Towards a Praxis Model of Social Work. A Reflexive Account of Praxis Intervention with Adivasis of Attappady


Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation, 2005

372 Pages, Grade: A


Excerpt

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

The Praxis intervention project

Methods adopted in organising data

Thesis organisation

Chapter -1 PRAXIS MODEL
Understanding praxis
The premise of praxis intervention
Praxis intervention as a social action project

Chapter -2 A BRIEF PROFILE OF ATTAPPADY AND ITS ADIVASIS
Location and landscape
Climate, Rainfall and natural vegetation
History and demography
Health
Literacy and education
Occupation
Ecology
Development
Pre-Praxis field work and household survey

Chapter -3 PRAXIS INTERVENTION EXPERIMENT
An outline of the project
Phase-1: Introducing the praxis intervention
Phase - II: Exploring the adivasi life-world
Phase - III: Collective exploration of the data collected
Phase - IV: The Beginning of collective action
Phase - V: Deepening the learning
Phase - VI: Deepening the social action
Phase - VII: Reflexion and evaluation

Chapter -4 CONCLUSION: TOWARDS A PRAXIS MODEL OF SOCIAL
WORK PRACTICE
Social work defined (?)
The social work concerns
The mode of social work practice
Critique of social work practice
Alternative perspectives in social work
Praxis intervention as an alternative social work practice
Implications for social work practice
Concluding discussion

APPENDICES
Appendix-1 Classroom Phases (Phases I, III, V and VII)
Appendix -2 Fieldwork Phases. (Phases II, IV, and VI)
Appendix -3 Workshops
Appendix -4 The List of Adivasi Participants of the Praxis Intervention Project
Appendix -5 The Resource Persons associated with the Praxis Intervention Project
Appendix-6 Public Institutions at Attappady
Appendix-7 Major development projects implemented at Attappady
Appendix-8 Our Song
Appendix -9 List of cases registered in Attappady (Palakkad Dist.) Area pertaining to atrocities on Adivasis

BIBLIOGRAPHY

LIST OF FIGURES

Fig. 1 Palakkad district

Fig.2 Attappady

Fig. 3 Attappady drainage

Fig.4 Attappady relief

Fig.5 Attappady average slope

Fig.6 Attappady rainfall distribution

Fig. 7 Attappady Natural vegetation

Fig. 8 Moniritisation of adivasi population at Attappady

Fig. 9 Praxis intervention-steps followed

Fig. 10 Malleswaran peak

Fig. 11 Scale of care

LIST OF TABLES

Table 1 Area and slope of land in Attappady

Table 2 Adivasi Hamlets Grama Panchayat wise

Table 3 Details of Cultivated lands

Table 4 Table showing minoritisation of Adivasi population at Attappady

Table 5 Health facilities

Table 6 Literacy rates of tribal communities in Attappady

Table 7 Education facilities at Attappady

Table 8 Family size

Table 9 Family Income

Table 10 Size of the houses

Table 11 Household furniture

Table 12 Availability of sleeping rooms

Table 13 Stability of marital relationship

Table 14 Nature of land rights

Table 15 Adivasi Vandavasi Comparison

Table 16 Man woman comparison

Towards a Praxis Model of Social Work: A reflexive account of ‘Praxis

Intervention’ with the Adivasis of Attappady

Introduction This thesis introduces and theoretically explores the idea of ‘praxis intervention’ and tries to support it with the help of a practical experiment carried out with the adivasis (indigenous people, tribes) of Attappady (Kerala, India). It problematises professional social work practice and suggests alternative model of social work drawing lessons from the experiment. The work is primarily methodological, since among its concerns developing a model of praxis intervention theory and practice figures first and foremost. The praxis model assumes that the prime concern of the social work profession in most of its work situation is to invoke the ‘praxis potential’ of its ‘clientele’ and that of the social worker herself/himself. In this thesis, praxis intervention is understood as the method with which human potential to be sensuous (To make sense, to be sensible) is realised in unsettling the settled mentalities, especially where the settled mindsets prevalent in the social world seem to have contributed to their marginality.

The Praxis Intervention Project The preparation for praxis intervention took four months and the actual project was of the duration of six and a half month. The preparation period included planning, pre-praxis fieldwork and workshops with the experts in the field and consultation with the elected representatives belonging to adivasi communities in the state of Kerala.

The objective of the project was to promote informed action and reflexion on the conditions of the social life around and the mindsets involved. The project had components of classroom sessions, workshops, fieldwork sessions and documentation.

It was a project of intermittent classroom and fieldwork sessions. Each classroom session was of one week’s duration and each fieldwork session was of one month’s duration approximately. The classroom sessions and fieldwork phases were arranged intermittently to facilitate fieldwork assessment in the classroom and for horizontal discussion among the participants. The classroom sessions were used for fieldwork guidance as well. Between the classroom sessions and fieldwork sessions there were workshops for planning and discussion. In addition, there were workshops held at the field location to review the field activity and learning. The literate among the participants were encouraged to write field journals. It was an action research project in which the participants were expected to explore their life-world and act on it. The classroom sessions introduced research questions, research methods and provided information for further research.

