Ncercc Socialpedagogybook Chap11


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Ncercc Socialpedagogybook Chap11

  1. 1. Anders Gustavsson The role of theory in social pedagogy and disability research A comparison between two practice-oriented, multi-disciplinary knowledge fields Social pedagogy has a long history as a multi-disciplinary know- ledge field, first of all in Germany but also in Eastern Europe and the Nordic countries. Usually, social pedagogy has been regarded as a special branch either of education or social work. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify as a rather independent knowledge field, possibly on its way towards the status as an independent discipline (see e.g. Hämäläinen above). An important characteristic of social pedagogy is its practice- orientation. However, this is also a characteristic of several estab- 1 lished, academic disciplines, like education/pedagogy and social work, as pointed out by Jenner (above). Education/pedagogy can be defined, he argues, in three different dimensions: as an academic discipline, as a major subject of study for certain professional and as a practical activity. In spite of the practice-orientation of the two important last dimensions, it is often argued that the core dimen- sion of social pedagogy is its special, theoretical perspective (cf. 1 The discipline is called “Pedagogik” in Swedish and other Scandinavian languages but pedagogik is often translated to English by Education and therefore I use the double expression education/pedagogy, when I refer to the discipline. 164
  2. 2. Hämäläinen above). This raises two important questions: What is the role of theory in social pedagogy? And, what special theoretical perspectives are frequent? The purpose of this chapter is to review the theoretical or non- theoretical approaches presented at the Stockholm symposium on Perspectives and Theory in Social Pedagogy, documented as chap- ters in this report. As a point of departure I have chosen another review of the role of theory in a closely related practice-oriented 2 knowledge field, namely disability/handicap research . To some extent these fields are overlapping (see Hegstrup, Lauritzen, above), but they also focus on different phenomena. Of special interest here is the fact that disability/handicap research as a knowledge field has some interesting similarities with social pedagogy. Both can be defined both in practical and theoretical dimensions. The theoretical concept of handicap, that plays a central role in the disability/handicap research in the Scandinavian countries, gets its specific meaning in an applied situation, where a person with a certain functional disability encounters either environmental obsta- cles or support with the consequences that a handicap may, or may not, emerge. There is also an on-going academic debate whether disability/handicap research is to be regarded as an independent discipline or not. In Linköping, “handikappvetenskap”— which literally means disability/handicap science — did receive the status of an independent, academic discipline in 1996. In Great Britain, and in the USA, disability studies also have been established as an independent discipline focusing on the cultural, philosophical and historical foundations of disability. All these similarities make it interesting to compare the role of theory in social pedagogy and disability/handicap research. 2 I use the double expression, disability/handicap, to indicate that the Scandina- vian expression is “handikappforskning”, with a special Scandinavian meaning in the concept of handicap, but the English translation given is often disability research. 165
  3. 3. The ‘theoretical temperature’ of disability research In a key-note speech at the annual conference of the Nordic Net- work on Disability Research in Copenhagen 2001, I presented a reviewed of a number of recent social science studies in disability/ handicap with a special focus on the role of theory. An important point of departure for this review, in turn, was an interesting discov- ery made in a similar review a little more than 10 years earlier. In 1990, I was invited together with professor Mårten Söder (Gustavsson & Söder 1990) by FUB (The Swedish Association for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities), to review and comment on the current social research concerning people with intellectual dis- 3 abilities . One of the most striking results of this review was that a majority of the studies lacked a theoretical perspective and theo- retical analyses. The dominating perspective in research concerning people with intellectual disabilities at the time was a non-theoretical perspective, that we called the reformer’s perspective. This perspective understands the researcher’s role as that of a controller of on-going reforms and programs. In the Copenhagen review of 2001, I wanted to, so to speak, “take the theoretical temperature” of current social science disability research. The Copenhagen review was based on articles published in the Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research (of 2000 and 2001), the British journal “Disability & Society ” (of the same period) and the French journal “Handicap ” (also of the same period). In addition to this I also included eight doctoral dissertations published during the years 2000 and 2001 in Sweden and Norway (two in education, one in special education, two in psychology, two in sociology and one in social work). 3 Thus, the review of 1990 covered only research on intellectual disability, while the review of 2001 covered research on all kinds of disabilities. Even if there, of course, are differences between these fields, similarities are likely to domi- nate. 166
