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Social Work in Ghana at the Intersection of Two Systems. Engaging traditional actors in professional practices.

Avendal, Christel LU (2011) SOAM11 20102
School of Social Work
Abstract
The objective of this study has been to investigate if and how traditional actors and practices are taken into account in contemporary professional social work in Ghana. A ten-week ethnographic field study was conducted in the Department of Social Work at the University of Ghana where the research objective was investigated from a perspective of social work education. Traditional actors refer to extended family members and traditional authorities, which are included in the traditional system. The traditional system was a social institution that protected and cared for the vulnerable in Ghana before colonialism introduced social work as a formal profession. In contemporary Ghana, the traditional system and the social work system operate as... (More)
The objective of this study has been to investigate if and how traditional actors and practices are taken into account in contemporary professional social work in Ghana. A ten-week ethnographic field study was conducted in the Department of Social Work at the University of Ghana where the research objective was investigated from a perspective of social work education. Traditional actors refer to extended family members and traditional authorities, which are included in the traditional system. The traditional system was a social institution that protected and cared for the vulnerable in Ghana before colonialism introduced social work as a formal profession. In contemporary Ghana, the traditional system and the social work system operate as two parallel systems within the social work field. The coexistence of these parallel systems¬¬¬ as well as researchers’ request for more knowledge about how traditional actors and practices may be involved in professional social work in Africa were departure points for this study. The study employed a qualitative, social constructionism approach, interpreting the results within a theoretical framework consisting of social world theory, postcolonial theory and social constructionism. The empirical material consisted of 19 interviews with students and teachers as well as course outlines and participant observation at lectures. The main questions addressed were how students and teachers talk about traditional actors, practices, and professional social workers, as well as how they take traditional actors and practices into account when reasoning out social work interventions. The main findings of the study were that professional social workers and traditional actors can be seen as members of two subworlds existing in the larger social world of social work. Social workers have a hybrid position between the subworlds and an ability to handle cases from the perspective of social workers and traditional actors. They blend ‘old’ and ‘new’ ways to conduct social work, a process interpreted as localization. From rationales provided for taking traditional actors and practices into account, three models of explanation were identified: the cultural, practical, and structural models of explanation. Yet, it was suggested that the students and teachers primary reason for taking traditional actors into account in interventions is that social workers need to stay on good terms with traditionalists. To stay on good terms was interpreted as the social workers’ strategy for gaining ground in the larger social world of social work. (Less)
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author
Avendal, Christel LU
supervisor
organization
course
SOAM11 20102
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
localization, the traditional system, international social work, the extended family system, Ghana, social work education
language
English
id
1784106
date added to LUP
2011-02-09 10:27:17
date last changed
2011-02-09 10:27:17
@misc{1784106,
  abstract     = {The objective of this study has been to investigate if and how traditional actors and practices are taken into account in contemporary professional social work in Ghana. A ten-week ethnographic field study was conducted in the Department of Social Work at the University of Ghana where the research objective was investigated from a perspective of social work education. Traditional actors refer to extended family members and traditional authorities, which are included in the traditional system. The traditional system was a social institution that protected and cared for the vulnerable in Ghana before colonialism introduced social work as a formal profession. In contemporary Ghana, the traditional system and the social work system operate as two parallel systems within the social work field. The coexistence of these parallel systems¬¬¬ as well as researchers’ request for more knowledge about how traditional actors and practices may be involved in professional social work in Africa were departure points for this study. The study employed a qualitative, social constructionism approach, interpreting the results within a theoretical framework consisting of social world theory, postcolonial theory and social constructionism. The empirical material consisted of 19 interviews with students and teachers as well as course outlines and participant observation at lectures. The main questions addressed were how students and teachers talk about traditional actors, practices, and professional social workers, as well as how they take traditional actors and practices into account when reasoning out social work interventions. The main findings of the study were that professional social workers and traditional actors can be seen as members of two subworlds existing in the larger social world of social work. Social workers have a hybrid position between the subworlds and an ability to handle cases from the perspective of social workers and traditional actors. They blend ‘old’ and ‘new’ ways to conduct social work, a process interpreted as localization. From rationales provided for taking traditional actors and practices into account, three models of explanation were identified: the cultural, practical, and structural models of explanation. Yet, it was suggested that the students and teachers primary reason for taking traditional actors into account in interventions is that social workers need to stay on good terms with traditionalists. To stay on good terms was interpreted as the social workers’ strategy for gaining ground in the larger social world of social work.},
  author       = {Avendal, Christel},
  keyword      = {localization,the traditional system,international social work,the extended family system,Ghana,social work education},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Social Work in Ghana at the Intersection of Two Systems. Engaging traditional actors in professional practices.},
  year         = {2011},
}