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Annette Leis-Peters, Oslo

Profile Sheet | "Permanently Normative?"-Project

Published onOct 09, 2022
Annette Leis-Peters, Oslo

1 | Formal Information

Annette Leis-Peters, professor in sociology of religion and diaconal studies at the Centre for Diaconia and Professional Practice at VID Specialized University Oslo. A part of my position is to be academically responsible for the interdisciplinary PhD program in Diaconia, Values and Professional Practice. My research interest lies in the intersection of religion, welfare and civil society.

 2 | Our project aims to reflect on values in school, pastoral care and other care contexts. What academic perspective do I bring to the project with regard to this focus?

My background is formed by the three academic contexts, in which I have worked to during my journey in research and teaching. I started from theology and diaconal studies at the University of Heidelberg. During this period, I encountered value research mainly as social ethics, i.e., as searching for ethical legitimisations for diaconal practices and for solutions to ethical dilemmas that appear in diaconal practices.

During the work with my dissertation, I moved to the University of Uppsala and a sociology of religion environment. There values research took place in two ways: As quantitative World Value Survey research (some sociologists of religion at the faculty of theology in Uppsala represented Sweden in the World Value Survey network at the time) and as qualitative explorative research about values (one of the prominent examples for this is the European project “Welfare and Values in Europe” which I also was involved in). Striking for me in the last-mentioned project were two things. Firstly, how little emphasis was put on defining values. Secondly, that the results showed that it is not always easy to differ between values and concrete social needs, at least in research about welfare practices.

The last eleven years, I have worked at VID Specialized University where I both have been involved in the research environment of value-based leadership and in the interdisciplinary PhD program in Diaconia, Values and Professional Studies. This PhD program is based on a kind of interdisciplinary canopy including perspectives from master programs in health studies, social work, diaconia and leadership studies. Research in value-based leadership at VID distinguishes between values in practice and values for practice and thus relates to both descriptive and normative traditions in value research.

My involvement in these different research environments with different approaches have made me more and more interested in definitions as a starting point for value research. I am convinced that both substantive and functional definitions could be helpful and contribute to connecting different fields of value research. Values as a concept are widely used in society, not at least in political discourses. Scientific reflections should therefore use definitions to bring more clarity and precision in these discourses. I have tried to collect some reflections about the issue of definitions in value research in a recent contribution to an edited volume and I am looking forward to discussing and reflecting more together with you about how definitions can impact on the research in this project.

I hope for interdisciplinary cooperation that critically reviews earlier value research in the fields of pastoral care, school and diaconia and identifies new avenues for value research by working with publications and sketching project ideas.

4 | Further notes

I am very interested in research cooperation both in articles and in the development of project ideas that reflect on opportunities and limitations of combining normative and descriptive approaches in value research when focusing on (professional) practices in pastoral care, school, diaconia and other care and welfare services.


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