Category / Women’s Academic Network

Reflections on an Oasis

Our final blog concerning our Fusion Investment Funded study leave, ENABLE: Establishing Sustainable Research Networks and Building Learning Environments, is written with very mixed feelings in mind.

For seven months we have worked across Southeast Asia to develop and establish links and research collaborations, teaching and education partnerships and to rediscover our passion for social action as ‘professional practice’ associated with our disciplines. The work has been intense, tiring, sometimes frustrating, but always illuminating and productive. It was a wrench to leave.

The return journey began with raised anxieties, heightened a couple of weeks earlier by the awful shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines aeroplane following the same route (although by then re-routed), and exacerbated when we were separated into two distinct travelling units, Jonathan with one child and Sara with the other, because the previous university travel firm booked tickets as two separate families! To make matters worse only Jonathan and Isabel’s tickets showed up and we had to wait to secure the other tickets. We were then given seats at opposite ends of the aeroplane and had to wait again for re-seating. The flight began well enough and was fairly smooth, only briefly punctuated by a somewhat antisocial ‘ramming’ of chair in front into one of our legs with particular force by someone who thought ‘turn off your electronics’ meant send texts to your friends!

However, we landed in one piece and breathed a sigh of relief, or possibly resignation, until, as in our usual practice of each taking one of the children through immigration the UKBA officer asked Jonathan rather sternly ‘where is the child’s mother?’ and when indicating where Sara was the officer proceeded to say that children have to be seen with their mother because mother’s are in general the carers of children and if present they have to be with the child. ‘Red rags and bulls’ often appear to Jonathan in unjust situations and he, as usual, took issue with this, but whilst we all got through immigration clearance more quickly, the officer insisted that his rather warped and myopic view of British law and custom was now right. Oh dear! We wondered what had happened in the seven months we had been away and whether we were entering Gormenghast!

But, back to the project itself! Our four key objectives have been met throughout the project, with varying degrees of success and changing morphologies:

1. Establish a sustainable research network promoting social sciences and interdisciplinary research at BU:

We have made contacts with individual academics, departments and universities across Southeast Asia, notably Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), Universiti Utara Malaysia, alongside contacts with Massey University in New Zealand,  Hong Kong University, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Myanmar Institute of Theology.

We have given names and contacts to people abroad and within BU to follow up. Research projects are being developed, publications are in train or planned for the future.

2. Develop research streams of locally specific or cross-cultural relevance:

Our research, completed with the Orang Asli as part of the Tasik Chini Research Centre, has culminated in numerous publications being submitted, developed and developing, wide dissemination across many fora, and establishing on-going research links.

3. Engage and promote educational initiatives via guest lectures/research seminars, developing joint postgraduate research supervision and educational initiatives promoting student mobility:

We have presented lectures and seminars, provided postgraduate supervision and contributed to curriculum planning and development discussions, as well as negotiated an important credit transfer scheme (although uptake has been delayed until we can find students both able and willing to go on this exciting opportunity!). Professional papers have been written and submitted.

4. Engage in discipline-specific activities in relation to social work:

a number of discipline specific activities concerning social action and development have been undertaken, including curriculum planning, assisting in education developments in Myanmar and in Malaysia in reference to the new (to be implemented) standardised Malaysian Diploma Social Work, alongside contributing to NGO development work.

Overall, during the study leave period, there has been 57 outputs, also including on-going work and connections to be completed over time. The 57 outputs included:

  • 6 books (3 published)
  • 14 book chapters (11 published or in press)
  • 12 peer reviewed papers (9 published or in press)
  • 3 professional papers
  • 1 book review
  • 16 conference presentations/open lectures etc.
  • 10 blogs
  • 6 media presentations

During our time away we have worked across five countries: Malaysia, Hong Kong SAR, Australia, Myanmar and Cambodia in order to carry out our research or present it, along with capacity-building missions for professional, social work training. We have undertaken respectively between 24 to 28 flights (trying, when one of us dislikes flying) and stayed in some extraordinarily interesting as well as very grim places during our fieldwork, resulting in abuse from miscellaneous assortments of blood-sucking insects (outsized mosquitoes, the usual bed bugs and fever-inducing leeches) bedding down with us or boisterously noisy lizards, both small and decidedly large, showering us with ordure from above.

One of us was joyfully returning ‘home’ to pioneering fieldwork in Southeast Asia and the other was equally rapturous to be introduced to it. We have developed a new appreciation of the diversity of international driving styles when finding it not unusual to be driven by taxi in the wrong direction through chaotic Yangon in the middle of two long lines of equally erratic cars heading in the right direction – towards us. Above all, we remember the various wonderfully funny, kind, clever, intriguing and endlessly good-natured people we me: all our participants, our various helpers, interpreters, drivers, guides and advisors, the academic staff and students who welcomed us so warmly, the inspiring NGO workers and service users; not forgetting the local café owner in Penang, who wept when we left before running to get her camera for group photos to remember us by.

