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Social Work: Research



Professor Viviene Cree

Feminism has been a central part of my life and work. As a social worker, I worked for many years with women and girls, and set up (with colleagues) girls' and women's projects in Muirhouse and Westerhailes, two large council housing estates on the outskirts of Edinburgh. My first publication was a story in Community Care magazine in 1985 about our project based in Muirhouse Park, called 'No 20'.

My PhD, carried out between 1988 and 1992, was a Scottish historical case study of a voluntary agency that worked primarily with women and children - Family Care - but which began as the National Vigilance Association (Easter Division) in 1911, with a mission to 'save women and girls from the perils and evils of the white slave trade'. I was interested to think about how a professional social work agency had its roots in vigilance, policing and moral welfare; the care and control aspects of social work still interest me greatly today. I have written about this in two journal articles, as well as in the book of my thesis, From Public Streets to Private Lives, the Changing Task of Social Work (Avebury, 1995).

Link to an article on sex trafficking and another on child trafficking. Both raise questions about how the impact of the characterisation of women and girls as inevitably vulnerable and in need of protection.

Feminism and gender in social work education

Social work is about care as much as control, and within this, i have been interested to explore gender and caring, asking the question 'Why do men care?' in Working with Men. Feminism and Social Work (Routledge, 1996) and later contributing a chapter on men and social work education to an editied collection entitled Men and Social Work. Theories and Practices (Macmillan, 2001). In 2003, Richard Perry and I published an article in Social Work Education journal in which we considered the decline in men applying to social work courses in the UK (DOI: 10.1080/02615470309144).

I also published an article in Social Work Education journal a few years earlier (1997) in which I interrogated my own position as a feminist social work lecturer in an ancient university (DOI:10.1080/02615479711220231). This was my first journal article, and it's fair to say that it raised a few eyebrows at the time...

Recent writing on feminism

I have continued to ask questions about feminism, gender and social work throughout my career. I have given keynote speeches and seminars on this in Nottingham (2008), Edinburgh (2010), Sydney (2010), Auckland (2011) and Iceland (2014). I have also conducted a small-scale research study on feminism and social work with students in Edinburgh, Sydney and Auckland (2010-11) and an online survey in 2013 of social work students in the UK. I wrote this up  with Janan Dean, then one of our PhD students, who has now returend to Canada on completion of her PhD on feminism and IT. This article was given the award of Best Empirical Article of 2015 by the journal Social Work Education, The International Journal.

Feminism was one of the key analytical concepts in an article I wrote on supervising international PhD students, published in 2012.

In 2013, I wrote a blog for Community Care magazine, which again revisited the theme of men and social work, and argued that women who are feminists must engage with men, learning some of the lessons of the past and accepting the complexity of the lives of women, men and children today.

I have written about feminism and social work education and my journey in an through feminism in a recent article, written with Associate Professor Ruth Phillips from the University of Sydney. I have also written a blog post about my own experiences of being a 'dangerous woman' in the academy for the Dangerous Woman project. This is an initiative of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, which asks: what does it mean to be a ‘dangerous woman’?

I have also, with Dr Mark Smith, explored the topic of pornography, a subject of great interest and concern to feminism. We ask what an ethical approach to this might be within a social work disccourse.

Twitter project

I am now working with my collegue Dr Steve Kirkwood on a project that is exploring feminism on Twitter. This is hugely challenging - how to analyse 5 million tweets?? We are doing this work with a Sodash, a social media analysis company, with a small grant from the School of Social & Political Science research fund. We anticipate writing about the methodology as well as the findings of this exciting project over the next year.

New book

Ruth Phillips from University of Sydney and I are currently writing a book for Routledge,entitled Practising Feminism in Social Welfare: Theory and Practice.