Helen Dunmore – Birdcage Walk (2017)

birdcage walk coverWhen I first started this blog I wrote that I wanted to use my reading, cinema viewing, theatre and exhibition visits to help me with understanding the discipline of social policy and my place in the world.  This blog aims to be an inter-disciplinary space using culture to understand the practicalities of politics.  Helen Dunmore does something similar with her fiction.  She asks ordinary people to cope with the dramas of history and politics.  For example, The Siege (2001) focuses on the Levin family trapped inside Leningrad while Hitler’s army surrounds the city.  The Lie (2014) gives a raw portrayal of a soldier’s return from World War 1.  Exposure (2016) examines a marriage under the strain of the Cold War.  This novel does something different.  The big event is the French Revolution.  However, the triumph and horror of the ferocious events of Paris are experienced vicariously as the action of the novel is set in Bristol. Continue reading

Naomi Alderman – The Power (2016)

The PowerInequality is everywhere.

Evidencing inequality is the easy part.  Exposing the injustice and ridiculous consequences of inequality is important.  But, understanding the reasons for its ongoing hold on social life is where it gets difficult.  This novel Naomi Alderman’s The Power runs with the suggestion that the reason for gender inequality is as banal as physical strength.  Continue reading

Margaret Atwood – The Heart Goes Last

heart-goes-lastI have an academic interest in utopias.  Imagination is often underplayed in social policy, but, to me, creating future worlds is an inevitable product of redistributing resources in the present.  A current fantasy of mine, in a near-future Utopia is that one of my favourite authors has read my blog and deliberately uses the motif of Doris Day as a ploy, so that I write about her work.  Atwood understands the technology, the communication networks and the soft power of blogging.  The tens of views my blog regularly receives means she could find a new audience of social workers and policy researchers previously considered ‘hard to reach’[1].

My imagination is not complete enough to detail fully the symbiotic relationship between academic and author that would flourish in the near future, but I can at least flatter myself that Atwood (or Margaret as I call her when we text and email) have a shared understanding of the complexity and nuance that the seemingly innocent image of Doris Day can evoke. Continue reading

Cynthia Bond – Ruby (2015)

rubyReading plays a number of roles in my professional and private lives.  Sometimes I read fiction to transport myself out of the present.  I read fiction at night to provide for that gap between the switched on working mind and the sleeping one.  However, writing this blog means I make connections between the theories and explanations of social policy and the fiction I read to escape.  This was most acute when reading Ruby.

The social policy academic side of me, would describe Ruby as a novel about racism, sexism, their intersection, child abuse, child sexual exploitation (CSE) and poverty. The social work educator might use it as an example to study the impact of grief, bereavement and trauma.  Yet none of those terms would be found in Ruby. The vocabulary of the novel and my day job are very different, even if the content is shared. Continue reading

Is Domestic Abuse an Adult Social Care Issue?

This is the link to an article I co-wrote with researchers at MMU about adult social care and domestic abuse, published in the Journal of Social Work Education:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2016.1140733

Abstract

Within a global profession with a stated definition that includes “promoting social change and development, social cohesion and the empowerment and liberation of people”, it would be expected that the issue of domestic abuse would be integral to the training and role of all social workers.  This article reports on research, which highlighted both a lack of understanding of the role of adult social worker within cases of domestic abuse and also a desire for further training around the issue.  However, this article sets out how the current UK (in particular, English) context of social work marginalises the issue of domestic abuse within practice with adults. This marginalisation has been achieved through the construction of domestic abuse as a children and families issue and limited duties, powers and resources within statutory work to support victims/survivors in their own right, rather than as “failing” parents. However, the article argues that the role of social work education should be wider than teaching to the current policy or procedures and instead encourage a wider appreciation of the social, historical and political context. The article concludes with tentative suggestions for how domestic abuse could be considered within the social work curriculum for adult practitioners.  This is in acknowledgement that social workers can be well positioned for the detection, investigation and support of those experiencing abuse.

Reference

Rachel Robbins, Concetta Banks, Hugh McLaughlin, Claire Bellamy & Debbie Thackray (2016): Is Domestic Abuse an Adult Social Work Issue?, Social Work Education, DOI: 10.1080/02615479.2016.1140733 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2016.1140733

To access the full document, you may need to be registered with a university library or contact me for further details.

Carmen Bugan – Burying the Typewriter (2012)

This blog comes after three events.

carmen buganFirst, the criminalisation of coercive control under the 2015 Serious Crimes Act.

The second, a short conversation with a much-loved ex-colleague (paraphrased below).

Me: “So, I work for a centre researching inter-personal violence”

Him: “Yes, I know, but isn’t all violence inter-personal?”

Me: “I guess so, but as opposed to state violence”

Him: “Good point”

Third, I finished reading Carmen Bugan’s Burying the Typewriter. Continue reading

He Named me Malala (2015)

malala posterMalala Yousafzai is a remarkable woman, with a spirit and voice that needs to be acknowledged and heard.  What happens to this voice when it is mediated through the lens of a documentary maker?  He Named Me Malala is a fascinating film, through which Malala’s charm and courage shines, but it is not perfect.  It starts with the mythologised context of Malala’s naming.  Her father chose her name which is from the Afghan folk heroine Malalai who rallied Pashtun fighters against the British in 1880.   This provides a context of colonialism and conflict and a narrative of defiance.  There was a powerful scene, narrated by her father (over animation) where on seeing the family tree populated entirely by men, he draws a line and adds her name.  For me, this is what that act symbolised:

“Women’s history has a dual goal: to restore women to history and to restore our history to women.” (Kelly-Gadol, 1987: 15)

Continue reading