Also, we will always remember just how much our children, Isabel and Milly grew and developed in stature (in all ways possible): learning the research process, engaging with children amongst the village communities, and themselves collecting valuable data and compiling magnificent school projects on their adventures and experiences. The children put up with a good deal with great fortitude, willingness and humour (or when the going got tough – heavy irony), easily comprehending the importance of the work undertaken; albeit, as 10 year-old Milly gravely commented in her write-up later, ‘fieldwork has its dark side’! Indeed, so impressed were we with them that they will be contributing their experiences and acting as co-authors to the forthcoming book on the Tasik Chini area.

Alongside the outputs, the work is now to capitalise on the study leave by the development and submission of funded research projects. Currently, these include gendered rituals in professional working, problematizing research ethics and learning disabilities, understanding religion as resistance, and gender in higher education.

The study leave represented a life-giving oasis, somewhere to wash and attend to our own sacred cattle as in the photo from Cambodia, and we gratefully acknowledge the help and supported afforded us by Bournemouth University and our two main host universities in Malaysia (UKM and USM). We would encourage other academic staff to apply for study leave and we think that the productivity of our period of study leave indicates how important this can be to both individual academics but also to the greater good of Bournemouth University.

Jonathan Parker & Sara Ashencaen Crabtree

BU presenters at Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development, Melbourne, Australia

Dr Sara Ashencaen Crabtree and Professor Jonathan Parker presented their research at the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development, in Melbourne, Australia, 9th-12th July 2014.

In a well-received paper concerning the importance of student social workers learning about the causes, impacts and ways of working with the consequences of terrorism, and the problems of rigidity in the current English curriculum, conference delegates were introduced to a two-year study which revealed that student participants felt that a more extensive and sensitive range of intervention tools needed to be taught and deployed via a coherent and nuanced understanding of the geo-political dimensions surrounding the construction of ‘global terrorism’, together with its potential impact on local populations and vulnerable communities. Research findings highlighted the importance of earlier generic community-based and therapeutic approaches, which were favoured above contemporary neoliberal emphases in English social work education concerning assessment, safeguarding and social policing.  Addressing these findings would demand a much needed rebalancing of the curriculum to reinstate essential practitioner skills transferrable to a range of situations and crises – skills that have long been viewed as integral to the social work role by the international community. This research was published earlier in 2014 in the journal Social Policy & Social Work in Transition, DOI: 10.1921/4704030201, http://essential.metapress.com/content/26170w57262444gp/ and was reported in the Guardian on 25th June 2014 http://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2014/jun/24/how-can-social-work-education-address-terrorism?CMP=new_1194.

The second presentation reported aspects of the highly successful UK-Malaysian study of reactions to and cross-cultural learning from international placements, research that has challenged preconceived notions of anti-oppressive practices and demonstrates the need to move beyond post-colonial analyses of Western social work towards a post-post-colonial dialectic of shared and cultural appropriate practices. This research, funded by a British Council PMI2 grant, took place over three-years, with three separate cohorts of students supported by two Malaysian universities, Universiti Sains Malaysia on the peninsular and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak in Borneo. The success of this study which combined research rigour focusing on  pedagogy with student mobility opportunities has been affirmed by the British Council as one of their most successful funded projects. This study has to-date produced a raft of publications: 2 book chapters, 5 peer-reviewed papers and 5 international conference presentations, including one keynote lecture. The latest research paper has just been published in the prestigious European Jounral of Social Work, Jonathan Parker, Sara Ashencaen Crabtree, Azlinda Azman, Dolly Paul Carlo & Clare Cutler (2014): Problematising international placements as a site of intercultural learning, European Journal of Social Work, DOI: 10.1080/13691457.2014.925849.

Jonathan Parker and Sara Ashencaen Crabtree

Stripping Back the Layers: Women’s spiritual quest for religious authenticity

Having failed to get it externally funded, I decided to hell with it! I would do the project anyway. It was too important a topic to abort on such flimsy grounds; and anyway in the social sciences funding has never been a precursor to undertaking excellent and original scholarship, and this promised to be that.

 

I have long been fascinated by religion and spirituality as integral to cultural diversity, and this interest has underpinned much of my scholarship in both social work and sociology. Gender studies are equally a passion and so it seemed natural to form a happy union of the two.

 

For the past eighteen months, and thanks to recent Fusion Funding for part of the project, I have been undertaking a cross-cultural study of women’s experiences of religious commitment across several faith groups in the UK and Malaysia. Both countries share a common historical heritage through the ties of colonialism, where additionally wide-scale migration has forged multicultural and therefore multifaith societies. Each modern nation also struggles to resolve the contradictions and paradoxes created through multiculturalism and claims to a specific national religion.

