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Social Working

Social Working: An Ethnography of Front-line Practice

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 294
  • Book Info
    Social Working
    Book Description:

    de Montigny uses the tension between his experience of growing up 'working class' and the difficult process of becoming a social worker to explore the practical activities professionals use to secure organizational power and authority over clients.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2336-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-2)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-20)

    Warm air blew from the car heater, lifting ammonia quills off our damp pant cuffs, wafting them up to prick my nose. I did not really mind their sharpness. They cleared my head of the dry smoke from my father’s cigarette. Perhaps I was too tired to care, but that night even his cigarette seemed tolerable. Its familiarity was almost comforting. Glancing upward, I watched the speedometer’s light paint a green hue along the cigarette drooping from my father’s mouth, ending in the red fire of the smoking ember. As we drove through the night, I nestled myself against his...

  6. 2 Ideological Practice
    (pp. 21-39)

    This incident is from Elizabeth Camden’s autobiographical book,If He Comes Back He’s Mine: A Mother’s Story of Child Abuse(1984). The story is about an unusual or remarkable series of events in her life. Clearly, for Elizabeth Camden and for most readers, her actions are visible as child abuse. The evident good sense of Elizabeth Camden’s narrative as a story about child abuse, however, relies on her having answered a series of background questions. For example, how should she sort out the details worth telling? How should she order the facts of her story? How should she develop a...

  7. 3 Constructing a Professional Standpoint
    (pp. 40-60)

    This book began by mapping the disjuncture between my experiences as a member of the working class and as a professional social worker. As a manual labourer, I obeyed and served others, minded my place, and worked physically. As a professional, I ordered and directed others, assumed responsibility, and worked mentally. To become a professional, I had to learn how to create my place within a professional standpoint, and it is this problem of finding my place that provides the central question of this chapter. How do people produce the specific professional consciousness required to manage their place and their...

  8. 4 Professional Discursive Powers
    (pp. 61-81)

    What is the glue that ties a social worker’s practice – whether performed in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, or Halifax – to social work in general? How is it that we can speak of ‘doing social work?’ What do we mean when we speak of social work? In the pages that follow, I move to examine the centrality of textual practices for producing a professional location. Textual practices carve out ideological spaces, domains, and symbolic terrains where social workers can generate a professional corpus, identity, and practice. Constructing the profession requires that members both return to a professional history embodied in...

  9. 5 Ad Hoc Science: Constructing Child Abuse
    (pp. 82-109)

    That children are ‘abused,’ ‘neglected,’ and ‘sexually assaulted’ and that such children need protection is a matter of common sense for social workers. Actual children are beaten, starved, and abused; however, as I argue in this chapter, what counts, and what is counted as child abuse and neglect arises from methods for making sense which are inextricably linked to an institutional apparatus. Untoward occasions of hitting, slapping, punching, or stabbing between parents and children are worked up – and become visible – through the work of social workers, psychologists, pediatricians, public health nurses, and teachers, not just as remarkable but...

  10. 6 Producing Good Sense
    (pp. 110-131)

    A thin dusting of snow had fallen half an hour earlier. The grey light of pre-dawn made the tracks on the white ground look like dirty images in a grainy black and white photo. Yet, they were moose tracks and they were fresh. The moose had moved up the trail. Was it going to the lake? How big was the animal? Was it male or female? What could be divined from the two crescent shapes, each about four inches long and spaced slightly apart? Behind each set of prints was a faint brush of dirt. What did this mean? How...

  11. 7 Producing Reports
    (pp. 132-154)

    An excerpt from a social worker’s log reads:

    I received a phone call from the RCMP detachment at 4:00 a.m. requesting my presence at #303, 5219 Longbranch to meet Cst Jones. I arrived at 4:30 a.m.

    The Cst reported that a couple, Elmer and Cynthia Burbot, were having a party that evening with about twelve other people. About 2:30 Elmer demanded that everyone leave, but most guests were reluctant to move. Elmer became very upset and began to break the apartment windows and to threaten everyone. Cynthia and some guests moved upstairs to the apartment of her sister, Bernice. Meanwhile,...

  12. 8 Child Protection Work
    (pp. 155-169)

    As the intake social worker on a Thursday afternoon I received a phone call from the caretaker of an apartment building who complained, ‘Donna Trout is drunk again. She smashed her fist through the god damned kitchen window. Last I saw her she went staggering off, swearing, saying she was going to go the hospital. She’s left one hell of a mess. She’s left her kid alone in the apartment, and sure as hell I’m not going to take care of it. You guys had better do something about that woman. I’ve come down here several times, after neighbours complained,...

  13. 9 Producing a File
    (pp. 170-187)

    When I left the office, I moved towards worlds where people smash their fists through windows, where razor blades course across wrists, and where people hurt others and are hurt themselves. These are worlds where rage is expressed, tempers explode, threats are made against people’s lives, people scream, lash out, and move in ways that are not acceptable in the office. When I left the physical space of the office, my movement was in one sense a break with the office. In another sense, I was an agent of the office. But, as we saw in the last chapter, I...

  14. 10 The Report to the Court
    (pp. 188-199)

    After I apprehended Edith Trout, I not only had to complete the standard documents required to open the family service and child in care files, I had to prepare a report to the court. The report to the court, by entering my activities on the doorstep and inside the apartment that Thursday afternoon into a formal document, did two things: (1) It provided my activities with the sanction of a legal apparatus and determined that the apprehension of Edith Trout was properly executed, warranted, legitimate, and legal; and, (2) it provided for a formal organizational appropriation of my practice as...

  15. 11 The Hearing
    (pp. 200-216)

    A notice of hearing might read as follows:

    To Donna Trout

    Take notice that on the 4th day of February 19XX, at 1:30 o’clock in the afternoon, a hearing will take place at the Provincial Court, at 100 Market Place, Viking, (Province), to determine whether:

    is in need of protection by reason of being

    (a) abused or neglected so that her safety or well-being is endangered. And further take notice that at this hearing the Child Protection Agency will recommend that an order be made under Section XX(1).

    (c) Custody be awarded to the Child Protection Agency for a period...

  16. 12 Conclusion: Dirty Social Work
    (pp. 217-226)

    Supper was over. Edward, Norman, and I sat on the cedar deck digesting our meal with the help of a few beers. We had come together at a faculty party. It was a typical prairie summer evening. The air was hot and dry. Hints of dust and pollen swirled invisibly and danced in my nose to cause a slight tickle. I listened as Edward, who argued, ‘Social workers should not work for any agency which requires involuntary services. We should not be involved in coercive work.’ Norman pragmatically asked, ‘Where then would any social workers work?’ Edward, ignored his question,...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 227-246)
  18. References
    (pp. 247-262)
  19. Index
    (pp. 263-276)