  4. 4. Two interesting lines of development The comparison between the reviews of 1990 and 2001, first of all, showed that theoretical perspectives had become more frequent in the disability/handicap research published in the beginning of the new millennium. However, a second, striking observation was the appearance of a new, and also quite frequent, non-theoretical per- spective. A common characteristic of this perspective was that the authors argued in different ways for the value of personal experi- ences of people with disabilities in disability research. Drawing on a distinction made by the North American anthropologist Clifford Geertz (1993) this position can described as an argument for experi- ence-near perspectives as opposed to experience-distant perspectives. Experience-near vs. experience-distant perspectives Geertz makes his distinction in the context of the history of anthropology and more precisely in relation to the arguments of many anthropologists in favor of a specific sensitivity towards the informants’ own perspectives. This discussion has a special back- ground in the discipline of anthropology as the scientific study of foreign cultures and foreign peoples. However, my point here is that the anthropological discussion also has relevance for many other disciplines, studying foreign experiences and conditions in our cultures. This comparison is, I would argue, especially relevant for disability/handicap research and social pedagogy, where researchers very often study environments and conditions of everyday life, that they, themselves, are not very familiar with. During the first phase of the history of anthropology, the so-called colonial anthropology, studies of foreign cultures were characterized by an extreme ethnocentrism. Western cultures were used as the frame of reference, with a privileged place at the top of a civilization scale and foreign cultures were plotted out as more or less distant from this ideal. However, after the breakthroughs of Boa’s and Malinowski’s works, anthropologists more and more have tended to define their discipline as the study of other peoples’ cultures and experiences from their own perspective. Different researchers use different dichotomies to describe their position: 167
  5. 5. ‘inside’ versus ‘outside’, or ‘first person’ versus ‘third person’ descrip- tions; ‘phenomenological’ versus ‘objectivist’, or ‘cognitive’ versus ‘behavioral’ theories; or, perhaps most commonly ‘emic’ versus ‘etic’ analyses. Geertz’s own distinction is experience-near and experience- distant concepts—a pair of concepts originally borrowed from the psychoanalyst, Heinz Kohut. An experience-distant perspective, Geertz writes, is one that is used, for example, by an analyst, an experimenter, an ethnographer, even a priest or an ideologist to forward their scientific, philosophi- cal or other kinds of theoretical aims. ‘Love’ is an experience-near concept, ‘object cathexis’ is an experience-distant one. Clearly, Geertz adds, the matter is one of degree, not polar opposition— ‘fear’ is experience-nearer that ‘phobia’ and ‘phobia’ is experience- nearer than ‘egodyssyntonic’ (Ibid 1993). In short, an experience-distant perspective mainly is a theoreti- cal perspective and it gets its specific meaning in studies of other people’s experiences, where the researcher analyzes the experiences and thus distances him/herself from the informant’s special perspec- tive and way of expression. It should be added, that Geertz himself, argues for a combination or a dialectics between experience-near and theoretical, experience-distant perspective, when studying for- eign cultures and foreign experiences. One could say that he argues for both in a dialectical, interpretative framework. The celebration of experience-near perspectives in British Disability Studies As indicated above, on of the most striking discoveries in the Copenhagen review was the appearance of the new non-theoretical perspective in disability/handicap research. A few examples of this perspective could be found in the Scandinavian publications but the most elaborated expressions of this perspective were found in the articles published by British disability studies researchers. The interest in personal experiences of disability is not difficult to understand. Generally, knowledge about disability has been for- mulated from the perspectives of professionals and experts. This has been highlighted especially in the British disability studies tradition, 168
  6. 6. where influential researchers with a personal experience of disability have articulated a powerful critique concerning the earlier lack of interest in the experiences of people with disabilities. It has, for example, even been argued that disability research to some extent has contributed to the existing oppression and marginalization of people with disabilities in non-disabled society and thus also silenced the voices of people with first hand knowledge of what it means to live with a disability. In this context, the recently proposed model of an experience- near perspective presented by John Swain and Sally French (2000) can be seen as a radical alternative to traditional disability research. They present, what they call, a new model for understanding dis- ability based on disabled people’s own positive experiences, called “the affirmative model”: In this paper we argue that a new model of disability is emerging within the literature by disabled people and within disability cul- ture, expressed most clearly by the Disability Arts Movement. For the purpose of discussion we call it the affirmative model. It is essentially a non-tragic view of disability and impairment which encompasses positive social identities, both individual and collective, for disabled people grounded in the benefits of lifestyle and life experience of being impaired and disabled. This view has arisen in direct oppo- sition to the dominant personal tragedy model of disability and impairment, and builds on the liberatory imperative of the social model (Swain & French 2000, p. 569). The first, and most obvious, expression of the experience-near per- spective in this article is the idea that research should be based on personal experiences of disabled people and that such experiences have a special validity in illuminating what it means to live with a disability—experiences that tend to be forgotten by non-disabled researchers. A Malaysian woman with a visual impairment, who was cited by Swain and French, for instance, introduced an unusually positive way of understanding her disability in telling how it had separated her from a poor and neglectful family and sent her to a good school at the age of five. She stated: 169