 

The aim of the study is to examine the constructions and meanings that women bring to religious beliefs and daily practices, which may be distinctive to those of men, particularly given the extremely powerful influences of patriarchy in organised religion. Thus, the working assumption behind this study is that women will bring their own gendered priorities and understandings as women (and variously as wives/partners, mothers, daughters and sisters) to their individual religious and spiritual beliefs.

 

For an in-depth ethnographic study the participant sample is extensive, and where by the end of this year, 48-50 individual narratives will complete the data gathering stage. The level of complexity is high for not only does this study cover two contemporary societies, but it also seeks to cover representatives from several different faith groups. Thus, in Southwest England I am seeking to capture the voices of Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Muslim women, as well as hoping to access female followers of one of the ‘New Religions’.

 

Across Malaysia, I have covered the same groups but substituted Jewish participants for Hindus.  I also hope to access indigeneous Animists to compare with the revival in pre-Christian ‘nature religions’ that may be found in the evocatively pagan, Dorset/Somerset/Wiltshire landscapes.

 

Such a large and highly diverse sample group represents a major study of contemporary, gendered faith practices in modern, multicultural societies; and where despite woman-centric theological re-interpretations, such as, for example, Christian feminists theologies or Malaysia’s ‘Sisters in Islam’, the insights from this study are already proving to be original and profound. My initial hypothesis has been both affirmed and challenged by participants struggling to engage with the politics of ethnicity, culture, gender constructions and gender oppression; together with the business of daily negotiating the politics of church/temple/mosque/synagogue – not forgetting, of course, the politics of the home and family.

 

Participant accounts have been deeply moving at times; and where to my surprise, I have been frequently thanked for giving participants the opportunity to be able to express that which is so important to their individual integrity and sense of purpose in life – and yet which remains a submerged discourse. There are many reasons, political, social and personal for religious expression among women to be largely unheard (and sometimes even a forbidden) discourse in both countries. These too are critical issues of context that are analysed alongside the narratives.

 

With REF2020 beginning to appear over the horizon, I will seek to do justice to these remarkable narratives in my analysis and the research monograph and peer-reviewed papers being planned. However, what is strikingly apparent is the intense interest participants hold towards their own spiritual journey, where they are also eager to read the finished publications in order to find further insights and connections with other women: impact in itself.

 

What this reveals to me is that not only is the area of inquiry extremely rich in theme, nuance and contemporary relevance, but that in respect of social impact (however one defines that term) much more is needed of me. Accordingly I am pondering deeply on how I may return and somehow multiply the fruits of this research to the global community of women for whom it carries such intense meaning and many shared commonalities in an otherwise divided world.

 

Volunteering to be a participant

If this Blog has resonated with you as a woman embracing a religious faith, or as someone who may know of such, I would be extremely grateful if you would contact me directly on scrabtree@bournemouth.ac.uk. Muslim, Jewish and ‘New Religion’ women’s voices in England are still under-represented in the study but all participants from other faith groups are equally welcome.

WAN Mentoring Event – July 10th

Facilitated by: Dr Colleen Harding, Head of Organisational and Staff Development, Tamsyn Dent, Post-Graduate Researcher, Media School

This session is aimed at:  all staff, male and female, and will be of particular interest to those who are interested in academic mentoring for women, and who are willing to be a mentor; would like to work with a mentor; or who support staff who would like to engage in mentoring.  

When: July 10th 13:00 – 16:30

Where: The Octagon

The purpose of the event is to provide an opportunity for the Women’s Academic Network to:

  • Discuss the benefits of engaging in mentoring
  • Find out more about how mentoring currently works at BU
  • Consider some of the options available to set up an academic mentoring network that specifically supports the needs of female academics at BU
  • To identify the steps that we need to take in order to set up an effective mentoring network.

 By the end of the event participants will have:

  • Discussed some models of coaching and mentoring, including the findings from a doctoral study on the transitional space provided by coaching and mentoring for emerging academics
  • Discussed some of the research studies on mentoring relevant to women in academia
  • Identified the critical steps necessary to set up a mentoring network that specifically supports the needs of female academics at BU

 Register through staff development  

Global Demand for English Higher Education: An Analysis of International Student

Next in the series of Women’s Academic Network events, Dr Ilieva will elaborate on her recent report of Global Demand for English Higher Education: An Analysis of International Students, which has been widely cited in the media including BBC, Times Higher Education and the Guardian.

This report examines shifts in enrolments of international students in higher education in England, and explores what might have caused them. It focuses on the entrant student population, which indicates the latest developments in student enrolments. It is one of a series of analyses by HEFCE of current data and future trends in higher education.

This talk will take place on Monday 9 June, 10am – noon on Lansdowne Campus. To book your place or for more information please visit the Staff Development & Engagement Staff Intranet Pages.

