Category / Women’s Academic Network

ENABLE: Establishing Sustainable Research Networks and Building Learning Environments

As part of the Fusion Investment Fund, we (Prof Jonathan Parker & Dr Sara Ashencaen Crabtree) won a study leave grant throughout the current academic year.

Our project aims to create sustainable research and education opportunities across BU through the establishment of a social science research, education and professional practice network with Southeast Asian and Asian universities. An aim which also enhances and builds on our personal research agendas that will lead to the development of robust Research Council funding applications, and contribute to fusion and the BU 2018 vision.
The project will identify, scope and establish a sustainable social science research academic network across BU. This aim has been initiated through discussion with some key individuals in BU and the potential to develop, in 2014-15, research council bids in respect of:
a. gender relations and practices in the professions
b. understanding the ways in which conflict resolution is culturally specific and that learning can enhance our opportunities for establishing social cohesion and a reduction of conflict
c. examination of the neo-imperialism of research ethics scrutiny from Western perspectives
d. it may also lead to work in respect of sustainability in the lives of indigenous peoples.
The core part of the study leave will develop and conduct research and research collaboration in Southeast Asia, predominantly Malaysia but including Cambodia, and Hong Kong. As part of our study leave we have both been awarded visiting Professor status at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in Kuala Lumpur where we will spend January until April 2014, followed by visiting professorships at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in Penang from April until July. We will also be visiting universities in Hong Kong, Cambodia and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) in Kuching, East Malaysia.
Four core fusion and BU 2018 objectives underpin our project. These will result in funded research bids, increased student experience, and reputational enhancement for BU, and will be achieved through four workstreams:
1. establish a sustainable research network promoting social sciences and interdisciplinary research at BU (workstream 1).

2. develop research streams of locally specific or cross-cultural relevance (workstream 2).

3. engage and promote educational initiatives via guest lectures/research seminars, developing joint postgraduate research supervision and educational initiatives promoting student mobility, e.g. credit transfer (workstream 3).

Professional Practice:
4. engage in discipline-specific activities in relation to social work/development and welfare (workstream 4).

We have been invited to join the Tasik Chini Research Centre at UKM, a centre dedicated to research concerning the ravaged freshwater lake near Kuala Lumpur. As part of our research we will be undertaking an ethnography and conflict resolution narrative work with the Jakun tribe of the Orang Asli (the indigenous people of the region) with a view to promoting the marginalised voices of these people, disenfranchised by modernising agendas. We will also be researching approaches to unfair and wrongful discrimination in social welfare practices in the UK and Malaysia.

We look forward to keeping BU colleagues up-to-date with our work in Southeast Asia through our blogs. For those interested in developing research across these areas please contact us as we wish to ensure that social science research is highlighted across BU.

Professor Jonathan Parker & Dr Sara Ashencaen Crabtree

Social Work in Palestine

Conference logo

Social Work in Palestine, 2nd conference Palestine-UK Social Work Network
The 2nd National Conference of the Palestine-UK Social Work Network, supported by members of the British Association of Social Work, was held on the 12th November at the Amnesty International Centre off dingy Shoreditch High Street, and was an absolute bargain. For a registration fee of only £15.00 it offered a programme of rare value and threw in a two-course vegetarian lunch as well. It was also one of the most compelling and powerful conferences that I’ve ever had the privilege of attending. One heard with almost disbelief and certainly intense disquiet several level-headed presentations reporting the daily and systematic oppression of the Palestinian people, and the fragmentation of any semblance to normality through the enforced occupation of the territories that has continued for over sixty years.

To try to convey what this means, Prof. Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian Ambassador claims that every single Palestinian living under occupation suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. We also learned what ‘peace’ has meant for these people over the last twenty years since the Oslo Agreement 1993: 7,000 Palestinians killed, twelve thousand+ Palestinian homes destroyed, a further 250,000+ Israeli settlers in Palestinian territories, and finally, 441 miles of apartheid walls built to corral people into armed, patrolled ghettoes.