  7. 7. I got a better education than any of them [brothers and sisters] and much better health care too. We had regular inoculations and regular medical and dental checks (Swain & French 2000, p. 574). Experiences of being impaired may also give disabled people a heightened understanding of the oppressions other people endure. French found, for instance, that visually impaired physiotherapists she interviewed could find such advantages in their own profes- sional work. Secondly — and perhaps most important — the experience-near perspective described in the article of Swain and French is character- ized by the priority attributed to experiences of disabled people in the analysis of how disability should be understood. Theory, they argue, only plays a secondary role. Concluding, the authors write that theories are rarely explicit in the validation of experiences of disabled people but often explicit in invalidation of such experi- ences. Therefore experiences should be allowed to speak for them- selves. “Quintessentially, the affirmative model is held by disabled people about disabled people. Its theoretical significance can also only be developed by disabled people who are ‘proud, angry and strong’ in resisting the tyranny of the personal tragedy model of disability and impairment” (Swain & French 2000, p. 581). In spite of the understandable and important aim of the affirma- tive model, the lack of theoretical perspective and analysis also creates problems similar to those of the reformer’s perspective. In anthropology, Geertz has shown how experience-near perspectives can be combined with theoretical analysis in the framework of an 4 interpretative approach . The other non-theoretical perspectives in disability/handicap research The other non-theoretical perspective that dominated disability/ handicap research in the review of 1990, but was less frequent in 2001, was the reformer’s perspective. As indicated above, this per- spective is characterized by an underlying normative and techno- 4 This approach has been discussed more in detail in Gustavsson (2001). 170
  8. 8. logical agenda. Carrying out programs of, for example, integration or empowerment, these goals are understood as the self-evident and in no need of further problematization. Thus, the first object of disability/handicap research—from this perspective—is to evaluate if reforms and programs have worked or not. Bogdan and Taylor (1988), refers to this perspective as “the does-it-work-approach”. In the review of 1990, I interpreted the dominance of this perspective as a typical expression of a research tradition developed in a prac- tice-oriented field. In the 1970s and 80s, the disability/handicap research agenda in the Scandinavian and several other western countries was, to a large extent, set by politicians and professionals engaged in reforms towards integration and normalization. Fur- thermore, disability/handicap research, at least in Scandinavia, at the time engaged many new researchers with an earlier experience from the disability services and a very limited experience of theo- retical work. As we have seen in the previous chapters of this book, neither the reformer’s practice-oriented perspective nor the experience-near perspectives were represented in the Stockholm discussion on per- spectives and theory in social pedagogy. Before commenting further on that, let me say something about the strong development of theoretical perspectives in disability/handicap research during the 1990s. The call for theoretical, experience-distant perspectives In the review of 1990, Söder and I pointed to the dangers of the reformer’s perspective. Political agendas and goals are often caught in current ideologies and problems. History proves that such ide- ologies ar far from objective. On the contrary, they tend to reflect the socio-centrism of its time. Theoretical analysis is an attempt to transcend current ways of thinking in order to highlight important aspects that are hidden in, for instance, the reformer’s perspectives. Another advantage of theoretical analysis is that it makes compari- sons possible between experiences from different times and socie- ties. 171
  9. 9. Similar dangers are obviously linked to pure experience-near perspectives of the type suggested by Swaing and French. Here, the socio-centrism of the reformers’ respective is replaced by the ethno-centrism of researchers with personal experiences of disabil- ity engaged in a collective struggle against existing oppression in a society designed for non-disabled people. However legitimate this struggle might be, it risks to catch the engaged researcher in an etno-centrism if he or she does not use theoretical analysis and thus refects over and clarifies his or her own perspective in a way that makes it transparent for other researchers in the same field. Many other disability/handicap researchers have also argued for theoretical perspectives. In disability studies, Mike Oliver (1999) has, for instance, pointed to the importance of theory, stressing that only theory allows the researcher to go beyond individual experi- ence, which, in turn, is necessary in order to discover and under- stand the influence of oppressive social structures. Providing faithful accounts of individual experiences is never enough, he argues. In the journal of Disability & Society researchers like, Llewellyn and Hogan (2000) have also pointed to the value of analyzing research results in relation to the so-called social and medical models or theories like systems analysis and transactional analysis. The social model seems to be the single most frequently used theoretical, or experience-distant, perspective in the review of 2001, first of all represented in the journal Disability & Society (see e.g. Beckett & Wrighton 2000; Davis 2000; Llewellyn and Hogan 2000; Dowling and Dolan 2001; Goodley 2001). Even if the sup- porters of this model usually stress its foundations on experiences of people with disabilities, the social model is first of all an analyti- cal perspective based on a specific theory of society. In the social model disability is not explained from impairment but from social organization. This model presents an individual, who is unable to walk, not as being disabled because he or she is unable to walk, but because society does not accommodate his or her inability to walk. [---] The individual is being disabled, not by their impairment, but by the failure of society to take account of and organize around difference (Dowling & Dolan 2000, p. 23). 172