Gender and Sovereignty

Title: Gender, Sovereignty and the Rights of the Sexual Security Regime in International Law and Postcolonial India

Friday 9th May 2014, 12:30-15:00, Lansdowne Campus
Professor Ratna Kapur (Jindal Global Law School, India)

In this talk, Ratna will use the recent ‘Delhi rape’ case that received global attention in 2012 to trace how an appalling episode of violence against a woman is articulated within stable categories of gender and invites state intervention in the form of criminal justice, stringent sentencing and a strengthened sexual security regime. She argues that the stability of gender and gender categories based on the binary of male and female has been an integral feature of international law and has been maintained partly through an overwhelming focus on sexual violence against women by states as well as non-state actors. This focus relies on a statist approach to sovereignty, where advocacy is directed at the state for redress and protection, primarily in the form of carceral measures, which in turn translate into a tightening of the sexual security regime.

This session will start at 12:30 with Lunch being provided.

To ensure a space at this talk please visit the Staff Development and Engagement Pages on the Staff Intranet.

ENABLE: Reflections on a Fieldtrip

A room with a view

We arrived fairly late in the evening. The roads were dark and seemed more windy and enclosed than during the daytime, and yet the bus driver, somewhat perversely, insisted on overtaking at speed on occluded bends whenever he possibly could!

The barrier to the ‘resort’ was shut when we arrived but our interpreter told the guard that we were indeed going to the Tasik Chini Resort – the only place one can go after passing through the gate. After deliberation, he let us proceed.

The receptionist indicated that tonight we had two rooms rather than the one room we had booked, having asked for two extra beds in the room for the children. One room had a twin bed and a mattress, and the other a single bed, but she said she would sort it all tomorrow. We paid in full after debating three or four times what the actual price was for the stay; a kind of mental gymnastics that pulls the mathematical body into contorted shapes only vaguely resembling the original anatomy from whence it came.

The rooms: interesting that the room with the twin beds and a ‘mattress’ was exactly that; no sheets or blankets just the mattress. The other room, however, looked more promising at first sight. There were in fact two beds there not one. OK, so the toilet ballcock was gone and water was constantly overflowing from the cistern onto the bathroom floor, but TWO beds!

So, we divided the children, given they didn’t want to sleep without an adult, sprayed the rooms with insecticide and prepared for the night. It was then that I (Jonathan) looked at the two beds and saw that whilst one was fine, the second was covered by dead, dying and some struggling ants and assorted insects; and the toilet was still dripping, resonant off the hollow dampness of Derbyshire’s Blue John mines! That bed couldn’t be slept in as I then preceded to spray it.

So, back to plan A with me (Sara) and one of the girls in the bed and one on the mattress. But, just a minute, there’s a mattress but no covers or pillow. No that’s not going to work so three in a bed it is, with some topping and tailing, and me back to the bed in the other room keeping the insects at bay and drowning the noise of the leaking cistern by air conditioning that’s making everything too cold and dry.

Fieldwork is, of course, meant to be a little uncomfortable and sometimes evocative of van Gennep’s ‘rite of passage’, a gaining of one’s socio-anthropological spurs! However, we are staying at what purports to be the premier resort for Tasik Chini. This is important because, until 2004 – (and here I (Jonathan) had to stop writing for a while to scratch that itch that turned out to be a troop of ants seeking solace in my bed) – in 2004 eco- and ethno-tourism (although somewhat contested) was seen as an important means of securing the economy of the area. It seems now, a decade on, that this resort finds anyone staying a rather irritating yet bizarre intrusion into a life that happily runs purposelessly for itself, except for weekend weddings, or as a place for the army cadets to stay and practice manoeuvres through the night. (Manoeuvres punctuated by eerie whistles, commands and shouts!) And, rather perversely, it seems that staff cannot get a single order right, no matter how small or precisely articulated it is: kopi ice O kosong (black iced coffee, without sugar) usually has milk and sugar in it; roti bakar (toast), if it comes at all, takes longer (much longer) than nasi goreng (fried rice)!

It also seems to evoke, more seriously, something that mimics the tragedy happening to the lake in bio-environmental terms and, from a human perspective, to the Orang Asli people living around the lake. It is an intrusion into the ill-thought plans of others or an encumbrance to manage that imposes rather than seeks dialogue!

And still the dripping cistern spits! (Should have consulted ‘Tripadvisor’ first http://www.tripadvisor.com.my/Hotel_Review-g298291-d2213723-Reviews-Lake_Chini_Resort-Pahang.html!)

Jonathan Parker & Sara Ashencaen Crabtree

Forthcoming Seminars Organised by Women’s Academic Network

I’d like to invite you to the forthcoming  seminars  organised by the Women’s Academic Network.

 

Dr Cynthia Carter

Venue: K101

Date and time: Friday, 28 Feb, 14:00-16:00

 

Biography (http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/jomec/contactsandpeople/profiles/carter-cynthia.html):

Dr Cynthia Carter is a Senior Lecturer in the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University.

Her books include Current Perspectives in Feminist Media Studies (Routledge, 2013); Critical Readings: Violence and the Media (Open University Press, 2006); Critical Readings: Media and Gender (Open University Press, 2004), Violence and the Media (Open University Press, 2003), Environmental Risks and the Media Routledge, 2000) and News, Gender and Power (Routledge, 1998). She is currently co-editing a companion on media and gender.

