Thematic Symposia

Friday 3rd March: 17:00 – 19:30
Transformation and transition in professional working life: changing cultures, subjectivity, identity and learning

Whether the term "professional learning" refers to the crisis of the grand professions of law, medicine, etc or the historically new challenges of the younger professions of teaching, care and social work, life history and biographical perspectives can reveal, in rich detail, the subjective experience of such changes, and their meaning, in a range of situations. This includes illuminating, in politically relevant and conceptually novel ways, the subjective dimensions of change in both public sector and private work places. The significance of the European Union and its "learning economies", alongside different strategies of New Public Management and the audit culture, varies across Europe. But everywhere professionals may experience change as either presenting new opportunities or as a threat to what is held dear. Or maybe a mixture of both. What it means to be a professional and processes of professionalisation are, whatever the reasons, in uncertain transition. The knowledge base is "exploding" but is also severely contested while the relational nature of work is often under pressure from economic constraints and managerialism. Moreover, the conditions of wage labour have shifted from traditional notions of professional autonomy, based on specialist knowledge following an extended period of intensive training, to a culture of continuous learning, often highly prescribed, as well as of protocols and accountability. Biographical competence or non-competence is exposed and challenged in such a space. In this special seminar these transformations will be explored from a number of different perspectives.

Saturday 4th March: 9:30 – 12:00
Sociological perspectives on transitional space and transitional processes

Taking the perspectives of social actors and the role of subjects in social change seriously, a life history or biography based sociology offers the possibility of building deeper understanding of the function of society, of structuration processes but also the conditions in which active subjects can thrive. This kind of sociology builds on the premise that actions are not only governed by social structures, and or objective possibilities for action, or positions in the social matrix, etc. The way actors subjectively experience and give meaning to social relations and structures, biographically, matter and are equally important in understanding social development. Methodologically such an approach to sociology often builds on some kind of triangulation between narrative and transformations at a local, regional, national and global level as it can changes in people's life courses. The special seminar will offer insights into different ways of dealing with a sociological perspective on social transitions and transformations, based on life history or biographical research.

Saturday 5th March: 17:00 – 19:30
Using narrative, auto/biography and life history methods to enhance and illuminate processes of healing, health care and cultures of caring

Modern societies consume a considerable amount of financial and human resources on health care and human service while health itself is contested territory. The dominant objectives of increasing efficiency and outcomes in health care systems indicate the current power of managerialism, evidence-based professionalism and a culture of targets. The subjective perceptions and experience of those at the heart of health care processes, whether health workers or their clients, are often marginalized. Yet we need to understand individual and subjective perspectives on processes of healing and what it means to be healthy, on work life and professionalism in health care and human service, if only to illuminate some of the complexities involved. We might also learn from people who engage in adult and lifelong learning, in artistic activities as well as psychotherapy, as a way of dealing with illnesses such as depression. Auto/biography and life history methodologies –of different kinds– represent ways of illuminating complex processes of healing and health care, as experienced subjectively, in a range of settings. Life history and story telling can also be powerful therapy in their own right, not the least by creating conditions in which people feel more active subjects in composing their own lives, by creating some kind of narrative truth. Taken together, these approaches challenge some of the dominant instrumentalism and objectivism that pervades health care.

Top of page