The adivasi participants selected one hamlet each for their fieldwork. The adivasi researchers and through them hamlet residents were guided to explore the realities of their lifeworld and reflexively carry out action on their material condition, mind-sets with its external social coordinates. The research was guided by a team of participants with an academic or professional background in social work, sociology, anthropology, history, economics, gender studies, agriculture science, environmental science, philosophy and other related fields. Some of the participants of the project team were themselves activists. Among adivasis there were 30 regular participants, of whom 15 were elected representatives of the local bodies. Of all, 13 were women. The research team had the project undertakers, adivasi participants and external experts. They explored jointly the history of adivasis, the adivasi life-world, gender relation among adivasis, and the adivasi mythologies. They also explored their relationship with the mainstream population settled there at Attappady, health condition, nutrition and other issues step-by-step. The project of praxis intervention had phases arranged in tune with the spontaneity of the participant’s learning. The learning had elements of discussions, debates, arguments, games, songs, dances, role-plays, writing charts, viewing movies, listening to lectures, fieldwork assignments, self-evaluations, tours etc. The research on their life-world in fact resulted in collective action for maintaining better nutritional status, better water availability and against alcohol menace.

The practice of praxis intervention could produce, 127 chart sheets consisting bullet points of classroom discussions or presentations, 27 fieldwork journals, six songs compiled, 30 evaluation sheets, 21 days of classroom sessions, six months of fieldwork, eight workshops among the project undertakers and external experts and four workshops with the adivasi participants at the field location.

The project could generate documents in the forms of chart sheets, fieldwork journals, songs, evaluation sheets and the workshop proceedings, everything totalling about 1000 pages. There were also 30 hours of audio recordings of the project. Most of the documents were in the adivasi and Malayalam language. They were translated into English with a conscious attempt to keep their meaning intact. The statements in the document were separately catalogued. Later, they were arranged chronologically and based on their subject matter. The excerpts from the catalogued documents are used as the qualitative data, informing of the internal transformation that the project could achieve within a short span of time (six and a half month).

Chapterization The thesis is broadly divided into four parts. Each part is presented as a chapter. The first part presents a theoretical argument. The second introduces Attappady and its people, the third reflexively interprets the praxis intervention exercise and the fourth problematises the theory and practice of social work and locates praxis intervention within the varieties of social work schema.

The first chapter of the thesis discusses the theoretical aspects of praxis, praxis intervention, and the basic premise of the praxis intervention project. The chapter provides a theoretical model of praxis intervention. In this chapter ‘routine praxis’ is differentiated from the ‘creative’ or ‘transformative praxis’ and the theoretical possibility of unsettling the marginalizing mentality with ‘creative praxis’ is discussed.

The second chapter familiarises Attappady and the adivasi communities living there. The location of Attappady, its geographical features, its ecological condition, the changing demographic pattern, the cultural practices of adivasis, socio economic conditions of adivasis and the development profile of Attappady are described in the chapter. The chapter also shares some information collected as a part of pre praxis survey at Attappady.

The third chapter provides a reflexive account of the praxis intervention experiment. It contains relevant sections of the praxis intervention fieldwork reports and classroom accounts of the project. The data generated in the field, the classroom discussions and the contents of the participants’ field journals are discussed in this chapter. The chapter traces out the method by which the ‘transformative praxis potential’ of the participants invoked by the project. The chapter also attempts theoretical interpretation of the data collected from the field. Here, an example is set in integrating social theory with the social work practice. Towards the end of the chapter, the researcher critically looks back into the biases (academic biases and biases emerging from the personal coordinates like the gender or class habitus of the researcher) that misinformed him in his social work practice.

The fourth chapter provides a critique of the professional social work practice. The chapter places praxis intervention within the contemporary social work thoughts. The chapter critically looks at various definitions given to the social work practice. The discussion of the definitions is followed by an exploration of social work concerns and its mode of practices. The critique of social work practice from the social work field and also from the social sciences is explored in a section. The chapter also provides an alternative perspective of social work and places praxis intervention among the alternative perspectives available. The feasibility and limitations of praxis intervention is discussed in it. The chapter ends with a discussion on the methodological relevance of praxis intervention both in social work and social sciences.

INTRODUCTION

This thesis introduces and theoretically explores the idea of ‘ praxis intervention’ and tries to support it with the help of a practical experiment carried out with the adivasis (indigenous people, tribes) of Attappady (Kerala, India). It problematises professional social work practice and suggests alternative model of social work drawing lessons from the experiment.

Adivasis are called ‘tribals’ in the government documents1. Attappady is a hilly terrain in the district of Palakkad found between Coimbatore of Tamilnadu in the east and Mannarkad of the Kerala state in the west. (The famous silent valley is located at Attappady). Irulas, Mudugas and Kurumbas are the adivasi communities of Attappady. Attappady has 183 adivasi hamlets of which representatives from 30 hamlets spreading the entire geographical area of Attappady, participated in this research project. The adivasis

The work is primarily methodological, since among its concerns developing a model of praxis intervention theory and practice figures first and foremost. By methodology is meant a system of principles and general ways of organising and structuring theoretical and practical activity and theory of this system [Spirkin 1983]. It is method adopted in relation to broader logical and theoretical considerations. The research design of the thesis considers the researcher too as a variable [Sjoberg and Nett 1992: 2-5]. Theory is treated in this exercise as the living territory of contemplation on the move. The recognition that the researcher herself/himself has an impact on the research design and outcome brings the ethics in scientific investigation to the central concern [Merton 1957 esp. chapters 2 and 3].