She is Founding Co-Editor of the journal Feminist Media Studies (Routledge) and is editorial board member of Communication, Culture & Critique (Wiley-Blackwell), Communication Review (Taylor & Francis), Communication Theory (Wiley-Blackwell), Critical Studies in Media Communication (Taylor & Francis), Fifth Estate (online), Journal of Children and Media (Routledge), Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies, Sociology Compass (Blackwell), and Studies on Women and Gender Abstracts (Routledge).

Cindy will discuss her work with the Global Media Monitoring Project (http://www.whomakesthenews.org), the largest longitudinal study on gender in the world’s media. She has been involved in the study since 2000.

 

Professor Catherine Cassell

Title of presentation: The state of qualitative management research and future challenges for qualitative researchers

Venue: EB206

Date and time: Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 14:00-16:00

 

Biography:

Catherine Cassell is Professor of Organisational Psychology. Previously she was Head of the School’s People, Management and Organisations Division and head of Postgraduate Research programmes. Before joining MBS she held appointments in the Management School at the University of Sheffield and at Sheffield Business School. She was the founding chair of British Academy of Management’s Special Interest group in Research Methodology – a group she is still heavily involved with – and is currently a member of the Association of Business School’s Research Policy Committee. Professor Cassell is an Associate Editor of the ‘British Journal of Management’, inaugural co-Editor of ‘Qualitative Research in Organisations and Management: an international journal’, and on the Editorial Advisory Boards of five other journals. She is a Fellow of the British Academy of Management and an Academic Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Catherine’s research interests are in the area of organisational change and learning; and diversity and dignity in the workplace. She has a specific interest in the use of qualitative research techniques in both management and organisational research. Together with Gillian Symon from Birkbeck she has published a number of books and articles in this area, plus chaired and convened symposia at international conferences. She has also jointly edited special issues of a number of different journals all focused on the use of qualitative methods and alternative epistemological approaches in management and organizational research. Furthermore she has completed a two year ESRC funded project entitled ‘Benchmarking good practice in qualitative management research’ (with G. Symon and P. Johnson) where the team developed training materials aimed at enhancing good practice in the field. She has also received research grants from a number of organisations including ESRC, EPSRC, British Academy, ERDF and the EU and has supervised 15 doctoral students to completion.

For catering purpose, please book your place with Staff Development staffdevelopment@bournemouth.ac.uk

 

Christine Bosse

Venue: EB306

Date and time: Friday, 11 April, 2014, 15:00-17:00

 

She is widely known in the public for her direct and no-nonsense communication and is enthusiastically engaged in the societal debate for a better and safer world. She is a role model for many aspiring young people as the highest ranking female CEO in Denmark and was appointed the 22nd most influential business woman in the world in 2009 and 2010 by the Financial Times.

Stine Bosse serves as chairman of Flügger Denmark, The Royal Danish Theater, CONCITO, Børnefonden, and Copenhagen Art Festival. She serves as vice chairman of ChildFund Alliance and sits on the board of among others TDC, Allianz and Aker ASA. Additionally, Stine Bosse is the former chairman of the supervisory board of the Danish Insurance Association (Forsikring & Pension), and former board member of Grundfos, Nordea Bank A/S and Amlin plc. In the Spring 2010, Stine Bosse was appointed Advocate for the Millenium Development Goals by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to fight world hunger and poverty. Stine is also the founder of Women in Europe Network.

 

BU Social Science Input at Tasik Chini, Malaysia

A very significant aspect of our Fusion Funded Study Leave has been our invitation to spend time as Visiting Professors at the Tasik Chini Research Centre, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.  This Research Centre is primarily a natural science-based one, which is now expanding its remit to embrace social science, and which focuses on Tasik (Lake) Chini in the State of Pahang, about 4 hours drive from Kuala Lumpur. This lake, one of only two freshwater lakes in Peninsular Malaysia, is composed of a very large area of 12,568 acres, and in terms of beauty and grandeur was not dissimilar to England’s Lake District.  Google the lake and a serene vision will appear of placid waters smothered in ravishing pink and white water-lilies in a valley of opulent, teeming rain forest and rimmed by green mountains. A veritable paradise, seemingly, and also the traditional ‘native’ lands of a community of indigenous, ‘first-people’, of Malaysia, the Jakun tribe of the Orang Asli (original people).