  10. 10. A paper by John M. Davis, Disability Studies as Ethnographic Research and text: research strategies and roles for promoting social change? (2000) provides us with a few more characteristics of this perspective. The Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPAIS, 1976) argued after Paul Hunt (1996) and Vic Finkelstein (1975), that disability should be seen as “caused by contemporary social organiza- tion”. In Britain, this has led to the call for change in the way society is structured primarily in the area of rights and citizenship. It has been powerfully employed as a banner under which disabled people and others can unite to fight off their oppressors. Specifically, in the research arena, Barnes (1996) has employed this perspective as a basis from which to call on academics to choose which side of the bar- ricade they are on (Davis 2000, p. 195). This stress on the need for changes in the societal structures is an important characteristic of the social model and in Oliver’s version of the social model this implies a basically materialistic perspective. I will come back to this in my discussion of essentialism, below. The second dimension The discovery, in the Copenhagen review, of the emergence of theo- retical perspectives in disability/handicap research raised another interesting question concerning where the focus of analysis was to be found in the growing number of theoretical perspectives. It should first be said that the theoretical approaches showed a great variety. A very interesting observation, however, was that the focus of an adopted perspective often seemed to have a specific kind of influence on the results of the study. Studies of one and the same phenomenon, like for example dyslexia or inclusive schools, from perspectives with different theoretical foci often seemed to produce results that were in line with the given focus. The crucial point here seemed to be that a specific theoretical focus tended to assume what was essential to study in relation to disability/handicap. Two main types of foci could be distinguished: One focus on the char- acteristics of individuals with a specific disability, and another focus on the environment where disability/handicap was supposed to be 173
  11. 11. produced. What made the perspectives and their foci so influential seemed to be that they often were based on essentialist assumptions, i.e. assumptions about an essential analytical level—which could be for instance the dysfunctional cognitive structures of an individual or the basically, oppressive social structures of a society—where the disability/handicap best could be understood. In a review of the Norwegian program for Special Education research 1994 – 1999, Söder (2000) has discussed a similar kind of theoretical essentialism. He talked about individual essentialism and contextual essentialism, the first linked to — what he called — the clinical model and the second to the social model. In the same way as individual characteristics in the clinical model are made “essential”, the segregating context here (in the social model) is “the essential”, i.e. what explains the emergence of the problems (Söder 2000, pp. 26–27, my translation). Söder illustrates what he means by contextual essentialism by refer- ring to the social model 5 As indicated above, the original idea of this model or theory , as expressed for instance by Oliver (1999), is that materialistic, social structures produce disability and consequently also the oppression that disabled people are exposed to. In the social model a sharp distinction is made between “impairment” on the one hand and “disability” on the other. The former has to do with the body. But the consequences of impairment are, accord- ing to the social model, defined by the social context. Impairment becomes disability as a result of the barriers and oppression in the social context. But these mechanisms cannot be reduced to “culture” or “social meanings”. They are embedded in the materialistic structure of society. Oliver makes a point of not being a social constructionist, but a “creationist”. Everyday life conditions of people with disabilities are not the results of the representations and the attitudes of other people, but a creation of the capitalist order of production that, in vari- ous ways, marginalizes and oppresses different groups, among others, 5 A later version of the social model is less essentialist and more constructionist, stressing the production of social meanings and discourses of disability (Davis 2000). 174
  12. 12. people with disabilities (Söder 1999, pp. 25–26, my translation and my italics). From this perspective, improvements in the everyday life conditions of disabled people demand changes in the basic social structures and so does the understanding of disabled people’s experiences, for instance, in research. A problem with individual and contextual essentialism, Söder argues, is that these perspectives tend to essentialize only one side of the handicap and exclude others and, as a consequence of this, risks to be caught in a vicious circle: As we have seen, the different projects [of Norwegian special educa- tional research, that Söder reviewed] realize both the clinical and the contextual perspectives. In both cases — one could say — for better and for worse. Sometimes individual essentialism becomes a strait- waistcoat that makes it difficult to discover the social mechanisms that produce the problems of pupils, on other occasions, it provides a good basis for interventions. The perspective of contextual essen- tialism can sometimes end up in an almost circular reasoning, where the researcher only confirms his or her points of departure, when working from his or her own perspective (Söder 1999, p. 32, my translation). In contrast to these two types of rather one-eyed analyses, in the Copenhagen review, I also found a few interesting studies character- ized by a multi-level, constructionist approach. Here, the researchers’ perspectives were not founded on an assumption about a primordial focus or analytical level. On the contrary, analysis included both the individual and the contextual levels looking for the most important empirical patterns in order to let them decide what was the most productive analytical focus of the specific study. The theoretical openness and empirical sensitivity of these studies were a striking characteristic. Söder too, in his report on Norwegian special educational research, identified an alternative to theoretical essentialism. He calls this alternative ‘the relative perspective’ drawing on, what in The Scandinavian countries is called, ‘the relative definition of handicap’. 175