The thesis takes an interdisciplinary approach to social work. The thesis problematises professional social work practice and suggests alternative model of social work drawing lessons from an experimental ‘ praxis intervention’ research which was undertaken with the adivasis of Attappady. The thesis attempts to develop a model of praxis intervention theory and practice. The praxis model assumes that the prime concern of the social work profession in most of its work situation is to invoke the ‘ praxis potential’ of its ‘clientele’ and that of the social worker herself/himself. In this thesis, praxis intervention is understood as the method with which human potential to be sensuous (to make sense, to be sensible) is realised in unsettling the settled mentalities, especially where the settled mindsets prevalent in the social world seem to have contributed to their marginality.

The Praxis Intervention Project

The preparation for praxis intervention took four months and the actual project was of the duration of six and a half month. The preparation period included planning, pre- praxis fieldwork and workshops with the experts in the field and consultation with the elected representatives belonging to adivasi communities in the state of Kerala.

The objective of the project was to promote informed action and reflexion on the conditions of the social life around and the mindsets involved. The project had components of classroom sessions, workshops, fieldwork sessions and documentation.

It was a project of intermittent classroom and fieldwork sessions. Each classroom session was of one week’s duration and each fieldwork session was of one month’s duration approximately. The classroom sessions and fieldwork phases were arranged intermittently to facilitate fieldwork assessment in the classroom and for horizontal discussion among the participants. The classroom sessions were used for fieldwork guidance as well. Between the classroom sessions and fieldwork sessions there were workshops for planning and discussion. In addition, there were workshops held at the field location to review the field activity and learning. The literate among the participants were encouraged to write field journals. It was an action research project in which the participants were expected to explore their life-world and act on it. The classroom sessions introduced research questions, research methods and provided information for further research.

The adivasi participants selected one hamlet each for their fieldwork. The adivasi researchers, and through them hamlet residents were guided to explore the realities of their life-world and reflexively carry out action on their material condition, mind-sets with its external social coordinates. The research was guided by a team of participants with an academic or professional background in social work, sociology, anthropology, history, economics, gender studies, agriculture science, environmental science, philosophy and other related fields. Some of the participants of the project team were themselves activists. Among adivasis there were 30 regular participants, of whom 15 were elected representatives of the local bodies. Of all, 13 were women. The research team had the project undertakers, adivasi participants and external experts. They explored jointly the history of adivasis, the adivasi life-world, gender relation among adivasis, and the adivasi mythologies. They also explored their relationship with the mainstream population settled there at Attappady, health condition, nutrition and other issues stepby-step. The project of praxis intervention had phases arranged in tune with the spontaneity of the participant’s learning. The learning had elements of discussions, debates, arguments, games, songs, dances, role-plays, writing charts, viewing movies, listening to lectures, fieldwork assignments, self-evaluations, tours etc. The research on their life-world in fact resulted in collective action for maintaining better nutritional status, better water availability and against alcohol menace.

The practice of praxis intervention could produce, 127 chart sheets consisting bullet points of classroom discussions or presentations, 27 fieldwork journals, six songs compiled, 30 evaluation sheets, 21 days of classroom sessions, six months of fieldwork, eight workshops among the project undertakers and external experts and four workshops with the adivasi participants at the field location.

Methods adopted in organising data

The project could generate documents in the forms of chart sheets, fieldwork journals, songs, evaluation sheets and the workshop proceedings, everything totalling about 1000 pages. There were also 30 hours of audio recordings of the project. Most of the documents were in the adivasi and Malayalam language. They were translated into English with a conscious attempt to keep their meaning intact. The statements in the document were separately catalogued. Later on they were arranged chronologically and based on their subject matter. The project undertakers held six workshops posterior to the project and discussed their understanding of the documents at hand. The excerpts from the catalogued documents are used as the qualitative data, informing of the internal transformation that the project could achieve within a short span of time.

Thesis Organisation

The thesis is broadly divided into four parts. Each part is presented as a chapter. The first part presents a theoretical argument. The second introduces Attappady and its people, the third reflexively interprets the praxis intervention exercise and the fourth problematises the theory and practice of social work and locates praxis intervention within the varieties of social work schema.

The first chapter of the thesis discusses the theoretical aspects of praxis, praxis intervention, and the basic premise of the praxis intervention project. The chapter provides a theoretical model of praxis intervention. In this chapter ‘routine praxis ’ is differentiated from the ‘creative’ or ‘transformative praxis ’ and the theoretical possibility of unsettling the marginalizing mentality with ‘creative praxis ’ is discussed.

