The past two decades have witnessed a vigorous challenge to social work. A growing global convergence between the market and the public sector means that private sector values, priorities, and forms of work organization increasingly permeate social and community services. As challenges facing people and communities become more layered and complex, our means of responding become more time-bound and reductionist. This book is premised on the belief in the revitalizing power of arts-informed approaches to social justice work; it affirms and invites creative responses to personal, community, and political struggles and aspirations. The projects described in the book address themes of colonization, displacement and forced migration, sexual violence, ableism, and vicarious trauma. Each chapter shows how art can facilitate transformation: by supporting processes of conscientization and enabling re-storying of selves and identities; by contributing to community and cultural healing, sustainability and resilience; by helping us understand and challenge oppressive social relations; and by deepening experiences, images, and practices of care. Social Work Artfully: Beyond Borders and Boundaries emerges from collaboration between researchers, educators, and practitioners in Canada and South Africa. It offers examples of arts-informed interventions that are attentive to diversity, attuned to various forms of personal and communal expression, and cognizant of contemporary economic and political conditions.
Christina Sinding and Hazel Barnes
The past two decades have witnessed a profound challenge to social work. A growing global convergence between the market and the public sector has meant that private sector values, priorities, and forms of work organization, increasingly, are permeating social and community services. Cost efficiency and other narrowly defined accountabilities have become key "targets" for social workers (Pease, 2007), and quantified, standardized, and evidence-based procedures (with "evidence" tightly circumscribed) are more and more in demand (D. Baines, 2010a). Regulators are pressing for social work education that meets check-box, behaviourally defined competencies (Aronson & Hemingway, 2011). At a time when the challenges we face as people and communities are becoming more layered and complex, our means of responding are becoming more time-bound and reductionist (Postle, 2002). Skilful relationship building, responsiveness to people's stories and social contexts, experiential knowledge, and explicitly value-saturated, open-ended change processes are under considerable pressure (Lundy, 2004).
This anthology has emerged from the recognition that the ways of knowing and acting that many social workers value are currently encountering considerable opposition. It explores, through example, evocation, analysis, and reflection, how engagement with the arts can offer conceptual and pragmatic renewal for social work in the context of enduring relations of domination and subordination and the relatively new relations of neo-liberal globalization. The authors whose work appears in this volume believe that arts-based approaches have the potential to revitalize social (justice) work, and to affirm and invite creative responses to changing and challenging social contexts. Our goal is to make visible a range of ways that art enables social change, by: supporting processes of conscientization, and enabling re-storying of selves and identities; contributing to community and cultural healing, sustainability, and resilience; helping us understand, challenge, and transform social relations; and deepening experiences, images, and practices of care.
In analyzing possibilities for social work at this moment in history, international scholars have encouraged Western social workers to learn from our colleagues in countries in which social welfare is less formally organized and more obviously a site of social contestation. In South Africa, most people rely on non-formal and non-state regulated forms of social protection (Kaseke, 2005). Social development-non-remedial forms of social work intervention that foreground social connections, and individual and community strengths (L Smith, 2008)-is emphasized, as is locality relevance (Rankopo & Osei-Hwedie, 2011). In South Africa, as well, scholarship about social development, community mobilization, and the arts is informed by the powerful history of their intersection in the liberation struggle.
This book, emerging as it does from a collaboration between scholars in Canada and South Africa, draws on lived knowledge of how art can shape history and alter political and social futures (Hauptfleisch, 2010). Its origins also support the editors' intent to avoid some common concerns about social work's engagement with the arts. Arts-informed practice is often viewed as overly concerned with self-expression at the expense of analysis and a response to social conditions and social relations. However, this book includes examples of arts-informed research, pedagogy, and practice that are fully social, attentive to diverse knowledges and identities, attuned to various forms of personal and communal expression, and cognizant of contemporary economic and political conditions. In more substantive terms, our collaboration also means that the anthology addresses certain themes (colonization, displacement, and forced migration) that appear relatively infrequently in writing about social work and the arts.
