Self beyond Self/Lost in Practice: Surveillance, appearance and posthuman possibilities for critical selfhood in children's services in England
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Abstract: The selfhood of social professionals in children’s services is under-researched, and where the primary focus is on practice ‘outcomes’. Informed by a critical social policy frame this thesis focuses on the selfhood of social professionals in children’s services to ask how it might, or might not, be possible to think, and do, self differently. I bring into play a critical posthumanist (non-sovereign) becoming self alongside, and in relation to, the other ‘allowed’ or ‘prescribed’ selves of neo-liberalism, professional practice and (critical) social policy itself. Utilising theoretical resources, in particular from Arendt, Deleuze and Guattari, and Foucault, I characterise this as thinking with both ‘surveillance’ and ‘appearance’, and self as an explicitly political project. In a post-structural frame I pursue a post-methodological rhizomatic and cartographic methodology that aims to open up proliferations in thinking and knowledge rather than foreclose it to one clear answer, and where I also draw on a small number of interviews with experienced professionals and managers in children’s services. A rhizomatic figure of thought involves irreducible and multiple relations that are imbricated on the surface; it is a flattened picture where theory, data, researcher, participants and analysis are not separate, where all connections are part of an overall picture, and in movement. I argue that social professionals occupy a deeply striated landscape for being/knowing/practising, a particular ontological grid that tethers their selfhood to the pre-existing, and to intensifications in a neo-liberal project. Here, ‘rearranging the chairs’ becomes more of the same, where the sovereign humanist subject is “a normative frame and an institutionalised practice” (Braidotti, 2013, p.30). In thinking otherwise, beyond traditional critical theory, a posthuman lens draws attention to the ways in which we might be/live both inside and outside of the already existing and where we become with others, human and non-human in shifting assemblages. However, the self prescribed and prefigured in dominant discourses constitute the historical preconditions from which experiments in self, and other possibilities may emerge. Practices of de-familiarisation, a radical, non-linear relationality, and a hermeneutics of situation are suggested as strategies for thinking forward, for appearance, and a self beyond self.
Doctor of Education in Education