THE MEANING OF INSIGHTS FROM ‘CULTURAL STUDIES’ TO
THE PRODUCTION OF THESE TEXTS/ MANIFESTATIONS OF VOICE
...there are four things that make many books dangerous to indigenous
readers: (1) they do not reinforce our values, actions, customs, culture
and identity; (2) when they tell us only about others they are saying
that we do not exist; (3) they may be writing about us but are writing
things which are untrue; and (4) they are writing about us but saying
negative and insensitive things which tell us that we are not good...
from, Decolonizing Methodologies
Linda Tuhiwai Smith, p. 35
Cultural studies (CS) is a body (or flow) of knowledge that adds analytical
resources and tools which expand our usefulness as social activists.
Among other things, CS gives us guidance and permission to become Undisciplined
Discipline-jumpers and Genre-jumpers and this permission and guidance
is vital to our future strength as activists. With this new and expanded
ways of thinking about and assuming stances toward the world I am now
conversing and listening with a poet’s ear; CS is assisting me
to do that listening; as an ‘organic intellectual’ or a
‘resisting intellectual’ See also the discussions of ‘organic
intellectual’ in: Anti-Racism, Feminism, and Critical Approaches
to Education. (1995) Ed. by Roxana Ng, Pat Staton, Joyce Scane. Toronto:
OISE Press. . These new conversations are happening with a small (but
growing) circle of lucid creative conversationalists and change catalysts
who are evaluating practice/ praxis competency while expanding the necessary
‘inserts’ from multiple disciplines and multiple communities.
We are creating words as we create ways to have conversation. As Appadurai
(1993) suggests, almost everything and everyone is in motion in this
world of international ‘flows’ of ethnoscapes, technoscapes,
finanscapes, mediascapes, and ideoscapes. Our identities as social workers
and our narratives must evolve as the wideness and intersectionality
of the world’s ‘scapes’ evolve. As writers in these
kinds of circles we are creating our own ‘wordscapes’ or
I am learning about thoughtful pauses; the struggles of translating
from one conversational-circle (or discursive field) to another; the
discomfort of disconnection and the joy in reconnecting differently.
I am learning about the ways vulnerable populations have been divided
from each other; divided from themselves; divided from the achievement
of their goals. With CS, we are understanding, and making permeable,
barriers that we did not construct and/or which no longer serve us.
We are learning to jump through and forward and across patriarchial
and capitalist fences. In the following pages (and in the process of
accomplishing the pages of the 5 books) I allude to how the paths of
being a student; a writer; a survivor; an activist; a therapist; a professor;
a feminist and a dreamer have led me to know myself as an ‘Undisciplined
Discipline-jumping and Genre-jumping social worker’ - or as a
CS social worker. While facilitating the creation of these books I have
felt extremely useful as a social worker.
MULTIPLE DISCIPLINES AND MULTIPLE BOUNDARIES
I hadn’t yet recognized that as a woman I was alienated by both
tradition and temperament from conventional argumentative discourse;
I only vaguely sensed why it was an emotional struggle for me to read
and write in what I later found out has been called the ‘male’
or logocentric’ or even ‘phallogocentric’ mode.
p. 3, Diane P. Freedman, An Alchemy of Genres;
Cross-Genre Writing by American Feminist
A dominant Eurocentric/capitalist/patriarchally-inspired myth has
been that we are rational, linear, sequential in how we live, think,
write, and need. A more realistic version of our experience is that
humans always have multiple intersecting and mobile identities if we
admit to them. These evolve in us in response to our natures, our environments,
and the choices we make on our journey. While imagining worlds (inner
and outer) of diversity and abundance (versus the hegemonic scarcity
model of life - where we’re only allowed to belong to one ethnocultural
group/ one class location/ one sexuality, etc.) we can not only admit
our multiple identities but situate them within multiple bodies of knowledge
and within multiple contexts. We are untidy ‘texts’ being
read by each other and reading the ‘texts’ around us. ‘Texts’
are the complex codes and signals of the cultures we’re located
in; the conjunctures of our time and place. Necessarily then we are
amalgamations and unique imprints - and the issues we confront are also
contested intersections of the perceptions and wants of many.
Creative writing contributes to the profession of social work. Since
I first met Dr. Suess, I have thought of the processes and products
of writing as being glorious accomplishments. I have always admired
writers and thought this activity was one of the most lofty and magnificent
things for humans to do. Writing can be about changing the world. The
inner private world can be changed by writing and the outer public world
can also be changed by writing. One writer can produce something that
changes the minds and behaviors of millions of people! A person can
write something that will reach into the soul of total strangers - even
thousands of miles away; even after the writer’s death the touching
of souls (and the movement of politicians!) can continue (think of Orwell,
Brecht, Lourde, Livesay). The power of the written word has awed me.
And I have always fantasized about being an effective and elegant writer
who could say useful things in meaningful memorable ways.
Freedman (1992) pp. 4-5) describes something about writing that has
always enticed me (although I didn’t have the language to describe
it as effectively as she does).
I have discovered more and more personal, mixed-genre, metadiscursive
writers published by more journals or presses. They challenge the critical
canon with their ‘common’ language and hybrid, alchemical
forms as much as they do any other canon. I praise them for refusing
to deny their personal histories or the process by which they come to
know what they know or to believe what they believe. Combining poet
with critic, they join private and public, writer and teacher, and past
and present as they experiment with and announce a blending of traditional
genres, (poetry, autobiography, drama, fiction, among them), subgenres
(free-verse lyrics, fables, epigrams, diaries, exhortations), and disciplinary
discourses. Mixed, crossed, or blurred genres is my shorthand way of
referring to such anomalous, self-conscious blendings (pp. 4-5).
Freedman and her comrades are my community. They always have been.
And I propose that this is also a wholesome and necessary way of communication
for social workers to dis-cover what needs to be dis-covered and to
try to bring about change on many levels and in many places (with our
clients in their process of learning about journaling, for example,
or in our own processes as helping professionals doing self-care - and
in many other forums/ formats/ formulas).
Hall (1993, pp. 507-517) discusses the meaning of language and how we
send/ receive and code and decode the texts of the world around us.
Each group/ ethnocultural configuration/ community uses and engages
with codes and decoding differently. For example, First Nations people
are more inclined traditionally to use story telling as a way of imparting
knowledge. When we insist that our students in degree programs use the
formal Western MLA style of essay writing we are building in a way of
excluding and advantaging some people in regards to becoming organic
intellectuals within the social work profession. Poetry and creative
writing (i.e. not necessarily the Queen’s/ Colonizer’s forums
and formats for expression) may be a more ‘natural’ way
for some communities to explicate their consciousness of their own centered
perspectives and express their authenticity, analysis, solidarity, and
resistance (Arrien, 1992; Ballenger and Lane, 1996; Bender, 1998; Cameron,
1992, 1996; Ealy, 1995; Fox, 1995; Holly, 1989; Maisel, 1999; Marino,
1997; McNiff, 1992; Metzger, 1992; Nelson, 2001; Ortiz, 1998; Osho,
1999; Parameswaran, 1996; Richards, 1995; Tator, Henry, Mattis, 1998;
Trinh, 1991, 1992; Turner and Rose, 1999; Warner, 1991; Wisechild, 1991).