  13. 13. One way of phrasing this is to say that these projects [adopting a rela- tive perspective] take the relative definition of handicap seriously. It is impossible to understand the processes producing disability—and consequently exclusion and discrimination — without studying the interaction between the individuals and the context. In order to understand this interaction it is necessary not to lock oneself into the idea that certain individuals have certain shortcomings or problems and that these problems are to be focused, or that one beforehand has decided that the context has certain characteristics. Such projects demand certain openness towards what is going on; a sort of respect- ful approach to a reality where competent and reflective persons act and create the order we want to study (Söder 1999, p. 33). It should be noted that the essentialist perspectives and their assumptions about the most productive analytical level were not necessarily founded on the researchers’ intention to maintain a pri- mordial, basic level of analyzing disability/handicap. On the con- trary, most essentialist studies included comments from the authors about the importance of analyses also on other levels. However, these programmatic statements seldom seem to influence the actual analysis carried out. Thus, the essentialist character of these studies most often remained implicit. In my review of disability/handicap research of 2001, I found a few examples of empirically sensitive, multi-level theoretical analy- ses. However, most of the theoretical perspectives that had emerged showed essentialist characteristics. Some examples of essentialism were easy to categorize as individual or contextual. Others how- ever, like discursive essentialism and cultural essentialism, seemed to include both individual and contextual level in specific analytical mixtures, but were still regarded as essentialist in the sense that they tended to explain everything important in terms of a primordial theoretical perspective. Summing up the role of theory in current disability/handicap research Schematically, the perspectives and foci of analysis identified in the reviews of the disability/handicap research are illustrated in figure 1. Here, theoretical and non-theoretical perspectives are found on the 176
  14. 14. vertical axis and foci of analysis on the horizontal axis. The affirma- tive model, discussed above, is a typical example of an experience- near perspective with a contextual focus. In my Copenhagen review, I did not find any distinct illustrations of experience-near perspec- tives with an individual focus. However, life history approaches without theoretical analysis, like for instance, I’ve seen it all, (Edger- ton & Gaston 1991) can be regarded an example of this category of studies. In the examples I found of the reformer’s perspective, the distinction between individual and contextual foci was often blurred and unclear. Often this seemed to be a result precisely of the lack of theoretical analysis. Identifications of multi-level analyses among the non-theoretical publications were impossible. In figure 1, I have also noted the most frequent subcategories of theoretical perspective that I found in the review of disability/handicap research of 2001. Focus of analysis The individual The context Multi-level Perspective Non-theoretical Program effectiveness analyzed on reformer’s perspective individual level and/or contextual level Non-theoretical (Life history) The Affirmation experience-near perspective model Theoretical, experience- distant perspective, like e.g. Individual essentialism Contextual Multi-level • Medical-psychological essentialism analysis • Social structural • Discursive • Cultural Figure 1. Perspectives and foci of analysis in the Copenhagen review of disability/ handicap research When we try to understand the described development in disability/ handicap research towards individual or contextual essentialisms, it should be noted that faithfulness to specific theoretical frames or schools, in the academies, often receives strong appreciation for its theoretical depth, coherence and contribution to cumulative knowledge within the particular theoretical framework. This is probably also one reason why this development of essentialist theo- 177
  15. 15. retical perspectives has continued without any strong objections. And it is also important to stress that these kinds of studies often contribute with important, and productive knowledge that can be of value both in practice and in the development of the specific theoretical perspectives. However, at the same time it is clear that there is an equally strong need for, what I have called multi-level, interactionist research. Holistic understanding — and what is per- haps more important, effective practice-interventions — demand multi-level studies that help us discover which analytical levels that best can help us understand a particular phenomenon and its manifestations in everyday life. If one understands a very complex phenomenon like handicap in a narrow theoretical framework one risks to fall into a reductionism where some basic characteristics of the phenomenon are forgotten or misunderstood. Without the empirical sensitivity and the theoretical openness of such studies effective interventions are impossible to carry out. As Söder (1999) has stated, it is also important to point out that true realizations of the relative handicap perspective demands multi-level, interactionist approaches in disability/handicap research. Social pedagogy—a practice-oriented knowledge field without practice research I striking observation, in the comparison between publications in disability/handicap research and social pedagogy, is the fact that social pedagogical research, at least in the Nordic countries, does not seem to present any practice-oriented research traditions similar to the reformer’s perspective in disability/handicap research. This is true for the presentations at the Stockholm symposium as well as for other Nordic social pedagogical studies that I know of. The lack of such non-theoretical perspectives in social pedagogy is even more puzzling given the fact that social pedagogy — as indicated in the beginning of this chapter — represents a typical practice-oriented knowledge field. How can we understand that social pedagogues, who have taken up research during the last 10 – 15 years, have not highlighted on-going projects or been engaged in evaluations in the same way as Nordic disability/handicap researchers have been? 178
