Aesthetic turn in social work: embedding the arts in social work practice and research

Susan Levy, Ephrat Huss, Tony Evans, Erik Jansen, Eltje Bos, Menny Malka, Paola de Bruijn

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    This symposium draws together academics from across Europe involved in pioneering work in the use of arts in social work research and practice. This work led to the 2018 first Routledge edition of Art in Social Work Practice: Theory and Practice, International Perspectives, edited by Huss and Bos. The collection of six papers presented for this symposium will introduce the aesthetic turn in social work and add layers of complexity into this field of research and practice. The papers draw on both theoretical and empirical perspectives from diverse European contexts and with a range of user groups.
    The use of art as a methodology will be introduced for co-creating knowledge, developing new forms of communication and as a conduit for social change. The embodied relational aesthetic integrates and captures the subjective experience of the individual, the relational context, and the physical socio-cultural context of the research participant. Two of the presenters problematize the meaning and the ambitions of creativity in social work. One arguing that creativity presents opportunities for practitioners to work with policy discretion, offering a humanising, problem-solving and innovative approach that can help frontline staff to recognize discretion as a site where creativity is used to make services work. The second, draws on work with people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, calling for (re)engaging with the affective and relational dimensions of creativity, rather than economic rationalisation, to build meaningful and transformative outcomes for service users. The impact of the arts on wellbeing is further explored through distinguishing between the intrinsic, instrumental and constructive value of art. This paper uses the concept of epistemic injustice to highlight how the arts can represent specific types of epistemic practices that potentially provide valuable support for people in marginalized positions, and that this should be visible within social work. Drawing on findings from a range of European projects, Antonovsky’s Sense of Coherence is used to evidence the impact of the arts on wellbeing and overall happiness. A study utilising PhotoVoice as a methodology to connect the micro and macro experiences of children of addicted parents further contributes to building understanding and the empirical foundation of the aesthetic turn in social work.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019
    EventEuropean Conference on Social Work Research - Leuven University, Leuven , Belgium
    Duration: 10 Apr 201912 Apr 2019


    ConferenceEuropean Conference on Social Work Research


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