AT DRIKKE ÆBLETE: Om håndteringen af kulturforskelle i institutioner


  • Kirsten Hvenegård-Lassen



The title of this article, “Drinking Apple Tea”, refers to the account of a social

worker visiting the family of his drug-addicted client. While the visit proceeds in

silence, the social worker finds his own frustration rising: “We just sit there and

drink apple tea. What am I doing here?” This story points to the fact that cultural

differences are difficult to manage within the institutions of the Danish welfare

state, since they tend to fall outside the scope of established universal categorizations

and norms that form the basis for institutional practices. On the basis of

an understanding of cultural encounters that emphasize the creativity of human

agency, as well as the institutional fixation of hegemonic norms, the article

discusses specific encounters involving majority institutions and ethnic minorities

in Denmark. The analysis focuses on the ways cultural differences are either

suppressed or displaced as irrelevant factors, or emerge as catchall explanations

for the behavior of ethnic minorities. This pattern is to a large extent attributable

to the institutional norms and practices that implicitly limit diversity. In some

cases, a universal view of human nature means that difference becomes deviance;

whilst in others, a focus on cultural difference reduces diversity resulting in stereotypical

generalizations of the Other. One way of distributing culture and difference

in alternative ways could result from a heightened awareness of the institutional

rationalities and practices among the employees.





Hvenegård-Lassen, K. (2007). AT DRIKKE ÆBLETE: Om håndteringen af kulturforskelle i institutioner. Tidsskriftet Antropologi, (56).