  16. 16. … and a client-centered approach without experience-near perspectives Given the fact, that social pedagogy in practice is focusing so clearly on client perspectives and mobilization, it is also very surprising that experience-near perspectives play a so limited role in social ped- agogical research. One would have expected that social pedagogy would be in the forefront in using such perspectives. I have found no signs, for instance, of the voice-giving programs that have been so extensively discussed in the field of disability/handicap. Social pedagogues could be expected to try to give voice to marginalized or excluded people. As shown in the chapters of this book, and in most other current Nordic social pedagogical studies, the research- ers’ voice is dominating the publications in a rather traditional way. This finding comes as a special surprise to researchers, as myself, who have been trained in the Stockholm social pedagogical tradi- tion inspired by Arne Trankell in the late 1960s and 70s. Trankell’s book, Kvarteret Flisan (The Block Flisan, 1973), describing a herme- neutical approach to a study of neighborhood protests against Finn- ish gypsies in a suburb of Stockholm, was written as something of a manifest for the use of insiders’ perspectives in social pedagogical research. It should be added that Trankell advocated for a dialectical approach, similar to that of Geertz, mentioned above (Gustavsson 2001). However, one of the main points in Trankell’s hermeneutical program still was to highlight the importance of the special per- spectives of marginalized and excluded people. No similar examples were presented at the Stockholm symposium. Two main types of theoretical perspectives in social pedagogy The presence of theoretical perspectives and theoretical analyses was obvious at the Stockholm symposium and this is also illustrated in the chapters of this book. Also other social pedagogical publica- tions confirm that this knowledge field is strongly theory-oriented. However, in order to understand what this means, it is important to observe that a significant number of the published social pedagogi- cal studies have adopted a very special theoretical perspective. What 179
  17. 17. is most striking in these studies is that the subject matter is not social pedagogical practices but the discipline or knowledge field of social pedagogy itself. Good examples of this can be found in the chapters by Eriksson & Markström, Hämäläinen, Jenner, Hegstrup. Lauritzen, Mikser and Kraav. As a consequence of this focus on disciplinary issues—at least this is my interpretation—social peda- gogues show an unusual interest in philosophical, meta-theoretical perspectives. Typically, the development of social pedagogy in differ- ent universities and different countries is discussed in the theoretical frames of epistemology or theory of science. In the analyses of the specific kind of knowledge found in social pedagogical, philosophy of education/pedagogy also plays a central role. As consequence, social pedagogy, to a large extent, appears as a theoretical knowledge field, closely linked to a practice, but with a very limited interest in this practice. At least, this is the impression in current, Nordic social pedagogical publications. However, there is also another line of social pedagogical research, where theoretical perspectives are used to analyze empirical data of on-going social pedagogical interventions or mobilization projects. In this book, the chapters by Hermansson and Röpelinen most typically illustrate this type of perspective. Here, I have chosen to comment, first of all, on Hermansson’s research as it is an interesting example of the multi-level analysis described above. What Hermansson discusses is a new form of social mobilization of special interest in today’s society, namely social economy. A large part of Hermansson’s chapter is taken up by the presentation of a day-care project for dogs run by people with intellectual disabili- ties, indicating that social economy can be a means to social and societal inclusion. As Hermansson’s presentation at the symposium is a summary of his earlier, more extensive, publications (see e.g. Hermansson 2000), I have been forced also to draw a little also on this text in order to be able to illustrate his multi-level perspective. Social economy is often related to the so-called ‘third sector’, i.e. a sector between the public and the private sector in late modern, western societies. At the core of this sector we find social co-operatives organizing people in non-profit activities, with a special emphasis on democratic participation of all members of 180
  18. 18. the organizations. At a societal level of analysis, social economy is understood in the frameworks of disciplines like national economy, political science and social policy. Here, issues concerning the devel- opment of democracy in late modern societies like Sweden are in focus. However, an organizational level of social economy is equally important. In his chapter, Hermansson, describes, for example, how social co-operatives can be regarded as an alternative to traditional disability service organizations. Furthermore, he describes how the pedagogical aspects of the organization of the daycare activ- ity of Beateberg, for instance, the specific relationships developed between supervisors and disabled members of the co-operative. Finally, Hermansson’s analysis also highlights the importance of social economy for the individuals involved in the co-operative. Here, empowerment is used as an umbrella concept to point out what it means to be a member of the social co-operative in terms of increased self-esteem, self-confidence and opportunities for a mean- ingful working-life for people who, usually, are excluded from the labor-market. The interactionist, multi-level approach in Hermansson’s discus- sion of social economy is expressed in the fact that none of the phenomena, or a separate level of analysis, are regarded as basic or essential for the outcome. On the contrary, societal, organiza- tional and individual phenomena interact in a complex way and one phenomenon cannot be understood without also taking the others into account. Thus, the development of alternative forms of support for disabled people is, for example, related to the mobiliza- tion of individuals with different competencies, as well as to the development of the special kind of social ties, which characterize social co-operatives in a social economy. Hermansson’s discussion of social economy comes very close to what I, above, described as a interactionist, multi-level, analytical perspective. 181