 

Hardly surprisingly maybe that this wonderful area received coveted UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status due to its lush diversity of flora and fauna. However, although once a popular eco-tourist destination, very few tourists are spotted now and the trade has virtually died off. The reason being that the lake itself is dying with total and irreversible collapse of the ecological system predicted by 2030.  Unrestrained mining of the mineral-rich soil in the area has led to mass deforestation, while logging, itself, and destruction of the colossal swathes of the forest has made way for Oil Palm plantations. Contaminants from mines in very close proximity to the lake have caused considerable pollution and the replacement of local flora with a pernicious species of aquatic weed and algae.  To add to a catalogue of disasters, and against the wishes of the those Orang Asli communities who managed to hear of it (as they were not formally consulted) and Malaysian environmentalists, an ill conceived dam was placed in 1994 at the juncture of the Tasik Chini and the great Pahang River. This served to prevent the annual ebb and flow of the lake that made boating of tourists difficult at times but was essential to the ecosystem of the area  The lake is now stagnant, polluted and  the fish, upon which the Jakun relied on as fisher folk, frequently unfit to eat, their flesh being tainted and their bodies invaded by parasites.

 

Our role as social scientists invited to work with the Tasik Chini Research Centre is to help to bridge the gap between scientific knowledge of the problems here and the local communities. Our work is to aid amplification of their voices in speaking of their experiences of trying to survive in traditional native lands that have been violated and usurped.  With our fourth intensive field trip to Tasik Chini coming up this week and a packed itinerary of interviews and focus group discussions planned with the local villagers, our ethnographies are rapidly developing. The Orang Asli people have much to be angry about and although too often treated as backward and uneducated in Malaysia itself, they have impressed us considerably with their passion for their lands, their rage and grief at the destruction, their eloquence, their gracious hospitality to us – and their ability to organise their communities and their protests up to the highest levels of Government. Truly they are a great if much abused people and we count it a pronounced honour to be so warmly welcomed by them, and regard this as some, and maybe, the most important work of our careers.

 

We hear much in the UK of the trite, overused and sometimes disingenuous phrase ‘making a difference’ when applied to higher educational endeavour and these experiences have brought into sharp relief the differences between its application to the banal and to the truly tragic. This area is part of the traditional land of the Jakun, and as such should be protected and preserved. But much more than this it is an international site for the earth’s future generations and we must, as academics, plough back what little knowledge we have into securing this heritage.

 

Sara Ashencaen Crabtree and Jonathan Parker

ENABLE-ing Social Work Education: Sharing UK experiences and insights with our Malaysian colleagues

Debating the curriculum

As seasoned academics who have, between us, experienced numerous reviews of social work education, it was fascinating and exciting for us to learn about and discuss some of the proposed changes to qualifying social work education in Malaysia in anticipation of their forthcoming Social Work Act. We were fortunate to attend a meeting to discuss how current social welfare workers in government and non-governmental organisations might be assisted in developing knowledge and education to a qualified and pre-qualified level. The meeting, attended by an independent Australian consultant, Malaysian academics, NGOs, representatives of MASW and the Methodist College of Kuala Lumpur, expressed the laudable concern to professionalise social work rightly focusing on increasing and regulating the educational qualifications needed to practise in Malaysia.

Context is all-important when designing and developing any curriculum but more so in respect of social work programmes because of the interpersonal, social and cultural aspects of the work. However, isomorphic global trends in higher education in general and social work in particular make comparisons and sharing ideas useful, even when we acknowledge that social work as a discipline and practice differs from nation to nation across the world. We were able to offer some insights and reflections following recent UK experiences as a way of highlighting some of the pitfalls that might arise and could be best avoided. We followed this by exploring possible ways forward for academic social work including publication strategies and internationalising the curriculum and departmental outlooks for those universities offering social work. This will be continued in discussion later in March 2014.

Learning by experience & ways forward:
There are, we believe, a number of key aspects of learning that Malaysian social workers and social work academics may wish to reflect on in the exciting times ahead as the Social Work Acts get closer to endorsement and implementation in Malaysia. These are:

• The need to reflect critically on moves towards professionalization, regulation and registration; recognising and identifying exactly what these moves are intended to achieve and not accepting uncritically that they will automatically produce better social work services.
• Developing appropriate ways to ensure that numbers of social workers employed in social work posts increase and, whilst paying attention to retaining those social care workers who may not be able to qualify at the desired level and protecting their career interests, not diluting the core principles underpinning reform.
• Speaking with one voice for social work, including Government departments, professional bodies, NGOs, practitioners and academics to ensure that unwelcome political interference is resisted. This may require developing a critically reflective stance and, at times, resistance to official pronouncements.
• Developing a robust research base for the profession that speaks with authority and evidence. Research that is about, for and with social work and social workers.
• Learning from the mistakes of other countries, e.g. England’s recent official approach to professionalization, as well as from their successes, whilst ensuring that all developments are appropriately contextualised and address the needs of all peoples in Malaysia.
• Internationalising social work education to be able to assess the worth of other models, to understand other approaches and to enhance confidence in bespoke Malaysian approaches where they work well and to adapt them when they do not.

