Category / Women’s Academic 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

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:
Research:
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).

Education:
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.