The carceral existence of social work academics: a Foucauldian analysis of social work education in English universities
AbstractApplying Foucault’s concepts of disciplinary power and technologies of the self to the ex-periences of social work academics in English universities, this articles reveals their carceral existences, arguing that social work academics and their students exist within a “carceral network” which controls and normalises behaviour by simultaneously trapping them with-in and excluding them from succeeding in academic practices. While social work academics become “docile bodies” as they are shaped and trained by competing norms of neoliberal higher education and professional social practice, their position as insiders and outsiders to both can also enable them to resist certain disciplinary expectations. The findings of the qualitative study discussed in this article support Foucault’s analysis of powerful institu-tions but problematise binary positions of docility or resistance to disciplinary power with-in them. Lived experiences of ‘becoming academic’ in English social work education reveal how normalising judgements and hierarchical observation intersect with neoliberal forms of responsibilisation to create a carcerality rooted in “incompetence”; how “technologies of relationships” are used to mediate individual forms of responsibilisation, and how having to negotiate multiple disciplinary regimes can create opportunities for resistance to each.
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