Conference on right-wing extremism: articulating social problems
The “Right-wing Extremism” conference in Frankfurt am Main on July 4th and 5th 2019 deals with various forms of right-wing extremism and discusses how people in the field of social work deal with this phenomenon. Prof Dr Nikolaus Meyer, IUBH Professor of Social Work, is co-organiser of the conference and talks about the merits of the event.
We witness the influence of right-wing extremism and right-wing activists on our communities more or less on a daily basis in the media. To what extent is this a topic of discussion in the field of social work?
Prof Dr Nikolaus Meyer: Our society is currently undergoing a number of changes. In the wake of the refugee crisis of 2015, for example, there has been talk of “asylum tourism”. Is escaping from a country in the throes of civil war comparable to cruise-ship tourism? Of course not, but the people who use such images have an objective: with the help of so-called framing, they allude to positive images from tourism and thus negate the often horrible reasons for and experiences of people fleeing. Social Work is particularly affected by such developments, because its clientele is often part of such marginalized groups. Current societal trends are also visible in the everyday work of a social worker. A prerequisite for professional action is prior examination of such issues.
What is the focus of the “Right-wing Extremism” conference?
Meyer: On the one hand an initial theoretical overview, for example questions such as, what does “antiziganism” actually mean or where does anti-Semitism begin? Afterwards, working groups take an intensive look at such complex issues in relation to social work. Students are then able to take a more reflective position and discuss options for action with some of the most important representatives from professional associations and academic organisations. Leading scientific experts and/or practitioners from the field staff all workshops and working groups. So far, there has never been an event for students in this field with a comparable number of prominent participants. The cross-linking of important theory with practical work is central. The conference thereby corresponds to our expectations as lecturers: Interlinking theory and practice in a meaningful way!
How is the conference relevant for IUBH students?
Meyer: Students can listen to speakers’ latest research findings and deepen their understanding of the impact of current social developments on their own work. They also learn that social work, in accordance with its own professional definition, must expressively articulate social problems. First, however, this awareness must be clearly established. In this respect, university studies and the conference complement each other. Social workers often have to contend with anti-Semitic slogans in youth clubs, etc. When did the specialists learn how to deal with this in a professional manner? In most cases, not at all. We have to change something here in general. At IUBH, we take the lead and do it now!
To what extent does the social work programme at IUBH address right-wing extremism?
Meyer: We have a number of committed colleagues in this field, so the topic is often discussed in an interdisciplinary context. Nevertheless, the examination of right-wing extremism is not really anchored in the curriculum of any German university social work programme. This is also not the case for us. Our cooperation with Prof Dr Michaela Köttig from the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, who is also chairperson of the German Society for Social Work, demonstrates IUBH’s pioneering position in this field and at the same time offers other universities the opportunity to follow this example in the future. The students will certainly carry this learning experience into their practical work and will come back to it again and again in the course of their studies.
Further information on the “Right-wing Extremism” conference and the programme can be found here.