Cultural Encounters in Interventions against Violence (CEINAV)

Project Participants

The project “Cultural Encounters in Interventions Against Violence” (CEINAV) takes a dual approach to cultural encounters as they play out in ethics, justice, and citizenship, through a focus on the fundamental rights of women and of children to safety from violence. It considers both national legal and institutional cultures as they affect practices of intervention, and the growing diversity within European countries, where symbolic boundaries of cultural belonging can define social exclusion and inclusion. Four EU countries – Germany, Portugal, Slovenia and the United Kingdom – are being studied, and differing institutional structures and traditions of law, policing, and social welfare intervention are contextualized in the history of colonialism, democracy, migration, and diversity.

The research is exploring on the one hand why, despite an explicit European consensus on stopping violence against women and protecting children from harm, the practices of intervention and the rationales behind them differ between countries, and on the other hand, how policies and institutional practices, despite the common intention to ensure the “best interests of the child” and the freedom and safety of women from violence, may have quite different effects for disadvantaged minorities within each country.

In consultation with 11 associate partners who represent networks of practitioners and stakeholders the project focuses on three forms of violence for which state responsibility is well established:  intimate partner violence, child abuse and neglect, and trafficking for sexual exploitation. The project aims to:

  • contribute to dialogue among the discourses on multiculturalism and diversity in the different European languages and disciplines;
  • clarify the implications of European norms, national legislation and practices of protection and prevention for cultural encounters, taking account of multiple and intersecting structures of power and oppression; 
  • analyse the ethical issues of rights and discrimination arising from interpretations of the state’s duty to protect as embedded in policies and intervention procedures within four European countries;
  • frame an intersectional approach to intervention that recognises the voice and agency of diverse victims;
  • build a transnational foundation for ethical guidelines for good practice.

The objectives are being pursued in five streams of theoretical, empirical and creative work. To this end, the five partners are collaborating closely in a work program of comparative qualitative research with shared tasks and a common methodology. For each step of the work detailed guidelines are developed, ensuring that data collection follows an agreed structured path in each country, while remaining open to the diversity of context.

On day 2 of the project beginning, a blog was launched to keep all associated and interested stakeholders informed. A key event in month two was the kick-off meeting in Osnabrück, attended by two or more researchers from each partner and all eleven associate partners representing networks of practitioners in the four countries, and including a public event.

During the first 6 months, eight “country context papers” were written (stream one). One compiled for each country an overview of the sociocultural background of majority/minority patterns (colonial experience, cultural diversity, and migration), economic inequality, and data on prevalence of the three forms of violence. The second paper described the legal-institutional context of intervention against violence. In depth discussion of these papers at a meeting of the principal investigators found no definition of the concept “minorities” that could be applied across the four countries, and agreed to work with categories meaningful in the context of each country; this has remained a challenge.

Further working papers reviewed theoretical discourses on cultural differences and positional inequalities as well as ethical theories as they relate to intervention against violence, and discussed competing theories of gender, diversity and inequality. These were preliminary drafts for discussion at the PI meeting in February in London, and work on both papers continued throughout the year. Main issues were presented at the five-day working seminar in Porto, and then revised during the last quarter of the year. 

Parallel to the writing, the methodology for in-depth discussions with professionals involved in intervention (stream two, empirical exploration of the cultural premises of intervention) was developed, as well as a list of relevant professions from which interested participants would be sought; this was done in cooperation with the associate partners and the networks of the PI. The workshop idea proved very attractive, and in all countries nearly all of the “categories” foreseen could be filled for at least one, usually both workshops. Numerous participants thanked the organisers afterwards for the opportunity to reflect on practice in a cross-cutting context.

A total of 24 multiprofessional workshops were carried out, two per country on each form of violence. The workshops were designed to explore the implicit cultural premises of intervention, both with respect to the institutional regulation of intervention and to the practices of implementing the regulatives and their deployment with minorities or disempowered groups. A further goal was to discover what ethical issues and dilemmas the practitioners experience when having to make difficult decisions, and what grounds they adduce for dealing with such challenges.

The workshops used focal group methodology and paradigmatic narratives to encourage discussion among the different professionals; each workshop comprised two half-days. Participants were practitioners directly involved in casework from a wide range of professional roles, but not engaged with the same cases; that is, professions whose intervention roles tend to intersect were typically sought from different towns or districts: 

The main impulse for discussion was a fictional “case story” aimed to capture how situations of violence enter into the intervention system, as well as the subsequent pathways. The stories were developed in discussion with cooperating practitioners to be realistic in all four countries, then translated and if necessary adapted to fit the institutional framework of the country. While the stories differed by form of violence, there was an agreed “narrative arc” across the three sequences within all the stories; and an agreed set of “core questions” that were asked in the same way, as nearly verbatim as possible, in all 24 workshops.

The discussions were taped and transcribed, and then subjected to an inductive frame analysis to uncover how practitioners think about intervention against violence, and about minority groups; the analysis was carried out in the language of the country to be able to capture nuances of meaning. The analysis also sought to identify what practitioners experience as a dilemma or practical difficulty with ethical implications. For each form of violence in each country, a working paper in English then analysed the two workshops for their implicit and explicit discursive constructions and normative representations. Each frame and each dilemma was substantiated with translated citations from the transcripts. the task of the working papers was to describe the process structure of intervention (within which some things require decisions and some are given), the way in which the form of violence and the duties, rights and norms of intervention were framed in the workshops, their framing of culture, cultural difference, and minority situations, and the ethical issues and dilemmas that the professionals explicitly or by implication raised.

