Community workers' understandings and practices of resistance

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Power, Maria C.
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University College Cork
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This research is focused on Community Workers located in Southern Ireland, and their understandings and practices of resistance. It is an attempt to explore the ways in which community workers’ understandings and practices of resistance are formed and, in turn, inform their sense of identity and their responses to the wider context of community development work in Ireland today. This study is specifically located but also has wider application and relevance because of the extended international reach of neo-liberal and managerial rationalities, and their implications for politics, policy and practice. The study considers resistance in a number of inter-related ways: as a collective oppositional position (with negative and positive dimensions); a personal and/or professional value (associated with the ‘expansion of contention’); a strategy for negotiating unequal power relations (in a range of levels and spaces of power); an identity (in relation to the sustaining of ‘reflexive subjectivities’); a set of practices, (which take into account the interplay between economic, political and cultural influences); and an educational process through which practitioners assess and enact personal and professional agency. Critical theorisations of community development and of the Irish state over time, trace the ways in which neo-liberalism and managerialism has inflected community development practice and the positions of community workers and communities in that process. The study draws on James C. Scott, Gramsci, Barnes and Prior, among others, which enabled the interrogation of resistance in relation to everyday practices through engaging with ‘hidden transcripts’ and spaces. The method chosen was focus group discussions with three groups of community workers located in different counties in Southern Ireland. This method facilitated a deep discourse analysis of practitioners’ encounters with resistance in the field of community work. Key findings relate to the various interpretations of the role of resistance, practices of resistance (including current restrictions), the value of resistance work and the conditions that may be conducive to practising resistance.
Resistance , Community development , Community workers
Power, M. C. 2014. Community workers' understandings and practices of resistance. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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