The second chapter familiarises Attappady and the adivasi communities living there. The location of Attappady, its geographical features, its ecological condition, the changing demographic pattern, the cultural practices of adivasis, socio economic conditions of adivasis and the development profile of Attappady are described in the chapter. The chapter also shares some information collected as a part of pre praxis survey at Attappady.

The third chapter provides a reflexive account of the praxis intervention experiment. It contains relevant sections of the praxis intervention fieldwork reports and classroom accounts of the project. The data generated in the field, the classroom discussions and the contents of the participants’ field journals are discussed in this chapter. The chapter traces out the method by which the ‘transformative praxis potential’ of the participants invoked by the project. The chapter also attempts theoretical interpretation of the data collected from the field. Here, an example is set in integrating social theory with the social work practice. Towards the end of the chapter, the researcher critically looks back into the biases (academic biases and biases emerging from the personal coordinates like the gender or class habitus of the researcher) that misinform him in his social work practice.

The fourth chapter provides a critique of the professional social work practice. The chapter places praxis intervention within the contemporary social work thoughts. The chapter critically looks at various definitions given to the social work practice. The discussion of the definitions is followed by an exploration of social work concerns and its mode of practices. The critique of social work practice from the social work field and also from the social sciences is explored in a section. The chapter also provides an alternative perspective of social work and places praxis intervention among the alternative perspectives available. The feasibility and limitations of praxis intervention are discussed in it. The chapter ends with a discussion on the methodological relevance of praxis intervention both in social work and social sciences.

PRAXIS MODEL

Understanding Praxis

The word praxis was in use in the early Greek philosophy, but with a different connotation from its present usage. Aristotle used the word referring to various biological life activities [Bottomore, et al: 2000]; for him the word suggested also the sciences and arts that deal with the freeman’s ethical and political life. At times, he contrasts ‘ praxis ’ (in the sense of practical activity) with ‘ polis ’ (in the sense of productive activity) to distinguish performing or doing an activity from the telos or the end. ‘ Poesis’ is an activity with a particular end, performed with the knowledge of ‘ techne’ 1 [Heidegger 1999:16] (technical knowledge in producing a house, table, etc.). Praxis for him is the practical activity that has to do with the conduct of everyday life as a member of a society. It is doing a right thing well in interaction with the fellow human beings. To perform practical activity (praxis), the knowledge of phronesis is required. Phronesis is the practical knowledge of life and living within a society (polis). It is neither technical nor cognitive ability that one has at one’s disposal, but it is bound up with the kind of person that one is and is becoming. To him, the ‘ eupraxia’ is performing an activity well; similarly, the ‘ dypraxia’ is misfortune or bad activity. In the Greek tradition, Praxis (practical knowledge) is also contrasted with ‘ theoria’ (contemplative wisdom) [Schwandt 2001:205-208]. For Francis Bacon, the word meant applied practical or useful knowledge2 in contrast to theoretical knowledge. He held that praxis is the fruit of pure knowledge [Bottomore 2000:435-6]. The term praxis, as Marx interpreted it, is probably from Cieszkowski’s [Bernstein 1999: xv] coinage of the word to refer the “practical philosophy or rather a philosophy of practical activity” exercising a direct influence on social life and developing the future in the realm of concrete activity.

The term praxis occupies a central position in Marxism, existentialism, pragmatism and hermeneutics [Schwandt 2001: 205209]. In this thesis, we use the word to capture the domain of human activity that falls between practice and theorisation. Here, by practice, we mean the habituated everyday practice, and by theory, the living territories of contemplation, constantly on the move [Pile and Thrift 1996: 24]. Praxis, like practice, is part of our existence of every moment, and like theorisation has the living territory of contemplation from the everyday life. In other words, praxis is synchronic of the practice, which is part of our existence of every moment, and the theorisation is the living territory of contemplation from the everyday life. It is being mindful of our existence and of everything we witness. For Feuerbach, praxis is the species character of human beings with which they make sense, think and weave their social world. Feuerbach identified praxis with the material forces inherent in the masses. In a letter to Ruge, dated 1843, he wrote:

What is theory, what is practice? Wherein lies their difference? Theoretical is that which is hidden in my head only, practical is that which is spooking in many heads. What unites many heads creates a mass, extends itself and this finds its place in the world. If it is possible to create a new organ for the new principle, then this is praxis, which should never be missed.3

