Teaching social work beyond taken-for-granted assumptions of 'the social' - an example drawn from the Swedish context
, Norma Montesino
This presentation deals with the national framing of the Swedish social work education and discusses the necessity of relating it to processes of globalization. First we shall problematize how social work has been institutionalized in the Swedish context, and second, relying on the concept of ‘the ignorant schoolmaster’ (Rancière) describe and analyze experiences of teaching social work in the context of the ongoing restructuring. In Sweden, as elsewhere, ‘the social’ was institutionalized within the frames of the nation-state towards the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. These frames, sometimes referred to as methodological nationalism, have conditioned social work both as an academic discipline and as a field of practice and education. However, due to the on-going re-structuring, social problems are no longer successfully dealt with within the national framing of social work. While it is certain that this has implications for the education, it is uncertain how this is adequately dealt with. Here we describe and analyze an attempt to go beyond the institutionalized frames of social work education. In 2009 we accompanied a group of first-year students on a 10-days long field study in Belarus. The field trip was initiated and organized by the students, and we literally participated as ‘ignorant schoolmasters’. This had several implications for the learning process. Instead of a master-student relation, the learning process was characterized by equality; instead of explicators, our roles were to ask questions and to listen. The learning process connected abstract knowledge to actual experiences as well as to personal lives. This includes experiences of poverty, housing, hospitals, orphanages and youth workhouses alien to the Swedish context. It also includes the meeting with transnational families, transnational labor, transnational care and even transnational social work as a response to poverty gaps between different countries. In this way the learning process stretched beyond taken-for-granted assumptions of the social.