Social Work, Art and the Politics of Recognition

Froggett, Lynn orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8406-6231 (2004) Social Work, Art and the Politics of Recognition. Social Work and Social Sciences Review, 11 (3). pp. 29-51. ISSN 0953 5225

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A strand of social work thinking that insisted on the art-like nature of practice has been marginalised in recent years by a scientistic and technical-rational turn. This has been consolidated by a number of interrelated factors including competence-led education, managerialism, the audit culture and the building of a scientific evidence-base. Within healthcare, however, the arts and humanities are flourishing and are thought to nourish professional creativity and artistic dimensions of practice. Social work has much to learn about professional creativity from the arts for health movement, but a detailed understanding of the ways in which such practice contributes to well-being has yet to be developed. The paper draws on current research in a cross-professional community and healthy living centre where the creative process is seen as central to organisational and personal development. Art, broadly conceived, is understood as a special instance of creative living: story-telling, poetry, drama, music and visual arts underpin most of the Centre's activities and services. The paper explores ways in which this facilitates the development of a rich internal symbolic life within the organisation which supports experimentation and creative illusion. Staff and users are encouraged to find and use media which foster a distinctively personal creativity and in the process develop an ability to oscillate between analytic and syncretistic modes of perception. This supports a practice based on interpersonal recognition and directed at an integrated conception of health, social care, education and leisure. A complex view emerges of the relationship between creativity and recognition and its importance for personal development which is an irreducible element of wider struggles for recognition in institutional and societal domains. A practical understanding of this link is strengthened through narrative, biographical and other creative methodologies, which by virtue of their holistic view, can help to counter an overly procedural practice.

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