For Marx, it is a term that ‘refers in general to action, activity; and in Marx’s sense to the free, universal and self-creative activity through which man creates and changes his historical, human world and himself; an activity specific to man, through which he is basically differentiated from all other beings’ [Easton and Guddat 1967:400402]. Marx finds praxis in the social that is in the making. For him, human praxis is a specific dialectical tension between being and becoming, necessity and contingency, things and human activities [Woznicki 2004]. Andrew Woznicki points out that in Marx praxis is conceived as something which is done can be done or has the readiness to be done. (This is similar to the Heidegger notion of praxis as Vorhandensein and Zuhandensein) in the order of being. He further adds, in the objective sense, praxis is expressed in the form of a result obtained by man's activities and presents itself linguistically as a noun, namely as `deed' and `product.' Praxis, however, understood as a `deed' or `product' presupposes a subject, which makes praxis to be praxis. Expanding his argument, Woznicki states, “in the order of becoming then, praxis is the very condition of developing the productive forces of things by the human creative activity which is contained in the process as such and reveals itself linguistically as a verb: `to act' or `to work'. Consequently, in the dialectical tension between being and becoming, the praxis of nature is interrelated with that of human activity” [ibid]. Marx’s emphasis on praxis was intended to fix a critical standpoint from which he could oppose the neglect of human agency by the German Idealism, on the one hand, and the "dislike of human beings" into which previous materialism had fallen4 on the other. For Feuerbach, ‘ praxis ’ is a divine endowment; for Marx it is a direct bridge to his materialist conception of history. For Marx, what he called the revolutionary praxis is the sensuous human activity in struggle with the dominant ‘theses.' In other words, it is the sensuous moment of dialectic struggle. Praxis is conceptualised in its reflexive as well as nonreflexive variety in Marx [Gouldner 1980:32, 33]. The reflexive praxis is understood as the moment in the dialectic change, and the nonreflexive one as the routinising mechanism operating within the ideologies as a reproductive or status quo maintaining. It is, for him, the non-reflexive habituating praxis, which leads to the false consciousness and alienation.

For Cornelius Castoriadis, praxis is a conscious activity and can only exist as a lucid activity, but it is different from the application of prior knowledge and cannot be justified by calling upon knowledge like this (which does not mean that it cannot justify itself). It is based on knowledge, but this knowledge is always fragmentary and provisional. It is fragmentary because there can be no exhaustive theory of humanity and of history; it is provisional because praxis itself constantly gives rise to new knowledge for it makes a language that is at once singular and universal. This is why the relations of praxis to theory, true theory correctly conceived, are infinitely tighter and more profound than those of any ‘strictly rational’ technique or practice; for the latter, theory is only a code of lifeless prescriptions which can never, in its manipulations, encounter meaning” [1987:76].

To Markoviç, moments of praxis include creativity instead of sameness, autonomy instead of subordination, sociality instead of massification, rationality instead of blind reaction and intentionality rather than compliance [1974:64].

Praxis according to him is the moment of self-determination (in contrast to coercion), intentionality (in contrast to blind reaction), sociality (in contrast to privatised nihilism), creativity (in contrast to sameness) and rationality (in contrast to blind chance) [1974: 64-69].

Invoking praxis potential becomes reasonable where the passive obedience to ‘revealed’ truths or succumbing to ‘revered’ knowledge claims to ‘nominal’ truths is ‘immorality’ [Kant 1991: 2478], the naturalised neutrality is violence [Barthes 1975: 131; Cook 2001: 154], the socially existing collective conscience - the ‘ties of ideas’ -- is a product of individual human activities [Durkheim 2001: 292], value systems of the actors in social action constitute the social reality [Weber 1975: 75], the meaning of social text is decided by the ‘art of [its] interpretation,’5 and “because the wreckage of the narcissist home [Adamczewski 1995: 56, 58] has let us homeless, yet creative” [Adamczewski 1995:62].

The re-creative praxis is understood to be anthropologically valuable, essentially human, involving ‘fabrication of meaning’ that is ‘more important than the meanings themselves’ [Bannet 1989:66]. A preparation for a re-creative praxis is primarily self-reflexivity, understanding [Bourdieu 1998] and a ‘penetrative perception’ of the structure (as a ‘topological and geological survey of the battlefield’) to ‘topple the present order of things’ [Foucault 1980:62]. A reflexive praxis is the counter to the mental process that is ‘an imaginative rehearsal,’ crystallising into more or less stabilised ‘self conception’

-a homo clauses6. It is an activity of suspending the perceived normality of the socially structured routine7.

The interactionist tradition of social thinking has not only led one to ask new questions on the construction of selves from the social interactions, but also it has given the opportunity to realise the human potential of reflexive monitoring. Reflexivity is the characteristic of praxis potential. Besides explaining the fundamental humaneness, the idea of praxis throws light into the political possibility of undoing the harms that the sedimented rationality had done to the human sociality. With the praxis potential, one realises life power 8 and looks at one’s sociality afresh. The life power emanating from the praxis possibility and praxis potential is the ‘active aspect’ of being [Nizar Ahmed Undated, Typed Manuscript]9. The idea of Praxis that had been left unelaborated in the everyday life situation had found a subtle inference in the micro social understanding of the interaction theorists. Despite a breakthrough in theory of action, in the ‘expressionistic’ concept of work according to which work effects the embodiment of the worker’s labour power and skills in the product of his work. However many of those who contributed to the development of this tradition as a theory of society and history disregarded this foundation of Marxism. There has been hardly any elaboration of the notions of ‘ praxis,' of ‘activity’ and of ‘labour’ (or ‘work’) nor relating of them to the problems addressed by the sociological theory of action.

