Racialising emotional labour and emotionalising racialised labour: anger, fear and shame in social welfare

Lewis, Gail (2001). Racialising emotional labour and emotionalising racialised labour: anger, fear and shame in social welfare. Journal of Social Work Practice, 15(2) pp. 131–148.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02650530120090593

Abstract

This paper brings together the empirical work of Yasmin Gunaratnam with hospice social workers and that of Gail Lewis with local authority social workers. It uses a conceptually expanded notion of 'emotional labour' to explore and theorise links between different forms of emotion management and racialised subject positions and practices in social care for both those categorised as 'ethnic minorities' and as 'white'. The analytic framework draws upon the political scholarship of Audre Lorde and Thandeka and the psychoanalytic work of Melanie Klein to explore talk about the production of anger, fear and shame. A common focus in the writing of these different authors is the self/other relation and the attention given to personal, interpersonal, inter-group and intra-group dynamics. The paper argues that the irrational and unconscious aspects of racial dynamics cannot simply be countered by appeals to the rational. There is a need to recognise and integrate rather than 'split' positive and negative emotions about the self and 'others'. Such integration is seen as a source of internal strength and psychic health making for the possibility of caring and constructive relationships in social care organisations through which the complexities of difference can be recognised and valued.

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