Material politics: Approaching welfare history through urban water in 20th century Denmark

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


This article proposes the concept of ‘material politics’ as an analytical category for the field of Nordic welfare history. We suggest that our understanding of welfare as a socio-cultural and historical phenomenon can be further enriched if we engage analytically with the multiple ways in which the Nordic welfare societies have been imagined, materialized and negotiated through various forms of material networks, architecture and devices. Thus, to elucidate the analytical potential of material politics for welfare history, we begin the article by surveying recent interdisciplinary research on the entanglements of materiality and power. Specifically, we point to three approaches to material politics that, we suggest, are particularly relevant for the field of welfare history. In the second part of the article, we explore the applicability of material politics by examining two empirical cases, both related to urban water and bathing, that exhibit different ways in which materiality have helped to problematize, mediate and signify different aspects of urban welfare politics in 20th century Denmark. In doing so, we hope to spur further scholarly dialogue about the analytical categories through which we approach and interpret the social and cultural meaning of welfare in modern Nordic societies.
ArtikelnummerLatest Articles
TidsskriftScandinavian Journal of History
Sider (fra-til)1-23
Antal sider23
StatusUdgivet - 4 dec. 2023