A core element of learning that UK, and especially English, social work academics and practitioners need to undertake is to reflect on the core principles that are demonstrated elsewhere in the world; principles that are, in fact, illustrated by the commitment, energy and ‘can-do’ attitude we have seen from Malaysian social workers, NGOs, professional bodies and academics. In a recent note we sent to our UK Association of Professors of Social Work about our need to learn from global approaches to social work, we were heartened to hear how many of our colleagues agreed wholeheartedly.

Malaysian social work possesses a number of important strengths that will assist in making the most of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. These include strong and competent academic teams within the universities who work with each other, government departments, NGOs and professional bodies and speak with a single voice, in the main, about the way forward. The enthusiasm and dedication of social workers, managers and academics promoting a ‘can-do’ attitude that will make positive change happen. It is important, however, to foster a critically reflexive approach that allows for challenge and resistance where that is appropriate. This may be harder to achieve for our colleagues for whom compliance is a virtue taught from an early age.

Malaysian social workers should promote their achievements across the region and across the world. We saw many examples of good practice to highlight. Furthermore to sustain these excellent developments we discussed the importance that the universities, in conjunctions with other social work groups, develop and work towards a robust research strategy.

Social work research is not costly, and much more important than addressing university KPIs for income-generation (which in social science, in general, is difficult and often more so for social work which across the world is seen either as a poor relation to other disciplines or a troublesome aspect of life). However, conducting social work research provides both understanding and illumination of social phenomena and an evidence-base for social work that can be used to grow its future. One of the most important elements of such a strategy that we discussed together concerned publication and we offered our experience suggesting that publication in international, as well as ASEAN, journals represents the best way forward. Whilst this can be difficult when writing in a second language our established experience with social work colleagues at both Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak shows that writing with scholars from other countries, and including native English speakers can overcome these difficulties. Doing so increases the visibility of Malaysian social work and citation counts, something that our colleagues we aware may appeal to their university managers.

The future is potentially very bright for Malaysian social work, and we hope that the opportunities will be grasped and a qualified, skilled, principled and professional workforce represents the future.

(Much of this blog was adapted from a paper written for the Malaysian Association of Social Workers journal)

Prof Jonathan Parker & Dr Sara Ashencaen Crabtree

Gender Equality in Asian Workplaces Workshop

Happy Chinese New Year! May you all have a successful year of horse ahead!

Today is the 4th day of the Chinese new year and it is only appropriate to invite you to this one day workshop jointly funded by BU Fusion Investment Fund and the British Academy of Managment (BAM).

Descriptions

The rise of Asian economies in the last few decades has created unique opportunities for women to develop. Yet, compared with Western women, Asian women often find it more difficult to progress in the workplace because of inherent cultural and societal barriers. This one-day workshop adopts a cross-disciplinary perspective, looking at women’s employment and careers in five Asian societies.

When: This event will take place on 8th May, 2014.

Who should attend: Researchers and students who are interested in gender issues in Asia

Benefits of attendance

  • Enhanced cross-cultural understanding
  • Recent debates in women’s development in Asia with insight from leading academics in the field
  • Networking opportunities with scholars and practitioners from Gender in Management SIG

Location: Bournemouth University, Business School, Executive Business Centre (Room 708), 89 Holdenhurst Road, Bournemouth, BH8 8EB

Contact: Dr Huiping Xian, Lecturer in HR/OB, Bournemouth University Business School, hxian@bournemouth.ac.uk

Booking Deadline: 30th April, 2014

Programme

10:00-10:30 Welcome and coffee
10:30-11:15 Gender Equality in India: Constitutional Challenges and Contesting DiscoursesProfessor Ratna Kapur, Jindal Global Law School, India
11:15-12:00 Women Managers’ Careers in China: Theorizing the Influence of Gender and CollectivismProfessor Carol Woodhams, University of Exeter, UK

Dr Huiping Xian, Bournemouth University, UK

Dr Ben Lupton, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

12:00-13:00 Lunch
13:00-13:45 Contextual Emotional Labour: An Exploratory Study of Muslim Female Employees in PakistanDr Jawad Syed, Kent Business School, University of Kent, Kent, UK

Dr Faiza Ali, Kent Business School, University of Kent, Kent, UK

13:45-14:30 Does Nationality Impact Identification with Prevalent Models of Career Success?: The Case of A Global Bank.Dr Savita Kumra, Brunel University, UK
14:30-14:45 Tea and Coffee
14:45-15:30 An Investigation of the Determinants on Women’s Career Advancement in China: A Large Sample Analysis of Chinese Listed CompaniesDr Li Cunningham, Cass Business School, City University, UK

Dr Xiancheng Shi, School of Economics, Nanjing University, China

15:30-16:00 Plenary Discussion
16:00 Close

Another Santander award…

Another recent beneficiary of the current round of BU Graduate School Santander Mobility Awards is Higher Education Academy (HEA) funded PhD student David Galley. His study has attracted funding of £1000 allowing him to travel on fieldwork to other universities around the UK, seeking the perceptions of male social work students on their journeys through qualifying programmes.
The PhD thesis research of David Galley is based on male student’s perceptions of the lack of male practitioners in social work practice in the UK, why those males who undertake qualifying degrees enter the profession, and what their experiences are of what has been described as ‘pedagogically feminised’ programmes. His mixed-methods study will examine current and established perceptions which may inform future social work curricula. His research is supervised by Prof Jonathan Parker and Dr Sara Ashencaen Crabtree who have both researched and published in this area.