Even, the most creative new approach to the sociological theory of action, which transcends utilitarianism, the normativist critique of utilitarianism and traditional Marxism [For example, Jürgen Habermas’s theory of communicative action], does not achieve a comprehensive revision of sociological theory of action. The opposition of a communicative concept of rationality to the deficiencies of an instrumentalist understanding of rationality has the effect of excluding many dimensions of action, which can be found in the history of social thought. The unresolved problem in this connection is how the sociological theory of action can be integrated with the theoretical fecundity of pragmatism and the traditions of the philosophy of praxis, and with the expressionistic notion of work. For solution of this problem, pragmatism continues to be of central importance. For it has prepared the way not simply to take as a model for sociological theory of action the purposively action individual who has mastery over his own body and is autonomous in relation to his fellow human beings and to the environment but instead to explain the conditions of possibility of this type of ‘actor.’ For this clarification, the literature of symbolic interactionism supplies a wealth of material” Hans Joas [1987:110].

With Goffman and Garfinkel, the process of social interaction constituting the micro social structure is explained with more rigour and empirical evidence. With their analysis, the ways and means of praxis being routinised are better understood. Goffman’s portrayal of the human reasoning and intentionality within the rituals and dramas of the presentations of selves and Garfinkel’s exploration of the ‘method of sense making’ (ethnomethodology) assuming priority over its contents within the indexical settings [Turner 1995:395] explain the factors constraining human praxis emerging substantially creative. Improbability, though not the impossibility of the nonroutine-creative praxis within human interaction and its structural properties, in fact alarms the action oriented social thinkers over the hectic labour required in reinvigorating the creative praxis from within the socially structurated infertility. Without invoking the creative praxis and the reflexive potential, it may not be possible to make political or social justice. The creative reflexivity being limited, it would be the formalities and the conventions forming the process of human consciousness. The available resources10 within the historical facticities, interaction settings, and structural properties of the sociality when available only to further deepening the riverbeds of established patterns of reasoning and structurations, they cannot be jubilantly held as resources. If the ‘resources’ are available only to bury oneself, one cannot celebrate their existence.

Goffman is a critique of the overwhelming ritualistic11 and routine12 praxis that commonly occurs in the ‘process and structures specific to the interaction order13 ’ [2001: 274-5]. Goffman observes that within the routine praxis people exhibit smartness in presenting 14 themselves before the others in the interaction setting, while playing their roles15. He understands the routine praxis as the Randall Collins observes, “ For Goffman, the self is not so much a private, individual attribute as a public reality, created by and having its primary existence in public interaction….The self is not something that the individuals negotiate out of social interactions: it is rather, the archetypal modern myth. We are compelled to have an individual self, not because we actually have one but because social interaction requires us to act as if we do. It is society that forces people to present a certain image of themselves, to appear to be critique of the self in its deep slumber18 within the interactional setting. He in fact implies that to be awake is to combat the heteronomous interaction order. Goffman’s understanding that the heteronomy imposed on the individual agents by the interactional order agrees with Geertz’19 conceptualisation that the common sense is anti-reflexive.

The method by which the members create, assemble, produce and reproduce the social structure is the object of analysis for the ethnomethodologists. In other words, the method of routine praxis and its reproduction in a given setting, the properties of commonsense knowledge and consequent action are the matters of interest for the ethnomethodologists. What interested Garfinkel, the founder of truthful, self-consistent and honourable. However, the same social system, because it forces us to switch back and fort between many complicated roles, is also making us always somewhat untruthful, inconsistent and dishonourable. The requirements of staging roles make us actors rather than spontaneously the roles that we appear to beat any single moment. The self is real only as a symbol, a linguistic concept that we use to account for what we and other people do It is an ideology of everyday life, used to attribute causality and moral responsibility in our society, just as societies with denser (e.g. tribal) structure, moral responsibility is not placed with the individual but attributed to Spirits or Gods [2002:73, 75]. ethnomethodology is not just ‘perceived behaviours, feelings, motives or relationships but ‘the perceived normality20 of these events’ [1963:188], that is senselessly taken for granted and socially structured into routine practices. Garfinkel established that the senseless ‘perceived normality’ of social events could be investigated from ‘outside’ by experimental manipulations of sequences of actions,21 which he termed ‘breaching experiments22.’ Purposefully breaching the taken for granted interaction rules invite bewilderment from the victim of the experiment. He could experimentally prove that the taken for granted rules in the interaction setting make the participants senselessly automated and lead everyone in the interaction setting into the ‘deep slumber’ [Goffman 1986:13].

Garfinkel watches and ridicules the non-sensuous automated indexically23 determined human reflexivity in the interaction setting through his breaching experiments. Garfinkel addresses the entire process by which the commonly shared ‘background knowledge’ is used as the resource from which ‘taken for granted’ meanings are generated within ‘common culture24 ’ as the ‘documentary method of interpretation’25. The focal point of Garfinkel’s analysis is the social

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1 The term ‘ adivasi’ is used instead of ‘tribal’ or ‘tribe’ this thesis because adivasis of Attappady proudly call themselves ‘ adivasis’ as the term means the ‘prime inhabitants’ or ‘indigenous people’ or people who belong to the place from very early times. The term is used in contrast to the term ‘ vandavasi’ meaning, people who occupied the adivasi land later. For adivasis the term has political significance. It reminds that the vandavasis are those who came late and settled there or a kind of colonisers. The term ‘tribal’ is not usually preferred as the term is a settler coinage that represents them as ‘primitive’. are classified in the government documents as ‘persistently poor.’ Attappady is a hot spot of continuously failing developmentalism and a well known area for its depleted ecology because of human intervention. The place is also known for ‘hunger deaths’ (the deaths caused by starvation) and human misery.