Jerusalem, historical home of so many Palestinians, is subject to what Issa Rabadi, Officer of the Palestinian Union of Social Workers & Psychologists, described as an ‘undeclared war of ethnic cleansing’, where apparently the goal of the occupational authorities is that the Palestinian population should not exceed 15-20% by the Year 2020. To this end, one third of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem are at risk of being demolished on the official grounds that these are illegal lodgings, with a predicted peak of destruction of homes due in 2014. Yet, apparently gaining legal rights to live in Jerusalem for resident Palestinians is so complex and protracted a process (lasting decades in many cases) that ‘Kafkaesque’ hardly begins to describe it.

The most distressing stories, unsurprisingly, referred to the detainment and torture of Palestinians; particularly those accounts concerning Palestinian children. Many of these child prisoners are as young as 12- or 13-years-old, and are arrested normally on the charge of throwing stones at the occupying forces. This was exemplified by the experiences of speaker, Mohammed Abu al Reesh, who was arrested on two separate occasions in his recent boyhood and subjected on both occasions to brutal physical maltreatment and psychological intimidation throughout this time. Mohammed’s story was by no means exceptional, rather than the reverse. In addition to physical abuse children may also be placed in solitary confinement for up to a month where the only contact is their interrogator. Arrested and imprisoned children are not normally permitted to see their families and even accessing legal support is achieved only with great difficulty. In the case of Mohammed, within a fortnight of being released from his last sentence, he enrolled at university, eventually gaining a BA in media studies with the ambition, now achieved, of becoming a journalist in order to better inform the world of human rights violations taking place in the territories.

So where does social work feature in this catalogue of utter wretchedness? The Global Agenda for Social Work, which seeks to unite social work educators and practitioners universally in the promotion of this year’s theme ‘Promoting social and economic inequalities’, directly resonates with the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Palestinian social workers live and work under the same high levels of daily oppression and insecurities as the communities they courageously serve. They are unsupported by State legal systems or by Israeli fellow social workers, who to-date appear ominously aloof to the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. As lecturer, Barry Levine of Glasgow Caledonian University, also pointed out, any international criticism of state tactics is very likely to result in accusations of anti-Semitism, which effectively serves to stifle debate and to muddy attempts towards a clearer understanding of what constitutes discrimination and oppression in the territories.

Despite this, the Palestine-UK social work network is actively seeking collegial links with anyone interested in the Palestinian plight to further the goals of the Global Agenda and to constructively work towards peace. To this end, plans are being made to hold the next conference in Jerusalem, where hopefully UK social worker academics and practitioners will be able to witness the situation for ourselves; and equally importantly, show solidarity with social work colleagues internationally.

10 Women to Inspire

This project is supported by Fusion Investment Fund.

It is well recognised that female faculty experience a slower career progress and are more likely to leave the path leading to academic advancement than their male colleagues. The issue of under representation of women in senior levels in science and across academia has been noted most recently in the pages of Nature (2011 & 2013) and the THES (2013) Whilst statistics from BU’s HR department show a gender split of 50/50 between male and female academics, women are seriously underrepresented at the professoriate and senior management level. A recent study conducted by BU’s Equality and Diversity department identified the lack of role model as one of the barriers that hinder female academics’ progress. We aim to work alongside the university to tackle this problem by offering more mentoring support and high-profile role models to female academics. Previous research repeatedly showed that female academics with mentors publish more articles, feel more confident in their capabilities, and are more satisfied overall with their careers than those without mentors (Levinson, Kaufman, Clark & Tolle, 1991).

Specifically, the Women’s Academic Network (WAN) plan to organise a series of seminars throughout the 13/14 academic year, and invite leading female speakers to present their latest studies and/or reflect on their personal career development. As BU’s female academics have a diverse personal background (in terms of discipline, age, culture, race and career path), we aim to invite a wide range of speakers including academics and practitioners and those in the UK and from international institutions. In doing so, we aim to stregthen BU’s connection with leading scholars/ business leaders from the international community, disseminate latest research findings across disciplines and increase mentoring support and networking opportunities for female academics.

Our first seminar is on 22nd November, 12:00 to 13:30, room P302. Laura Bates from Everyday Sexism will talk about the difficulties women often face at work. Coffee and tea will be provided. All are welcome.