14 SES 03 A, Rural Schools and Home-school Relationships
This paper is about welfare work with foster children; a part of the social area that is largely unexplored. With welfare work, we refer to a caring and protective network, but also a 'tutelary complex' (Donzelot 1997) of professionals who provide and optimize welfare on behalf of the public (Woolford & Curran 2013). Thus, we focus on the corps of welfare professionals who are engaged in helping children who, for various reasons, grow up outside their so-called ‘natural home’; a corps that includes actors like foster parents, teachers, case managers, social workers, and supervisors.
The paper has two purposes. First, it strives to produce knowledge about welfare work with foster children, focusing on the professionals’ assumptions and ideas about the child in different places (urban/rural) and different professional settings (school/municipality). Second, it engages in the development of an appropriate method of data analysis which enhances the conceptualization of welfare work across professions, contexts and time.
Welfare work is understood as a socio-historical phenomenon which assists in organising social structures. To investigate welfare work as such, we use Pierre Bourdieu’s focus on socio-historical and dynamic fields of practice within a social space, i.e. a social structure (Bourdieu 1985, Bourdieu & Wacquant 1992). Furthermore, we use Bourdieu’s notions about professions as social groups who participate in the social world in relation to other social groups, taking part in struggles according to their resources and their symbolic practices, i.e. assumptions and points of view on different matters (Bourdieu & Wacquant 1992: 242).
To underpin the analysis of welfare professionals’ assumptions in relation to the ones they want to help and care for, we use the Australian anthropologist Tess Lea’s notion of professionals’ ‘vampyric dependence’ (Lea 2008: 13) on those they want to help through interventions, and the notion ‘the magic of intervention’ (Ibid.:15) referring to the dependence being unacknowledged and unanalyzed as human work; work done by agents, i.e. welfare professionals (Padovan-Özdemir & Øland 2017). What we want to bring forward is an analysis of this magic of intervention that often appear unanalyzed and untheorized.
To further focus on this relation, we use the insights of the Palestinian-American literary critic Edward Said and his notion about Orientalism as a process of Othering within relations of dominance. To Said, institutions and professionals emerged in Europe in the 18th century to address and manage the Orient: describe it, construct knowledge about it, teach about it, have views about it, and rule over it. Said identified homogenizing, feminizing and essentialising processes in the construction of the other, and he asked: “How can we treat the cultural, historical phenomenon of Orientalism as a kind of willed human work” (Said 2003:15). Said’s answer was to focus on the exteriority of representations: “style, figures of speech, setting, narrative devices, historical and social circumstances” (Ibid.: 21) and not the truth or sincerity of the representations. This means that representations are circulating and constructing images and effects in the social body. Focusing on these images makes it possible to produce critical knowledge about the human work and the dependent relation between the welfare professionals and the foster children they set out to help.
Thus, the driving research questions are: How does welfare-professional practice with foster children form and transform in relation to time, place and professional setting? Which images of the foster child appear in this practice, and how do these images relate to images of the benevolent welfare worker?
Empirically, the analysis is based on material consisting of: 1) Observations of foster parents and teachers in interaction with foster children in their everyday school life. The field work is carried out in four schools - two rural, two urban. 2) Observations of meetings in two municipalities where social workers, case managers and supervisors discuss foster children's development and opportunities. Schools and municipalities are selected because of their relatively high proportion of foster children. 3) Historical source material (1886-2017) consisting of protocols, supervisor’s schedules, documents from foster care associations, and foster care journals. In this context, we use history as a means to detect the historical and cultural specificity of welfare-professional work with foster children today. We plan to carry out the analysis in a way that seeks to identify and recognize images of the child (it’s needs and characteristics and the knowledge constructs employed) and images of the welfare professional (it’s competence and capacity, and what the professional triggers or produces socially for the foster child and society at large) – across professional groups, place, school and municipality to be able to detect formations and transformations of the images. To be able to analyze and theorize the magic of intervention through these images, we will develop an appropriate method of data analysis based on analytical readings of the entire body of data. In contrast to the ideal-type method designed to construct a number of ideal-types that detect central aspects of different examples of the phenomenon, (Eneroth 1984:149-154, Weber 2003:106), and in contrast to the grounded theory method, which focuses on mapping the phenomenon’s qualities using concepts, categories and dimensions, grouping and re-grouping data until the phenomenon is mapped, we will construct a method of analysis that includes analytical readings inspired by educational researcher Maggie MacLure’s focus on an exemplary method of data analysis. This method focus on details and examples that have a ‘loose relationality to that which they stand for’ (MacLure 2010:282), and crystallizes an analytics of entanglements and proliferations (MacLure 2006:230). History depicts itself in the unfolding of examples and details, and the analytical process includes moments where details begins to ‘glow’ and starts to ‘glimmer’, catch our attention and sets connections in data ‘on fire’ (MacLure 2010: 282). Other researchers have described similar moments in data analysis employing notions such as ‘warm’ material (Højholt & Kousholt 2011) and ‘sticky’ material (Klitmøller 2012).