1 Heidegger observes that ‘The meaning of physis is further restricted by contrast with techne - which denotes neither art nor technology but a knowledge, the ability to plan and organise freely, to master institutions. Techne is creating, building in the sense of a deliberate “pro-ducing.”

2 As theoretical geometry can be distinguished from applied geometry.

3 Quoted in Chakravarthy 2004

4 Marx: The chief defect of all previous materialism (including Feuerbach’s) is the object, actuality, sensuousness is conceived only in the form of the object or perception [Anschauung], but not as a sensuous human activity, practice [ praxis ], nor subjectively. (Marx’s first theses on Feuerbach.)

5 Dilthey 1992; Gadamar 1979: xxiv, 350-1,359-60, Heidegger 1999:10; Mukherji 2000:25

6 Mead 1934:269-72; Goffman 1961:168; Goffman 2001; Goffman, 1986:13-14; Collins 2002:73,75; Elias 1994: 204

7 Schutz 1962: 14; Garfinkel 1963:188; Garfinkel 1984:37-38].

8 Hans Joas in his assessment of symbolic interactionism writes, “Marxism, is incomprehensible, at least in its origin, without its foundation in its own

9 Nizar Ahmed: Being for humans, is thus a sense of being which realises itself through this active aspect or power, by trans-substancing itself. By transsubstancing itself it transforms the interactive patterns, in turn is transsubstanced by the later. In this way human actions and power can be linked up and the notion of power can be de-linked from that of domination [Nizar Ahmed. Aspects of Reflexivity in Social Theorising. Unpublished Manuscript. Calicut: Documentation Centre, Institute for Social and Ecological Studies, Undated]. conceptualising self as an emergent from the social interaction (interactional praxis), the early interactionists could not empirically reason how participation in the structure of society shaped the individual conduct and vice versa [Turner 1995:318].

10 Giddens observes, “Structure refers not only to rules implicated in the production and reproduction of social systems but also to resources.” He argues further that the structure is internal to actors enabling them towards the structurational social praxis through their ‘practical consciousness’. If the actors’ practical consciousness is ethnomethodological, dramaturgical or mimetic one cannot find solace in its resourcefulness. Giddens holds that with the ‘authoritative resources’ (authoritative resources’ in Gidden’s terminology refers to non material resources involved in the generation of power, deriving from the capability of harnessing the activities of human beings) one can break with the present dominant episteme. However, Giddens acknowledges its low probability. For Giddens structuration is the structuring of social relations across time and space, in virtue of the duality of structure. By duality of structure he means structure being the medium and outcome of the conduct it recursively organises. For him the structural properties of social systems do not exist outside of action but are chronically implicated in its production and reproduction. Given the doxic nature of self, and the utilisation of ‘resources’ for ‘presentation’ purpose in the Goffmanian sense, one may not over emphasis the power the agent has on the structural properties. The structurational argument reifying the agency power could only be useful in blaming the victims for structural defects (could we say that the socially or economically poor communities too are responsible for the structural reality of the globalisation on par with the global commercial interest and their political arm? Similarly, what is that we would be meaning when we say the structure of global order is a ‘resource’ for the affected group? Is there anything more than a naming ritual in calling this forced compulsion as ‘resource’?) The duality of structure (some kind of synchronic Hegelianism?) argument leads one to the conclusion that the dominance and violence present in the structural properties of the sociality as cumulative unintended consequence of which everybody is equally responsible (is there any way out to be a ‘non-agent’?). With this argument, the intentionality of the powerful in the social order is diluted. Thus, the argument becomes doubly status quoist, blaming the oppressed, and salvaging the oppressing. The argument is an invitation to everyone into the existing dynamics of praxis and its routine. [1986: 23, 25, 258-62, 374, 376].

11 Randall Collins commenting on Goffman’s observation of ‘ritually stratified social structure’ writes that his work indicates that the entire structure of society, both work and private sociability, is upheld by rituals [Collins 2002:71; Goffman 1967:4].

12 The pre-established pattern of action which is unfolded during a performance and which may be presented or played through on other occasions may be called a ‘part’ or ‘routine [Goffman 1959: 27].

13 Goffman defines interaction as the reciprocal influence of individuals upon one another’s action when in one another’s immediate physical presence [1959:26].

14 Presentation for him is something like performance in a staged drama. With no audience, there will be no performance [Goffman 1986:125; Goffman 1959:240].

15 It should be noted that for Goffman, the individuals who act out roles are not and cannot be just like individuals who act at roles. While enacting roles, the actors demonstrate at least a dual role, a stage actor (who seeks help from the prompter, cooperation from the members of the cast, response from the audience) and a staged character [Giddens 1987:119; Goffman 1986: 129]. convenient submission [2001:278-9] to rituals of interactions. Their compliance to the ritual order is possible despite the participants find nothing intrinsically just in it [2001:279]. Individuals go along with interaction arrangements for a wide variety of reasons.

