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Luis and Darlene with their children

About the Series: Director Murray Nossel's Doctoral Abstract

Time in Social Work Practice: Power, Resistance and Ritual by Murray Leonard Nossel

Despite its ubiquitous role in all aspects of human life, time has rarely been addressed by social work theorists. Furthermore, although social work is largely concerned with people who are marginalized, oppressed, and disenfranchised, the socio-political dimensions of time are conspicuously absent in the social work literature.

This study examines the often invisible dimension of time in social work practice, illustrating its connection to the realms of power, resistance, and ritual and demonstrating its role in acts of coercion and emancipation. Informed by a theoretical framework from history and cultural anthropology, this dissertation views time as a social and cultural construct, proposing that multiple times exist in a single social formation. It traces the development of a dominant temporal order under Western capitalism, which characterizes time as linear, rational and organized and which prescribes definitions of progress, maturity and success.

It demonstrates both how people are marginalized from a dominant temporal order and how they may actively resist time hegemony by maintaining traditional beliefs and practices. The research conducted is an ethnography of time in social work practice, as embodied by the work of the Center for Family Life, a comprehensive multicultural family support program in Brooklyn, New York. Addressing the temporal issues of the Center's clients, it explores the impact of race, class and gender on people's experiences, perceptions and utilizations of time. It demonstrates both how people are marginalized from a dominant temporal order and how they may actively resist time hegemony by maintaining traditional beliefs and practices.

The Center is found to embody myriad expressions of temporality including individual, family and cultural variations, dominance and marginality, consensus and resistance. It contextualizes these expressions within a range of practices infused with values intended to impart meaning to the human experience. This includes a variety of secular and religious rituals, which address the subjective and collective meanings with which time is imbued.

Embracing time in both its profane and sacred dimensions, the Center's practices incorporate multiple knowledges from the history of social work practice, including religious beliefs, humanitarian values and social and psychological theory. The Center promotes dominant temporal ideals by orienting its practices to helping clients succeed in the mainstream society, while respecting the plurality of temporal constructions constituting its milieu.

Note: Interested readers who are affiliated with academic institutions may obtain a free copy of the full dissertation on Dissertation Abstracts International, http://wwwlib.umi.com/dissertations/preview/3005765.



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