General Call for Papers

Journal of Resistance Studies is published in June and December and accept papers continuously all year round. Texts up to 12 000 words in total, with a clear resistance relevance and not submitted to other publications are most welcome.

Call for papers for special issue on Everyday resistance in welfare systems

Guest editors:

Sarah Murru, assistant professor of sociology, KU Leuven University

Majken Jul Sørensen, associate professor of social science, Østfold University College and
Karlstad University

Within the field of resistance studies, “everyday resistance” is by now an established concept to investigate resistance work that is not necessarily organised, openly visible and often goes unnoticed and unrecorded under the radar (Scott 1985, 1990; Johansson and Vinthagen 2014; 2020). In order to advance the field, this special issue will explore what the notion of everyday resistance has to offer in a context where power often presents with a benign face: so-called welfare societies. The welfare system supposedly protects people from social risks throughout the life course and reduce social inequalities. Within such a positive formulation, there has been little space for studying resistance towards and in the welfare system. Nevertheless, welfare service systems have experienced new models of service delivery, new public management, austerity policies, requirements for cost-effectiveness, and marketisation. Often these transformations have meant hard times for people who already struggle in their daily lives. Thus, we ask: What forms might everyday resistance work take in this context? Additionally, everyday resistance has rarely been investigated in settings where power is exercised with genuine good intentions of helping and assisting, such as the teacher in a kindergarten class or the medical doctor offering health care. We find that this “benign power” offers a different and interesting angle to explore the entanglement of power and resistance, compared to situations where the interests of those in power and those resisting are so obviously not aligned.

While everyday resistance is probably common among the employees of the welfare services, in this special issue we wish to focus on people’s standpoint and research that starts from there. We are interested in the resistance work done by the most “vulnerable” and “marginalized” (such as clients, inmates, pupils, or service users), but also the links and alliances they might form with for instance the street level bureaucrats.

A topic which might be particularly relevant in so-called welfare societies are the emotions and affects which emerge when people are doing resistance work in situations where there is an implicit understanding that they ought to show gratitude even if they are simply exercising their rights. How does that affect the situation and everyone involved, including the person doing resistance work? Linked to this is the labels and categories those in positions of power use to describe the resisters
they encounter. How does it affect self-images when one is aware that one is considered a “difficult client” or when one’s acts are labelled as “cheating” or “laziness”? And what terminology might better reflect the perspective of those resisting?

The context of the welfare state also offers an opportunity to explore an area which is rarely addressed in resistance studies, namely the links between everyday resistance and more collective resistance. Possibly, this unique context of “benign power” provides an opportunity to investigate how new social movements can emerge out of everyday resistance, and how these movements might increase everyday resistance work. The tradition of Political Activist Ethnography might provide a framework for mapping such new relations of struggle and the role researchers can have in unveiling ruling that people are sometimes not aware of and, through this, help foster new practices of resistance.

For this special issue we are calling for empirical and theoretical contributions which investigate the links between a broad understanding of everyday resistance and welfare contexts. We welcome papers on the following topics but are also open to other contributions:

  • Emerging movements as ways to investigate links between everyday resistance and
    collective resistance.
  • Institutional Ethnography and Political Activist Ethnography as potential approaches for
    resistance studies.
  • New conceptualisations of resistance ontologies and/or more fluid understandings of
    resistance work.
  • The language of everyday resistance – how do we label and talk about resistance work in the
    context of various welfare state models.
  • The role of emotions in shaping and possibly restricting everyday resistance.
  • Ethical implications of researching resistance in the welfare system.
  • Scholar-activism and the role of the researcher in studying everyday resistance.


  • Deadline for Abstracts: 1. April 2024
  • Notification of acceptance of abstracts: 15. June 2024
  • Submission of full papers: 1. October 2024
  • Published in fall issue of 2025

All papers will be peer-reviewed by two anonymous peer-reviewers. Acceptance of abstract is no guarantee of publication.

Abstract of max 500 words, alongside any additional questions regarding this special issue, should be sent to both guest editors: