Colloquium: Danish job centers and the design of the unhomely home

  • Date: May 3, 2022
  • Time: 05:00 PM
  • Speaker: Bernardo Zacka, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Location: Conference Room
  • Host: Center for the History of Emotions

The Center for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, led by Prof. Dr. Ute Frevert, cordially presents its summer semester 2022 colloquium.

Bernardo Zacka, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Danish job centers and the design of the unhomely home

For most of those who interact with it, the state is a place before it is an institution. It is somewhere we go to do something, or somewhere we are summoned to have something done to us. The way that place looks and feels prepares us for the interaction to come. It evokes associations with other settings that help us situate the occasion and give it meaning. It puts us in a certain mood or mindset, before so much as a word has been uttered. This simple fact has not escaped the attention of scholars of the welfare state, but it has not held it either. Most remark in passing on the glum atmosphere of welfare offices, but only as a prelude to describing the human drama that unfolds in them.

What can we learn by looking closely at the bland and generic spaces in which the welfare state greets us? Architecture will not change public policy, and no amount of interior design will make a trip to the benefits office a pleasurable experience. But what can architecture do? What could we reasonably hope from it, and how can it fail us? Bernardo Zacka explores these questions through an extended case study, reconstructing and critically interrogating the evolution of the interior architecture of public employment offices (jobcenters) in Denmark.

Bernardo Zacka, a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg in 2021/22, is Associate Professor of political theory in the Department of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research focuses on the people and spaces that mediate our encounters with the state. His first book, When the State Meets the Street (Harvard University Press, 2017) explored the everyday moral lives of street-level bureaucrats. He is currently writing a book on the interior architecture of welfare offices.

Location: conference room of the MPIB (Lentzeallee 94, 14195 Berlin)
Info: 3G rules apply.

External visitors require a mask and pre-registration: sekfrevert@mpib-berlin.mpg.de

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