  19. 19. Summing up the role of theory in current social pedagogical research In order to be able to compare the roles of theory in social pedagog- ical research and disability/handicap research, I have summed up my analysis of the papers presented at the Stockholm symposium in figure 2, which can be compared with figure 1 above. Focus of analysis The individual The context Multi-level Philosophical Perspective Meta-level Non-theoretical reformer’s perspective Non-theoretical experience-near perspective Theoretical, experience- distant perspective, like e.g. Epistemological • Medical-psychological Multi-level Theory of • Social structural analysis science • Discursive Philosophy of • Cultural pedagogy • Disciplinary Figure 2. Perspectives and foci of analysis in social pedagogical research. In social pedagogy, the rows for the non-theoretical reformer’s and experience-near perspectives are blank. So are also the columns representing individual and contextual essentialisms. Our first gen- eral observation is that social pedagogical research perspectives, as they were represented at the Stockholm symposium, are more uni- form than perspectives are in the sister field of disability/handicap research. And this uniformity first of all means a dominance of a philosophical, meta-level focus and a few examples of multi-level analyses. How could this picture be understood? Let us start with the strong interest in philosophical, meta-level analyses. One way of understanding this dominance seems to be that social pedagogy raises basic philosophical, meta-questions that are not raised in the same way in all disciplines or knowledge fields. I am thinking of normative and ethical questions concerning the 182
  20. 20. assumptions for intervening into other people’s lives in order to help them find better everyday life conditions. Social pedagogues are faced with issues like: How to handle obvious inequalities between people? Do social pedagogues have the right to try to influence other people’s life courses? If we do, can everybody be ‘saved’? And how can we go on with our work when our good intentions fail? Another line of interpretation refers to the professional history of social pedagogues and the history of social pedagogical research. My own knowledge of this history is based on the experience of having closely followed the development of Nordic social pedagogy for more than 15 years. From 1987 to 1993 I also had a position at one of the university colleges where social pedagogues were trained, and since the beginning of 2000, I am responsible for the develop- ment of social pedagogical research at the department of education (and from 2001 also at the department of social work), Stockholm University, as professor of social pedagogy. The fact, that social pedagogical research often has been forced to legitimate its position within the academic society could explain some of the interest in philosophical, meta-level analyses. Ques- tions concerning science and knowledge have to some extent been unavoidable for social pedagogical researchers during recent years. Furthermore, the increased interest that we have seen in social peda- gogical research during the last 20 years in the Nordic countries, has to a large extent been addressed by teachers in this field. When becoming teachers, many of them have left their earlier positions in social pedagogical practice. And many also have taken up teach- ing during a time when research was not a self-evident part of their teachers’ responsibility at the university colleges where the training of social pedagogues took place. Encouraged to take up research work, many of the teachers first of all came to focus on the practice that they were closest to and knew most about, i.e. everyday teach- ing and questions linked to the foundations of the knowledge field of social pedagogy. Against this background, the discovered profile characterized by philosophy of education, epistemology and theory of science in current social pedagogical studies does not come as big surprise. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that such a 183
  21. 21. profile is productive. On the contrary, there is an urgent need for more practice-oriented work in social pedagogical research. However, the question must also be raised if a symposium like the one presented in this book really covers the whole range of social pedagogical studies in the Nordic countries. Probably not. On the contrary, I am pretty sure that there are a lot of practice-ori- ented, social pedagogical research that is presented under the labels of education and social work. This conclusion is supported by the fact that researchers, like Hans-Erik Hermansson, usually do not present their research in the framework of social pedagogy, but as social work. The same is true for Håkan Jenner (Gerrevall & Jenner 2001), who has done extensive studies of social pedagogical practice, for examples in institutions for young persons with social problem. And most of this practice-oriented work is published within educa- tion. This also might explain some of the dominance of the philo- sophical, meta-level perspective. Conferences and symposia in social pedagogy, first of all attract people who identify themselves with the special field of social pedagogy, which for the moment often means teachers of social pedagogy. It is also interesting to note that I, at the Stockholm symposium, could not find any typical examples of essentialist, theoretical per- spective. To some extent, this might be a general characteristic of social pedagogy. The history of social pedagogy, highlighting the importance of societal, organizational and cultural factors in indi- vidual development, learning or socialization, has perhaps made it especially immune against reductionistic, essentialist analyses. However, the lack of essentialist perspectives at the Stockholm symposium can probably also be explained by the fact that only a very limited number of the relevant studies in social pedagogy were presented. Finally, I would like to return to the question whether there seems to exist a special theoretical perspective in social pedagogy. Of course, a single Nordic symposium offers a weak, and probably also a biased, answer to this question. However, what we can see in the chapters documenting the Stockholm symposium can perhaps be said to give some support for such a perspective. Compared to disability/handicap research in general, the presented social peda- 184
