Society and Identity
Purpose: A number of Korean social workers have committed suicide in the recent years due to excessive work stress. They chose suicide rather than choosing the exit from the field. The incidents raise questions: “How much do social workers need to devote themselves to their work? What is binding Korean social workers to such a sense of duty and obligation to work beyond their limits?” Social workers in general tend to have difficulty in balancing between work and personal life in as their personal and professional identities are deeply rooted in service for the socially disadvantaged. This study pays attention to Korean social workers’ identity as ‘laborer for worthy cause’ constituted from historical and cultural experiences in Korea and its power over their personal and professional life. This study sets forth Butler’s Performative theory to shed some insights into discourses that have constituted ‘good social worker’ and the mechanisms for discursive acts to control over social workers to enact ‘good practice’.
Method: In-depth interviews with key informants from different generations, sectors, and positions in their respective organization will be conducted to identify personal, organizational and social discourses that exert control over their practice. Discourses are historical constructions and accepted as culturally natural norms through repetition. Thus, this study will conduct discourse analysis of the various historical literatures on social work and social workers as well.