All 12 working papers were circulated in time for the five-day working seminar in Porto, Sept. 29-Oct.2. All the research teams were present. The associate partners took part for two days, as well as the four artist-researchers (one in each country) who will be implementing the art creation process in the fourth stream of the project (see below) This seminar in beautiful Porto was a high point of the project, and a wonderful opportunity to discuss intersections, diversity, and overarching ideas among researchers, artist and practitioners. Since the working papers were richly informative, it was agreed that they should be prepared for online publication on the project website and blog, even though this meant that the comparative analysis papers would be delayed for about 4 weeks. Three cross-national comparative analysis papers are being written, one for each form of violence: they will be delivered at the end of January 2015.

Parallel to completion of the working papers, the theoretical work continued. A paper on salient ethical issues combines the fruits of the systematic compilation of potentially relevant ethical theories with the ethical issues that emerged during the workshops and the analysis of their discussions. The paper concludes that, to build an ethical foundation for good practice, it is necessary to draw on more than one strand of ethical theory, and to focus on how good practice can work, rather than on ultimate moral decisions.  This working paper will also be published online after all partners have had the opportunity to comment and contribute from the discourses in their languages.   

In the next stream of work, the project will give space to the voices of women and children who have travelled through a personal history of violence and of social interventions. These interviews with women and young people who have experienced intervention will widen the scope of perspectives, particular attention is being given to diversity of context and to cultural minorities or migration history as factors that impede access to agencies of protection or support. At the Porto meeting, an important discussion with the associate partners concerned ethically responsible ways to ask women and children to tell us their stories of experiencing intervention (or the lack thereof). A protocol for the methodology and selection of interview partners who are in contact with support services has been written, discussed, and finalised, as well as guides for the qualitative interview for each form of violence. As with the workshops, a crosscutting set of core questions will be asked (at the end of each interview) to enable comparative discussion of how women and youth from disempowered groups perceive ethical issues. A country-specific and a comparative analysis of the interviews will thus contribute to our thinking about the ethics of intervention.

The fourth stream in 2015 is based on stories extracted from the interviews. Artist-researchers in each of the four countries will conceptualise participatory art, working with interviewees, preserving their anonymity and safety. In the interest of integrating the art work into the research, the four artist-researchers (one in each country) were invited to attend the Porto meeting, both participating in the meeting with the associate partners, and having time to meet among themselves and discuss possible approaches to art work in this context. They will join the project actively in a meeting in London in March 2015. The creative process will be documented in an “art process blog”, thus ensuring interconnection with the full research process, and the results

Collecting stories and working in a creative art process seek to uncover the potential both of narrative and of creative art representation to stimulate the imagination needed to hear different voices and to recognise the agency of victims. In each of the four countries, creative art and aesthetic education will be explored as potential resources that can be used in change processes. The results will be presented at a “creative dialogue meeting” in each country. Reflective papers on the experience of integrating art into research will also be written, and a dialogue with associate partners and stakeholders initiated on how such art can enable professionals to hear the voices of disempowered minorities.

In the final stage of the project, all of the data and preliminary results will be integrated with the aim of developing guidance towards respectful and responsible intervention, drawing on a synthesis of the understanding gained across four countries and three forms of violence, highlighting dilemmas and challenges to the “moral sense of practice” and proposing ethical foundations for intervention. Expected outcomes are publications both in academic journals and in journals/online sites read by practitioners and policymakers, examples of how participatory art work can be used in training for culturally sensitive intervention practice, and a final report on the research, the ethical issues, and the considerations and principles that could guide frameworks for intervention.


Contact: M.A. Bianca Grafe, University of Osnabrück, DE


Project Leader: Professor Carol Hagemann-White, University of Osnabrück, DE,
Associate Professor Vlasta Jalusic, Mirovni institut (Peace Institute), Ljubljana, SI,
Professor Liz Kelly, London Metropolitan University, UK,
Professor Maria José Magalhães, University of Porto, PT,
Dr. Thomas Meysen, German Institute for Youth Human Services and Family Law, DE,


Associated Partners: 

In the field of domestic violence:

AP-1: Bundesverband Frauenberatungsstellen und Frauennotrufe, Frauen gegen Gewalt e.V., DE, Ms Ute Zillig,

AP-2: Association for Non-violent Communication, SI, Ms Katarina Zabukovec Kerin,

AP-3: IMKAAN, UK, Ms Sumanta Roy,

AP-4: União de Mulheres Alternativa e Resposta – Umar, PT, Dr Ilda Afonso,

In the field of trafficking:

AP-5: Koordinierungskreis gegen Frauenhandel und Gewalt an Frauen im Migrationsprozess – KOK e.V., DE, Ms Eva Kueblbeck,

AP-6: Society Kljuc – Centre for Fight Against Trafficking in Human Beings, SI, Ms Polona Kovacˇ,

AP-7: Black Association of Women Step Out Ltd. (BAWSO), Cardiff, UK, Dr Mwenya Chimba,

In the field of child abuse and neglect:

AP-8: German section of the Fédération lnternationale des Communautés Educatives (FICE) e. V, DE, Dr Monika Weber,

AP-9: Association against sexual abuse, SI, Ms Erica Kovacˇ,

AP-10: Childrens’ Services, Harrow Council, London, UK, Ms Catherine Doran,

AP-11: Associacão Projecto Criar (APC), PT, Ms Leonor Valente Monteiro,