The production of space in children's social work: insights from Henri Lefebvre's spatial dialectics

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    This paper summarises approaches to space in social work literature so far and shows that, while such work has developed important insights, it has not generally engaged with conceptualisations of space that have been developed in social and cultural geography. The paper introduces Henri Lefebvre's concept of a spatial dialectics, which has been highly influential in geography and which, the paper argues, enables a critical consideration of the ways that space is produced or constructed in social work practices and representations. The paper employs Lefebvre's dialectics to examine data from a number of ethnographies of children's social work which, while generally not explicitly concerned with space, offer rich descriptions of how social workers talk about and move through spaces. Analysis of this data reveals recurring themes: a narrow focus on certain spaces, the employment of restricted scales for understanding space in practice contexts and a conceptualisation of social work as combining features of outsider status and insider knowledge. The paper then moves to discuss how space may be produced in other ways in social work which, while less likely to be apprehended or recorded, may be significant for understanding the unexpected and unpredictable nature of social work.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1879-1894
    Number of pages16
    JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • Space, spatial dialectics, children's social work, Henri Lefebvre


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