NRG talk on Victorian narratives of motherhood

We are delighted to announce that Professor Emma Griffin from the University of East Anglia will be presenting a paper to the Media School’s Narrative Research Group as part of this semester’s series of talks.  The title of Emma’s paper is ‘Victorian Mothers: perspectives from working-class autobiography’, and the full abstract for Emma’s talk appears below.  The event will take place at 4p.m on 5 Feb in the Casterbridge suite. All welcome.

Abstract:
Historians like to imagine that emotions such as maternal love are largely constant across time and space.  They argue that mothers in earlier times loved their children in much the same way as we do today, though they accept that love was often expressed in different ways.  This paper turns to working-class autobiography to consider these claims.  It asks how the emotional ties of family life were expressed and sustained in households where space and resources were scarce.  It concludes that material deprivation had the power to undermine family relationships in ways that historians have usually been reluctant to admit.

BU Social Science Study Leave at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

Just one week into our fusion-funded study leave and work is developing, growing and coalescing around the objectives we set and negotiated last June and July.

We arrived in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday evening (11th Jan), stumbling into our hotel after the 11-hour flight having watched the films Rush and one featuring an improbably accident prone and deranged Sherlock Holmes character, with the children glued to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.

Sunday 12th January took us straight into our first meeting, after a brief punctuation for swimming, to discuss the plight of the Jakun, a tribe of the Orang Asli (first people), living at Tasik Chini, one of only two natural freshwater lakes in Peninsula Malaysia. The effects of mining, concomitant environmental damage, the needs of the people and some of the perceived tensions between those working and researching with the Orang Asli were described.

Our thoughts concerning the plight of the Orang Asli were further agitated by discussion with the social science team, the meeting being chaired by Prof Dato’ Mushrifah Idris, the head of the Tasik Chini Research Centre at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM – National University of Malaysia) of which we are honoured to be visiting professors. The mining activities have expanded significantly since we last met with Prof Mushrifah in summer 2012 and the outlook for the already resettled Orang Asli seems increasingly bleak.

A large part of our work whilst we are with UKM is to assist with the research. We were heartened to learn of the formation of the social science team within the Tasik Chini Research Centre since our earlier discussions with Prof Mushrifah, a natural scientist. Discussion centred on the fact-finding work and concern to illuminate the perceptions of the Orang Asli, our particular contribution being to consider how we can elicit the stories, beliefs, wants and needs of an increasingly voiceless people.

Over the next few weeks we will be making introductory visits and meeting people who work alongside these groups as advocates and welfare workers. The social science team also want us to work with their social work and sociology student groups to help develop a community development approach at the Tasik Chini site. It was suggested that a Participatory Action approach would probably be the best way forward where community members act as equal partners with academic staff and students to identify needs and solutions.

From the first meeting onwards, we also discussed some of the fears expressed about developments in social work education and practice as Malaysia moves slowly towards passing, and subsequently, implementing its Social Work Bill. A new college initiative is being proposed to address some of the anxieties of non-social work graduates and many NGOs regarding the concern that they will be marginalised by graduate social workers solely benefitting from social work becoming a protected title. We have been asked to advise on the curriculum in this venture.

We were also invited to assist in the development of a new Master’s programme in social work at UKM, determining whether a niche in medical sociology and social work or an emphasis on marginalised and disadvantaged groups would play best to strengths. Prof Vishantie Sewpaul, vice president of the International Association of Schools of Social Work and Kwa-Zulu Natal South Africa, and ourselves joined the UKM team in exploring how they might best develop the academic elements and niche areas. This will involve further discussion but was given a boost the following day (Thurs 16th) at a special colloquium at the Institut Sosial Malaysia, in which we advised on publication and research strategies.

In between this work, background reading, catching up with emails (when we can as email connection is sporadic!) trying to swat mosquitoes, find food and locate a local launderette – and generally navigate our way around on foot in a largely non-pedestrian society where wheels are essential, we are also busily educating our children. In many ways this provides an important balance and helps us in engaging with our family-friendly hosts!

We have also been delighted to meet our former Malaysian students attending the meetings that we have each respectively taught over the years at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak and at University of Hull, who have now reached positions of prominence in their chosen professions. We were both astonished to find out that so many people we have met this week were not only were aware of our individual previous research but were able to refer knowledgably to a number of our papers that relate to the Malaysian context.

So early days and only one week in; but already there are signs of meeting those key fusion objectives of developing international research links, educational opportunities that may link to professional practice outcomes.

Jonathan Parker & Sara Ashencaen Crabtree