The paper is expected to create insights into an area of the educational field that is not often described. The analysis will unfold and describe the entangled assumptions and human perceptions that welfare work with foster children activates in images – across time, place and professions. For example, some welfare workers in urban settings describe the foster child as in need of ‘Berlingo-talks’ (understood as a private conversation – in a two-person Berlingo - between the child and the welfare worker during a drive to, e.g., Ikea), while other welfare workers in rural settings describe the foster child as in need for ‘looking like everybody else’ (understood as not wearing too fancy nor too shabby clothes). These images of the foster child delineate images of the welfare worker as someone-you-can-talk-to and someone who ensure the child’s ‘normality’. Moreover, the cross-professional and relational perspective that draws on Bourdieu’s notion of field makes it possible to produce knowledge about welfare work beyond professionals’ self-representations as benevolent helpers. Finally, the paper is expected to contribute with a method of data analysis that is suitable for conceptualizing and generating theory across a differentiated qualitative material consisting of ethnographic field notes and historical documents.
Bourdieu, P. & Wacquant, L. (1992): An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Cambridge. Polity Press. Bourdieu, P. (1985): The social space and the genesis of groups. I: Theory and Society 14 (6): 723-44. Donzelot, J. (1997): The policing of families (John Hopkins paperbacks ed.), Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press. Eneroth, B. (1984). Hur mäter man “vackert”? Grundbok i kvalitativ metod. Göteborg: Natur och Kultur. Højholt & Kousholt (2011): Forskningssamarbejde og gensidige læreprocesser. I: C. Højholt (ed.), Børn i vanskeligheder – Samarbejde på tværs, 207-237. København: Dansk Psykologisk Forlag. Klitmøller (2012): Pragmatisk analyse og fortolkning af materiale fra deltagerobservation. I: Pedersen, M., Klitmøller, J. & Nielsen, K. (ed.), Deltagerobservation – en metode til undersøgelse af psykologiske fænomener, 177-188. København: Hans Reitzel. Lea, T. (2008). Bureaucrats and bleeding hearts: indigenous health in northern Australia. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. MacLure, M. (2006). ’A Demented Form of the Familiar’: Postmodernism and Educational Research, Journal of Philosophy of Education 40(2): 223-239. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9752.2006.00505.x MacLure, M. (2010). The offence of theory, Journal of Education Policy 25(2): 277-286. https://doi.org/10.1080/02680930903462316 Padovan-Özdemir, M. & Øland, T. (2017): Smil og velkommen! Om flygtningehjælperens godgørende lyster. I: Dansk pædagogisk Tidsskrift 3, 2017: 37-49. Said, E. (2003) Orientalism, London: Penguin Modern Classics 2003 (Original version 1978). Weber, M. (2003). Den socialvidenskabelige og socialpolitiske erkendelses “objektivitet”, In Max Weber: Udvalgte tekster, bind 1. København: Hans Reitzels Forlag. Woolford, A. & Curran, A. (2013): Community positions, neoliberal dispositions: Managing non-profit social services within the bureaucratic field. I: Critical Sociology 39 (1): 45-63.
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