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Title: Men as social workers : questions of professional and gender identities
Author: Christie, Alastair J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2698 3383
Awarding Body: The University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 1999
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This thesis investigates men social workers within the context of the British welfare state. The thesis focuses on three central themes: how discourses of welfare frame the categories 'men' and 'men social workers'; the differential locations of men social workers within the social work profession; and how particular discourses structure men's identifications and dis-identifications with social work and women social workers' representations of the category 'men social worker'. Empirical research was undertaken through eight focus group discussions and twenty five individual interviews with men and women social workers and non-participant observation of five social work team meetings. From this research, it is argued that men social workers both identify and dis-identify with their gender and professional identities. This thesis demonstrates how particular discourses, such as discourses of 'heroic action men', 'gentle-men' and 'gender balance' recur at each level of analysis (discourses of welfare; men's locations within the profession; and women and men's accounts) (re)producing contingent and often contradictory representations of 'men social workers'. Once the question of men in social work is raised, arguments for and against men's presence in the profession seem to dominate, such that these discourses are invoked as justificatory. The data from group discussions, individual interviews and team meetings indicate that many (both men and women) research participants attempted to reconcile men's gender and professional identities in what has been described as a 'non-traditional' occupation for men. Men used a variety of discourses, such as 'gender balance' and 'other centred career choice' to represent themselves as social workers. However, the conjoining of the categories 'men' and 'social work' produces both antagonistic and complementary identifications in relation to each of these categories. These are not monolithic categories, so identifications with either 'men' and / or 'social work' may also be contradictory and antagonistic. Direct discussion of men's gendered practices and identities whether as social workers or men service users was notably absent in team meetings. However, the question of men's gendered identities did arise in interviews with women who both described how they were sexually harassed by men colleagues, and express some scepticism about men social workers as providing 'anti-sexist' services. This thesis contributes in-depth understandings of men social workers as well as a critical engagement with debates on masculinities, identities and discourse.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available