries (cf. Alexander 2000).

While claims makers declare a given condition as of urgent concern for society ─ charting a problem that must be addressed including directing ways and means of solving it ─ others respond to those claims and rework them. Put differently, social problems go through societal processes of construction (‘discovery’), reconstruction and consolidation by various stakeholders as the media, the general public, social workers, policymakers, and critics engage in assessing the effectiveness of the policy in question.

Focusing on how certain behaviours, actions or norms in Europe come to be understood – problematized and suggested solved – as social problems, this conference explores how racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, and gender formations play into the emergence, and consolidation, of some practices as social problems.

Whereas some strands of research tie social problems such as social control to an inner, cultural essence in ethnic minority-individuals and primarily explore cultural and religious dynamics within the ethnic minority individuals, families and communities, other studies turn to the consequences of what is understood as an institutionalization of a culturalist line of thought (cf. Keskinen 2017). This strand of research problematizes culturalist discourses, including the intervention programs such discourses give rise to, for being nationalist, racialized and securitized and takes the alternative route of exploring the consequences of the discourses’ institutionalization. While this approach includes analyses of majority politics, media discourses and intervention programs concerning the minority cultures and individuals deemed defective, the first approach primarily explores discourses, norms and practices in ethnic minority families and communities, relating them to culture, race or religion. Notably, the two strands of research rarely consider how both aspects feed into one another when practices around social problems such as social control occur.


Approaching social control, violence and youth gangs as particularly discernible examples of racialized social problems that have gained vast attention, we look to historicize and contextualize these, and related, issues (cf. Ugelvik 2019). We encourage examinations of interactions between majority politics, institutionalization of discourses and intervention programs ─ and critical engagements with other structural conditions ─ as well as explorations of ethnic minority practices and dynamics surrounding diverse forms of issues deemed social problems.  




Important dates

Deadline for abstract submission:                  21 June, 2019

Notification of abstract acceptance:                9 August, 2019

Draft conference program published:              1 September, 2019

Deadline for conference registration:              1 October, 2019

Final conference program published:              15 October, 2019


Practical information

The conference will begin on 4 November, 2019 at 9 am and finish on 5 November at 5 pm.

Lunch, coffee, tea, and cold drinks will be provided, on both days of the conference, for all registered participants.


The conference is free of charge. Participants are asked to organize travel and accommodation at their own expense.


Conference host 

The conference is hosted by the project ‘Power and (im)possibilities: Between structures of inequality and honour culture’ andDepartment of Communication and Arts at Roskilde University.



Keynote presentations

Based on fieldwork with a group of Bangladeshi young men in inner-city London, Professor Claire Alexander has explored the complex mythologies and realities of contemporary Asian youth experience in her book The Asian Gang: Ethnicity, Identity, Masculinity(2000). Taking the gang as its starting point, the study examined the interaction of representation and reality, ethnicity and masculinity in a textured, in-depth and personal perspective that challenges traditional views on Asian communities and identities. In her keynote presentation, Professor Alexander revisits the Asian gang-study 15 years on.

In the report The Stopped - Ethnic profiling in Finland(2018) and in the edited book Undoing Homogeneity in the Nordic Region: Migration, Difference and the Politics of Solidarity(2019), Professor Suvi Keskinen addresses the intersections between social control, securitization and racialized minorities. One of the central themes of discussion in her keynote presentation will be the securitization of migration and racialized minorities as a state logic, to which one can rather easily connect policies of honor-based violence and social control.

In the book Sosial Kontroll(2019), Professor Thomas Ugelvik clarifies different conceptualizations of social control and assists the reader in identifying different formations of social control in order to unlock the term and facilitate analyses. Approaching social control as a broad phenomenon that relates to the upholding of social norms in general, Ugelvik explores social control as an inevitable part of society and a practice that shapes social life. In his keynote presentation, he will provide introductory reflections around the issue of social control to broaden and nuance it. 


Roskilde Universitet - Universitetsvej 1 - 4000 - Roskilde - 46742000 - galal@ruc.dk