Critical Self – Reflexivity on Sociology

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Sociology Assignment Question

The purpose of this assignment is to:

Recognise and reflect on the ways your positioning (at a personal, cultural and structural level) may influence and inform the way you address issues of violence and abuse with clients and team members. Demonstrate an understanding of the reflective process and a developed awareness of how the Unit content and assessments have informed or influenced personal belief and values and your practice approach. Identify biases, values or beliefs that you feel may be problematic to your practice in addressing violence and abuse and identification of strategies you can put in place to ensure best practice. Drawing on theory and literature when engaging in critical reflection.

The assignment is relevant to social work practice because: 

Critical reflexivity is an important practice for social workers aiming to develop their social work praxis

Recongising positionality supports us to first recognise others and to begin a dialogue with ourselves about how to step aside from our positionality in order to hear and respond to others experiences.

As a social worker your lived experience is real and important. Understanding how this informs your sense of self and your professional identity can be illuminating, exciting and a way to experience authenticity.

Sociology Assignment Solution

It is imperative to consider one's positionality in order to ensure the effective practice of critical social work, negating which results in prejudice. At a structural, cultural and personal level, one's beliefs and values influence the way social work is practised. With regard to the intervention in Evelyn's case study, the responses to the issues of violence and abuse were determined by my context as an educated, urban, economically privileged individual. This is, therefore, a critically self-reflective account of how my ideas about victim abuse and violence have changed in light of social theories and lived experiences.

The need for a self-reflexive exercise provides an ethical dimension to the praxis of social work. The need for ethical practices was emphasised by scholars such as Donald Schon and others. Schon's work is especially important as he defines two approaches to social work- 'knowing-in-action' and 'reflection-in-action' (Schon, 1983). It is through this work that professionalism and the ethical standpoint both became essential elements of critical social work. As a profession, such a line of work demands self-realization as a part and parcel of critical social work. His work was seminal to the development of a Code of Ethics developed by the National Association of Social Workers.

The commonplace understanding that victims of violence and abuse are rehabilitated only through temporary counselling is a misconception that was debunked through Evelyn's story. Although Evelyn was assigned a case worker to deal with her issues of violence and abuse, what she needed was consistency and productivity in her everyday life. Getting a job or a house is made impossible by the stigma of her ex-convict identity. The relevance of halfway houses and rehabilitation centres for just-out-of-jail women is an immediate requirement. While we usually take it for granted, the path to rebuilding a life after prison is riddled with obstacles like stigma and prejudice. Critical social work, along with social theories, must help women like Evelyn become self-sufficient.

Though this particular record of abuse and violence, I have come to realise that policies for dealing with such victims are often influenced by societal norms. The underlying politics of several programs for victims are exposed by the dissatisfaction Evelyn expresses about the DHS's decision about her daughter, Charlotte's custody. While resources, energy, and manpower get wasted in power plays, the victims are the ones to bear the brunt of such carelessness. New policies on abuse and violence must thus be viewed critically, keeping in mind all the structural, economic and other repressive pressures.

The lesson to be learnt from the experiences of one client is that structural violence transcends personal boundaries. As popularized during the 1970s, the phrase 'personal is political' was coined by Carol Hanisch in her essay by the same title. With the support of other second-wave feminists, this term signifies that an individual's personal issues are representative of a larger, dynamic political situation. Hence, a client's account of interpersonal violence cannot be treated in isolation, but as a collective problem of a larger political whole. The structural violence underlying the narratives of victims must be understood in the context of hegemonic practices of culture as a whole.

The disturbing truth about social work is that it has become increasingly institutionalised, and is now governed by the rules and values of a business. It is apparent in the works of Donna Baines that managerial constrictions have taken over the praxis of social work. (Baines, 2011). Her work is seminal in the uncovering of bureaucratic practices that dominate the processes of social volunteering. What occurs in the name of service is actually an organizational structure, that service sector was previously uninfluenced by.

My position as a social worker is reflected in the way I approach the issues of violence and abuse. Having no personal experiences of the issue already distances me from the client's experience. While such a critical detachment allows for an outsider's perspective, the lack of an intimate connection could at times lead to alienation. Besides, self-reflexivity is a learning process that is challenged by the cultural understanding of self-disclosure. Brookfield, Askeland and other theorists have noted that cultures that glorify secrecy, individualism and silence, could regard self-refection as 'too personal' or 'too intrusive' (Askeland, 2007, p. 4). Thus, the question remains if our urban, cosmopolitan society allows for self-disclosure or is such an ethical approach yet to gain social approval?

This unit has been a learning experience, destabilising apriori notions of social work. The ethical dilemmas involved in social work can be addressed by asking oneself constantly, 'have I done the right thing?'

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