Beyond good and bad practice :disrupting power and discourse at "Urban Youth": a Foucauldian analysis of the possibilities of youth work

Duffy, Deirdre (2013) Beyond good and bad practice :disrupting power and discourse at "Urban Youth": a Foucauldian analysis of the possibilities of youth work. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Youth work, as a form of engaging young people "in which the participation of young people is voluntary and the aims are broadly educational" (Harrison and Wise (eds.), 2009: 1) has been positioned as an inherently ethical practice (see: Sercombe, 1998; National Youth Agency, 1999). However, what makes youth work ethical and what constitutes ethical youth work is currently the subject of some debate. At present, two broad, overlapping schools of thought exist: that youth work is made ethical by the fact that the procedures within it are more equitable and fairer (Young, 1999; NYA, 1999); or that youth work is made ethical by the fact that it holds the young person as its primary constituent, receiving its 'mandate' directly from them (Sercombe, 1998; 2010). To this debate I would like to provide an alternative model of ethics which focuses on the potential to disrupt unequal relations of power and unsettle discourse. In doing so I will be able to highlight the existent possibilities for and limitations on the production of an ethical youth work practice.

This model is drawn from a Foucauldian reading of ethics. Foucauldian ethics focuses on the capacity of the subject to disrupt discourse and challenge power relations. Applying this Foucauldian ethics, the thesis explores what about youth work creates openings for the subject to disrupt discourse. These openings, I argue, are rooted in the ambiguity of the discourse of youth work. This ambiguity is the result of the production of youth work discourse by multiple, contradictory understandings of youth, adulthood and 'good' youth-adult relations. These manifest in the varying sub-discourses of positive youth work co-existent within the overarching youth work discourse.

Using evidence from policy textwork and ethnographic fieldwork at a youth club in Nottingham (Urban Youth) I illustrate how the co-existence of these understandings renders the subject-positions and subject-functions of youth workers and young people in youth work discourse ambiguous. As such what constitutes positive youth work, a 'good' youth worker and the dimensions of positive youth worker-young person relationships is unclear. Because of this ambiguity, openings for critical reflection and disassembling of the subject (what Foucault considers as the epitome of being ethical) emerge.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Fielding, S.J.
Motta, S.
Keywords: foucault, social work, youth work, urban youth, foucauldian, nottingham, ethics
Subjects: H Social sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Politics and International Relations
Item ID: 14558
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2014 12:01
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2017 15:41

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