Internationalizing Me:A Look Inside the International Social Work Practicum Sarah Pflanz, MSW (Cand.) University of Victoria Supervisor: Donna Jeffery Thanks to the CIDIS Project & DetGrønlandske Hus
The Plan • The Background • The Question • Design, Method & Data • Findings • So What? • Summary
Background • Practicum in Copenhagen, DK (4 months) • EU-Canada Project • The Greenlandic House • Denmark & Greenland? • 5,000 Inuit • Colonization • A sovereign future
“Throughout the exchange between Europeans and their ‘others’ that began systematically half a millennium ago, the one idea that has scarcely varied is that there is an ‘us’ and a ‘them,’ each quite settled, clear, unassailably self-evident” (Said, 1993, p. xxv)
The Literature • 80-90s – increasing calls for the ‘internationalization’ of social work • 90s-2000s – project descriptions; student voices • 2000s-2010s – development critique • Post-colonialism • Calls for better screening, prep, support and de-briefing • Can we ‘reflect’ our way out?
The Question • In the context of the internationalization of social work, how and what do I, as a Métis social worker completing a practicum in the elite world, contribute to the creation of a ‘global helper’ in light of theories of race, colonialism, and subjectivity?
The Project • International practica lit review • Critical – should we? how? • Critical auto-ethnography • Me • Ethics approval
The Data • Racialized subjectivity • “Colonial continuities” (Heron, 2007)
Findings – The Subject Before I came I dyed my hair. And yes it did cross my mind that it might make me more believable, a more acceptable presentation of an Indigenous person... But maybe it’s a lifetime of people saying things like “is your mom full native?” “So you’re half?” And when you try to explain a bit about Métis identity, you can see the doubt in some people’s face, like we’re trying to steal a piece of culture pie. Or as my mom said, maybe they’re afraid I might scalp them. (29 August 2010)
The Subject Moves Some days I get to be ‘indianer’ here, Métis being too confusing to explain, but usually I end up being Canadier. “HejCanadier! Kan du hav’ detgodt?” I feel my non-fitting is a curiosity here that both draws clients in for a look, but also keeps them from seeing me as helpful. They are probably right. (29 September 2010)
Being unprofessional is natural? Does this have something to do with being the savage presence in civilized territory? Do people conjure images of scalping, putting elders on ice floes, cannibalism? Does that not lie somewhere in the imagery of the mind? How else has it come to be so that nearly unanimously my colleagues experience their work and opinions being devalued? I have observed in different contexts people turning to me to respond, - the pale one, she must be in charge.
The Global Subject • But where does the identity live? Is it in place or is it in community? If a whole bunch of Métis lived in Copenhagen could I feel more like myself? Yes, I think so. This is a realization for me. Naive as it may sound. I have often associated identity with a piece of land, a town, my parents’ farm maybe. But really it seems you can create one anywhere in the world. (7 November 2010) • That’s something else I have really noticed since being abroad this time. It’s not ‘special’ to come from Canada. Everyone has been there and everyone has had a boyfriend from here or there. Interconnected. Travelling seems to lose some of its magic in this way. And yet the ‘foreign’ is continuously present. (7 November 2010)
The Global Helper A ‘professional’ social worker knows what things are called, has direct numbers to other service providers and has mastery over the language. This is an interesting experience for me, to see some of my ‘skills’ stripped away when all that is left is my smiling face and an entertaining story about how this half-breed got here and speaks the language, is a social worker, but can’t really help you. (1 October 2010)
The Transformed/ing Subject You are one of us. At least three or four people (Greenlanders) said that to me in the last few days, saying that my openness and my non-judgement, my easy laughter and little smile made me ‘one of them.’ That feels so good. Does it mean in a way that I am part of Denmark or is it more that we are together in our apartness? (17 December 2010)
My Goals & Limitations • Personal – “radical reflexivity” (Gunaratnam, 2003) • Theoretically rich • Oriented to the idea that students “interrogate, rather than consolidate, their overseas learning” (Heron, 2006) • Take a look at the act of reflection
Summary • Background • Question • Design, method & data • Findings – Subject as helper, global, transforming