The anthology begins with critical accounts of the emergence of social welfare and social work in Canada and South Africa. Writing from the specificity of their national contexts, Donna Baines (Canada) and Edwell Kaseke (South Africa) make clear that social welfare provision has reflected, and often exacerbated, the social hierarchies of specific places and times. Both authors point to the influence of neo-liberalism at this point in history, with its insistence on residual and often means-tested and stigmatizing social welfare programs, service standardization, and restrictions on social workers' autonomy and discretion-changes that exacerbate social divisions, and erode robust collective responses to people's struggles and needs. They point, as well, to fissures and opportunities: to progressive social policies built on enduring and revitalized social solidarities; and to the possibilities of resistant, creative practices, deliberately oriented towards justice.
Christina Sinding and Hazel Barnes take up these themes, describing the promise of the arts and outlining ideas about how the arts can contribute to social change while, at the same time, challenging simplistic assumptions about the innocence or benefit of the arts. This chapter includes a review of the literature on art and social work that is focused on how social workers and social work researchers have taken up the arts in efforts to enable personal and community expression, catalyze empathy and solidarity, and disrupt dominant ways of perceiving and knowing. Practitioners of applied drama activate the participatory and embodied nature of drama to generate both felt engagement and intellectual reflection on community problems. Ideas salient to both disciplines-the intimate link between personal and social troubles, and personal and social liberation; the significance of stories told and witnessed; the determination to challenge habitual, damaging, and oppressive "scripts"-offer rich possibilities for reciprocal learning and collaboration.
Contributors to this book attend to myriad forms of violence and exclusion-colonization and apartheid, displacement and forced migration, sexual assault, and ableist othering-drawing attention to suffering that is personal and communal, embodied and structural. They are linked by the conviction, variously understood and expressed, that art is a vital and productive means of responding to the troubles they witness and in which we are all implicated. We have grouped the chapters thematically according to what art is understood to "do," and how the authors imagine and experience the effects art has on people, communities, relationships, and ideas.
The first section of the book considers how art is used for conscientization, for re-storying selves and identities. Edmarié Pretorius and Liebe Kellen outline the dominant storyline defining the lives of children who are migrants, a "thin" account of pain and suffering linked with singular and diminishing identities: the orphaned child, the abused child. The theoretically informed arts activities they describe draw forward alternative or subordinate stories-of resilience and resourcefulness, strong relationships, sustaining memories-and then "thicken" these stories, lending them texture and colour, and eroding the power of dominant stories in the children's lives.
Linda Harms Smith and Motlalepule Nathane-Taulela are concerned for the appropriate education of social workers in a post-colonial society. They argue strongly for the importance of a self-reflective critical awareness in social workers who themselves have been marked by the experiences of colonization, and are subject to internalized oppression. In their engagement with Drama for Life (a post-graduate program in applied drama and theatre at the University of the Witwatersrand), they encourage this critical faculty in students and a re-authorizing of personal stories through the use of drama techniques, which encourage analysis of power structures and reflection on one's own relationship to them.
Khayelihle Dominique Gumede's chapter begins with a reflection on the legacy of apartheid in South Africa, and the persistent and profound conflict within the imaginary of South African social identity. He analyzes the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a social performance, and critiques it as a coercive approach to the telling of trauma in Boalian terms, in that it had a clearly articulated and predetermined social purpose. In response to this critique, he sets out a method of theatre-making aimed at a redressive approach to trauma. The extended ritualized preparation, remembering, and exploration he undertook with a group of actors eventually created an imaginative space between memory and its interpretation that allowed for a new negotiation of the individual trauma story. It was a space that, Gumede explains, enabled a degree of emotional autonomy from traumatic events; witnessed and further negotiated in performance, it promised new forms of community.
In the next section, art-and in particular, the artful use of narrative-engenders community and cultural healing, sustainability, and resilience. Patti McGillicuddy and Edmarié Pretorius premise their chapter on the idea that hope and practices of social care are critical to the realization of human and social rights, and that trauma and unresolved traumatic injury deeply disrupt hope and our capacities to sustain community. Reflecting on work with survivors of sexual assault, colonial violence, and forced migration, they describe...