The sociality of healing Engaging Southern Sudanese refugees resettling in an Australian context – a model of social healing

Westoby, Peter Ralph (2006). The sociality of healing Engaging Southern Sudanese refugees resettling in an Australian context – a model of social healing PhD Thesis, School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland.

       
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Author Westoby, Peter Ralph
Thesis Title The sociality of healing Engaging Southern Sudanese refugees resettling in an Australian context – a model of social healing
School, Centre or Institute School of Political Science and International Studies
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2006
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Christine Mason
Abstract/Summary Within the thesis the author examines how Southern Sudanese refugees understand healing as a social process in a resettlement context within Australia. This examination has led the author to explore first how do we understand the distress of refugees, and second, what are the social processes that facilitate healing? The author builds on the argument that if healing is at least partly a social process then the re-building of a social world for refugees is critical for recovery. Social healing is the metaphor used as a way of describing this process and a new model of intervention. The key argument of the dissertation is that contrary to much of the literature, the distress exhibited by Sudanese refugees is related more to resettlement issues than to the experiences of violence that caused their refugee status. Broadly speaking, their distress is located in the ‘social’ milieu of their resettlement. It follows from this that the primary goal of intervention should be based on a model of the social that is developed in this thesis. This model differs from current intervention models in two principle ways: (i) instead of being therapeutically oriented to the individual, it requires the identification of social healing across three spheres of culture, community and power; and (ii) rather than focusing on the professional/ client relationship, intervention needs to be dialogically based on the agency of the Southern Sudanese community’s attempt to make sense of their agonistic new location in Australia. The analysis is used to tentatively theorize social healing. The author also aims to build an archive of the subjective experience of refugee distress and their aspirations for and performances of social healing. The model of social healing developed builds on the emerging critique of a psycho-social discourse as it relates to refugees in a resettlement context that represents and problematizes refugees in certain ways. The author argues that the contemporary psycho-social approach, embedded in a therapeutic discourse, constitutes refugees in particular ways that draw on a dominant paradigm that is therapeutically, individually and technically oriented. This dissertation interrupts this discursive practice through drawing on several critical intellectual traditions (anthropology, philosophy and sociology) and also through empirical work with Southern Sudanese refugees that supports the intellectual critique. The distress of Southern Sudanese refugees is made sense of through an alternative paradigm (to the dominant psychological, therapeutic and individually orientated one), through using key concepts such as cultural trauma, social trauma and social distress. These concepts orient the reader towards the collective, the social and refugee agency. Conversely a new social model of healing is then developed that explores the spheres and resources of, albeit disrupted, yet still existing, culture, community and power within the context of a dialogical and elicitive approach to intervention. The new social model provides a new ‘map’ and new ‘contours’ for building theory and identifying practice implications that draw on refugee emic perspectives, endogenous resources and insider action in a resettlement context. The dissertation has used an elicitive approach to research. The research methodology parallels the social model of healing articulated. Interviews, dialogue workshops and participant observation have been used to gain empirical and participant data. At the heart of the methodology is an elicitive process of dialogue that provides the opportunity for a ‘mutual journey of discovery’ in re-building a social world of Southern Sudanese refugees within the spheres of: culture – through for example, [re]orienting and [re]cycling cultural practice; community – through for example, [re]creating bonding and bridging social capital, dealing with conflict, socializing ‘suffering’; and power through contesting political (structural and post-structural) dynamics linked to citizen rights, formal organized power, and engagement with the settlement and welfare industry. Overall the dissertation is a useful contribution to the ongoing debates about psycho-social and moral-political work with refugee communities within multicultural contexts.

 
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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 15:02:31 EST