Politicisation processes in everyday practice with refugees: the experiences of Israeli and German social workers

Lior Birger, Yochay Nadan, Mimi Ajzenstadt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article deals with the political context of social work practice with refugees. Specifically, it addresses the ways politics and policies that derive from them, interplay with social workers’ perceptions and constructions regarding their daily practice. It is based on findings from a qualitative study that included 22 in-depth interviews with Israeli and German social workers who work with refugees. Working in a ‘highly political’ field meant that practitioners encountered xenophobia and racism, reinforced by the negative public discourse surrounding refugees, and faced the outcomes of exclusionary state policies towards service users and social services. The article demonstrates that working under challenging political circumstances, enhanced social workers’ political awareness, termed politicisation, in that they became more attuned to their identities in relation to practice, to user-worker power imbalances, and to the ways politics and policies influence service users’ well-being. Politicisation included social workers highly emotional involvement, which motivated them to take action towards social justice, as well as enhanced the risk of being overwhelmed and experiencing ‘political fatigue’. The article discusses implications for the ‘re-politicisation’ of social work research, practice and education.

Translated title of the contributionתהליכי פוליטיזציה במסגרת הפרקטיקה עם פליטים:: חוויותיהם של עובדים סוציאליים גרמנים וישראלים
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1019-1031
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Work
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

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© 2020, © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Germany
  • Israel
  • politicisation
  • politics
  • refugees
  • social work practice


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