  22. 22. gogical studies show much more elaborated theoretical perspectives. No clear examples of non-theoretical perspectives were found. One could perhaps object that the theoretical analyses of the histories of social pedagogy presented by Mikser and Hegstrup are far from deep. However, their basic approaches have much in common with the typical meta-level, disciplinary social pedagogical approach found in other texts and should therefore be categorized accord- ingly. However, a knowledge field cannot be maintained just by theory. In my understanding, the most important problem in the social pedagogical research, presented at the Stockholm conference, and in other social pedagogical research that I know of, seems to be the extremely limited interest in empirical studies of the existing, rather extensive, social pedagogical practices. More such studies, from the constructivist, multi-level perspectives illustrated in Hermansson’s study, would strengthen the position of social pedagogy as an inde- pendent knowledge field considerably. Referenser Barnes, C. (1996) Disability and the myth of the independent researcher. Disability & Society vol. 11, pp. 107– 110. Bogdan, R. C. & Taylor S. (1987) Towards a sociology of acceptance: The other side of the study of deviance. Social Policy, 18 (2) pp. 34–39. Davis, J.M. (2000) Disability Studies as Ethnographic Research and Text: Research Strategies and Roles for Promoting Change. Disability & Society vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 191–206. Dowling, M. & Dolan L. (2001) Families with Children with Disabilities — Inequalities and the Social Model. Disability & Society vol. 16, no. 1 pp. 21–35. Edgerton, R. & Gaston A. M. (1991) “I’ve seen it all!! Lives of Older Persons with Mental Retardation in the Community. Baltimore: Paul Bookes Publishing Co. Finkelstein, V. (1975) To deny or not deny disability. Magic Carpet no. 28, pp. 31–38. Finkelstein, V. (1980) Attitudes and Disabled people. New York: World Rehabilita- tion fund. 185
  23. 23. Geertz, C. (1993) Local Knowledge. Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology. London: Fontana Press. Gerrevall, P. & Jenner, H. (2001) Kommunikativ pedagogik och särskilda ungdoms- hem. Forskningsrapport 2001:2 från SiS, Stockholm. Goodley, D. (2001) ‘Learning Difficulties’, the Social Model of Disability and Impairment: Challenging Epistemology. Disability & Society vol. 16 no. 2, pp. 207–231. Gustavsson, A. & Söder, M. (1990) Social Forskning om Människor med Psykisk Utvecklingsstörning. En bibliograferad kommentar (Social Research on People with Intellectual Disability). FoU-rapport 1990:1 from Vårdhögskolan in Stockholm. Gustavsson, A. (2001) Studying personal experiences of disability: What happened to verstehen when Einfühlung disappeared. Scandinavian Journal of Dis- ability Research vol. 3 no. 2, pp. 29–40. Hermansson, H.-E. (2000) Arbete i egen regi. Från arbetsmarknadsprojekt till social economi (Work under personal management. From labor-market projects to social economy). Göteborg: Daidalos. Hunt, P. (1996) (ed.) Stigma. London: Chapman. Llewellyn, A. & Hogan, K. (2000) The Use and Abuse of Models of Disability. Disability & Society Vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 157–165. Oliver, M. (1996) The Politics of Disablement. A Sociological Approach. New York: St. Martins Press. Swain, J. & French S. (2000) Towards an Affirmative Model of Disability. Dis- ability & Society vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 569–582. Söder, M. (1999) Specialpedagogisk forskning mellan det kliniska och det kontextuella (Special Education Research: Between the clinical and the contextual perspec- tives). Bodø: Nordlandsforskning, NF 8/99. Trankell, A. (1973) Kvarteret Flisan (The Block Flisan). Stockholm: Norstedts förlag. Beckett, C & Wrighton, E. (2000) ‘What Matters to Me is Not What You’r talking about—Maintaining the Social Model of Disability. Disability & Society vol. 15, no. 7, pp. 991–999. 186
  24. 24. Contributors Lisbeth Eriksson, Senior lecturer, Department of Behavioural Sciences, Linköping University Elsebeth Fog, Senior lecturer, Department for Studies of the Indi- vidual and Society, University of Trollhättan/Uddevalla Hans-Erik Hermansson, Professor in social work/social pedagogy, Department for Studies of the Individual and Society, Univer- sity of Trollhättan/Uddevalla Håkan Jenner, Professor of education, School of Education, Växjö University Anders Gustavsson, Professor of education, especially social pedagogy and disability research, Department of Education, Stockholm University Søren Hegstrup, Fil. Lic., Research department, National Institute of Social Education, Hindholm Juha Hämäläinen, Professor of social work, especially social pedagogy, Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy, University of Kuopio 187
  25. 25. Inger Kraav, Ass. Professor of education, Department of General Education, Faculty of Education, University of Tartu Johny Lauritsen, President of Hindholm Social Pedagogical Col- lege Ann-Marie Markström, PhD-student at the Department of Edu- cational Science, Linköping and lecturer at the Department of Social Work (campus Norrköping), Linköping University Rain Mikser, Doctoral student of education at the Department of Pedagogy, Faculty of Education, University of Tartu Anne-Mari Röpelinen, Lecturer of social Work, M.S.Sc, Depart- ment of Social Work and Social Pedagogy, University of Kuopio 188
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