Callaghan, J. (2010) Working with 'the community': student accounts of community based work in South Africa. Paper presented to: 3rd Qualitative Research on Mental Health Conference (QRMH3): The Disabled Self: Theoretical and Empirical Approaches to Stigma and Recovery, University of Nottingham, 25-27 August 2010.
Drawing on a series of interviews and focus groups with South African women in professional psychological training, this paper focuses on talk about of their ‘community based’ work. Using a discursive approach informed by Foucauldian, postcolonial and feminist theory, I unpack the ways in which they construct notions of ‘community’ (implicitly classed and racialised) and of ‘mental health in the community’, and explore the positioning of community as something ‘out there’, separate from the psychologist they are becoming. ‘The professional psychologist’ is represented in their talk as politically neutral and emotionally detached from the difficulties that the community faces. But there are also tensions in their accounts between this professional position and other positionings, as black or white women, as South African women. They talk about their work in the community as ‘tainted’ by social, political and emotional sensibilities. These tensions are enacted most potently in supervision, which is represented as a space in which they hide their activist and engaged psychological work, representing it as a sanitised and asocial psychological story, suitable for presentation within a professional psychological context
Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Professionalism, professional identities, discourse, community, community psychology, therapeutic discourse, South Africa