16 From their apparent tacit support, we cannot conclude that a change in the present interaction order would be resisted or resented. He also notes that non-compliance to certain rituals of the interaction order does not mean the individuals broke away from the routine ritual praxis; one can be very much dependent on the logic of the interaction order and violate them as guided by a mix of motives. Goffman’s exploration of self

17 and its entangled nature within the interactional structure offers a

16 He observes, ‘Very often, behind community and consensus are mixed motive games’ [Goffman 2001:279; Goffman 1986:222].

17 Goffman: ‘The self… can be seen as something that resides in the arrangements prevailing in a social system for its members. The self in this sense is not a property of the persons to whom it is attributed, but dwells rather in the pattern of social control that is exerted in connection with the person by himself and those around him. This special kind of institutional arrangement does not so much support the self as constituted it.’ [1961:168]. ‘…the proper study of interaction is not the individual and his psychology, but rather the syntactical relations among acts of different persons mutually present to one another…not, then, men (sic) and their moments. Rather, moments and their men’ [Goffman 2001].

18 Goffman: ‘I can only suggest that he who would combat false consciousness and awaken people to their true interests has much to do, because the sleep is very deep. And I do not intend here to provide a lullaby but merely to sneak and watch the way the people snore.’ [1986:14.]

19 Geertz: ‘Common sense represents matters…as being what they are by the simple nature of the case. An air of “of-courseness,” a sense of “it figures” is cast over things… They are depicted as being inherent in the situation, intrinsic aspects of the situation, the way things go’ [1983: 139].

20 Perceived normality is ‘the perceived formal features that environing events for the perceiver as instances of class events (typicality), Their chances of occurrence (likelihood), their comparability with past or future events, the condition of their occurrences; their compatibility with the past and or future events; the condition of their occurrences) causal texts.

21 Garfinkel: ‘the operations that one would have to perform in order to multiply the senseless features of perceived environment; to produce and sustain bewilderment, consternation and confusion; to produced socially structured affects of anxiety, shame, guilt and indignation should tell us something about how the structures of everyday activities are ordinarily and routinely produced and manipulated’ [Garfinkel 1984:37-38].

22 Breaching experiment is deliberately breeching the understood, but unspoken, rules of everyday encounters for experimental and research purposes. Garfinkel gives examples of breaching experiments from the ones his students carried out. For example, for the taken for granted formal question, “how are you?” the experimenter asks “How am I in regard to what? My health, my finances, my schoolwork, my peace of mind, my…?” to breach the taken for granted routine answer. The reply the student got is an angry face is “ Look! I was just trying to be polite. Frankly, I don’t give a damn how you are” [Garfinkel 1984:44].

23 Indexicality is the immediate context of social interaction. With the term it is implied that all human interpretive work draws resource from the context in which it occurs. For example, the “reality” of deviance will be conceived very differently, depending on whether it is viewed from a police patrol car or from the back seat of a vehicle full of partying teenagers.

24 Garfinkel: ‘Common culture’ refers to the socially sanctioned grounds of inference and action that people use in their everyday affairs and which they assume that others use in the same way [Garfinkel 1984:76].

25 This term was used by Karl Mannheim (1893-1947) and Alfred Schutz (1899- 1959), but its current meaning derives from Harold Garfinkel, the founder of Ethnomethodology. The documentary method describes the process through which immediately given information (documents); appearance, police reports, past records, and typifications, are used to infer meaning and motive in the behaviour of others. The unproblematic commonsense is problematised in this method. The method consists of treating an actual experience as its “Document of,” as “pointing to” as standing on behalf a presupposed underlying pattern, that has been biographically (historicoprospective unfolding of events) acquired. Individual documentary evidences, in their turn, are interpreted on the basis of “what is known” about the underlying pattern. It is a method to understand the objective world in a mirror of subjective prejudice. It is to reveal the Schutzian premise that a person assumes, assumes the other person assumes as well, and assumes it of the other person, the other person assumes it of him, that a relationship of undoubted correspondence is the sanctioned relationship between the actual appearances of an object and the intended object that appears in a particular way. Garfinkel’s experiment with his students, in which he used a fake

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Title
Towards a Praxis Model of Social Work. A Reflexive Account of Praxis Intervention with Adivasis of Attappady
Course
Inter-deciplinary Social Science
Grade
A
Author
Year
2005
Pages
372
Catalog Number
V116829
ISBN (eBook)
9783668102781
ISBN (Book)
9783668102798
File size
1746 KB
Language
English
Notes
A doctoral dissertation on "praxis Intervention" methodology.
Tags
Towards, Praxis, Model, Social, Work, Inter-deciplinary, Science, praxis intervention, social work
Quote paper
P. Madhu (Author), 2005, Towards a Praxis Model of Social Work. A Reflexive Account of Praxis Intervention with Adivasis of Attappady, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/116829

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