Class and parenting in accounts of child protection: A discursive ethnography under construction

Stef Slembrouck


In this paper, the idea of ethnograpies of hegemony is taken up as a reflexive orientation in research which addresses the complexity of forms of domination in late modern society also by trying to come to terms with the situatednes of interactionally-established interview data. Following a number of methodological remarks on the establishment of a ‘native point of view’ as well as a number of observations on the data trajectories (tribulations and triangulations) which mark this particular discursive ethnography, the analysis goes on to concentrate on the ways in which case categorisation is ‘spoken’ through social class in one particular account of child protection. As an exercise in ‘classifying the classifiers’ (Bourdieu 1992: 242) 2, the analysis highlights how professional and private talk about social problems is implicated in class-based subjectivities and involves (displaced) representations of class? However, much depends here on what we mean by ‘class’ when referring to a contemporary context such as the Flemish/Belgian field of child protection. If hegemony then counts as a historicising interpretative move which highlights <a> the interwovenness of domain - and profession-based discourses of social problems with discourses of class and <b> the contextualisation of particular sense-making repertoires, then it is just as much about the situational contingencies under which class and domination becomes speakable in a particular way. This, I suggest, is where ethnography becomes all-important - as an investigative strategy and as an epistemology of dialogic engagement with social theory and contemporary analyses of the late modern world.

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