Title

A power analysis of participation in occupations through social interactions

Location

New River Room A

Start Time

3-10-2015 2:30 PM

End Time

3-10-2015 4:00 PM

Session Type

Theoretical Paper

Abstract

Author’s objective for discussion: Analyze nature and role of occupations in maintaining or challenging power structures using sociological analysis of social interactions.

Intent: Provide a conceptual model proposing participation in occupations as a unit to analyze socio-political dynamics and power structures in a society.

Argument: Engagement in occupations is embedded in the context of a culture or an institution. Many occupations are flooded with multiple social interactions involving explicit language and conduct along with implicit thinking or reasoning. Further, we, as social actors, do not enter these situations as hollow entities but as cultured or habituated individuals. The daily social interactions we experience through occupations, shape our worldview by instilling normative expectations for conduct. For instance: many learn to pray before eating at a dinner table. The dinner table in the example is embedded within a specific culture or institution, such as in a religious household in the United States. Everyday occupations and social interactions position us in the power structures of society. For instance: Which social actor has the agency to recite the prayer and why? Who should stand or sit while doing the prayer? How do the consequences of social interactions, such as not wanting to pray at the dinner table, provide us basis for our future engagement?

Use of governmentality perspective and transactional perspective to study occupations has provided guidance to study influence of higher power structures on occupations. However, there is lack of a conceptual model that can explicitly highlight the command of power structures on everyday occupations. This paper provides such a conceptual model (figure 1). The model was developed inductively using observation gained through my engagement in daily activities of a clubhouse for individuals with mental illness. The observations were part of an independent study class mentored by a medical anthropology scholar. The model was developed using symbolic interactionism from Goffman’s perspective (1964) and theories of action proposed by Dewey (1922) and Bourdieu (1998). The model focuses on a slice of time and suggests four aspects integral to power analysis of an occupation:

1) agency to express ourselves in occupations that maintain or challenge existing power structures;

2) negotiation of power that occurs between social actors while engaging in an occupation;

3) thinking of each social actor during the doing, which is a reflection of his/her past familiarization with power structures;

4) and consequences that each social interaction has for the actors involved in the act and on the occupation itself.

Conclusion/Importance: A conceptual model providing indicators to assess power dynamics in social interactions, embedded within our everyday occupations, is proposed. Justice is a prominent part of discussions in the occupational science literature yet very few conceptual models exist that connect power structures that guide concerns of justice with participation in everyday occupations. Acknowledging this aspect can further our understanding of occupations and occupational justice by explicitly exposing influence of power differentials on participation in occupations. Using participation in occupation as a unit of analysis also provides ways to translate knowledge of occupations in assessing and addressing social concerns through inter-disciplinary research.

Key words: Social interactions, power structures, mental illness

References

Bourdieu, P. (1998). Practical reason: On the theory of action. Stanford University Press.

Dewey, J. (1922). Human nature and conduct: An introduction to social psychology. Carlton House.

Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. Simon & Schuster Inc.

Prodinger, B., Rudman, D. L., & Shaw, L. (2015). Institutional ethnography: Studying the situated nature of human occupation. Journal of Occupational Science, 22(1), 71-81.

Snow, D. A., & Anderson, L. (1987). Identity work among the homeless: The verbal construction and avowal of personal identities. American Journal of Sociology, 1336-1371.

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Oct 3rd, 2:30 PM Oct 3rd, 4:00 PM

A power analysis of participation in occupations through social interactions

New River Room A

Author’s objective for discussion: Analyze nature and role of occupations in maintaining or challenging power structures using sociological analysis of social interactions.

Intent: Provide a conceptual model proposing participation in occupations as a unit to analyze socio-political dynamics and power structures in a society.

Argument: Engagement in occupations is embedded in the context of a culture or an institution. Many occupations are flooded with multiple social interactions involving explicit language and conduct along with implicit thinking or reasoning. Further, we, as social actors, do not enter these situations as hollow entities but as cultured or habituated individuals. The daily social interactions we experience through occupations, shape our worldview by instilling normative expectations for conduct. For instance: many learn to pray before eating at a dinner table. The dinner table in the example is embedded within a specific culture or institution, such as in a religious household in the United States. Everyday occupations and social interactions position us in the power structures of society. For instance: Which social actor has the agency to recite the prayer and why? Who should stand or sit while doing the prayer? How do the consequences of social interactions, such as not wanting to pray at the dinner table, provide us basis for our future engagement?

Use of governmentality perspective and transactional perspective to study occupations has provided guidance to study influence of higher power structures on occupations. However, there is lack of a conceptual model that can explicitly highlight the command of power structures on everyday occupations. This paper provides such a conceptual model (figure 1). The model was developed inductively using observation gained through my engagement in daily activities of a clubhouse for individuals with mental illness. The observations were part of an independent study class mentored by a medical anthropology scholar. The model was developed using symbolic interactionism from Goffman’s perspective (1964) and theories of action proposed by Dewey (1922) and Bourdieu (1998). The model focuses on a slice of time and suggests four aspects integral to power analysis of an occupation:

1) agency to express ourselves in occupations that maintain or challenge existing power structures;

2) negotiation of power that occurs between social actors while engaging in an occupation;

3) thinking of each social actor during the doing, which is a reflection of his/her past familiarization with power structures;

4) and consequences that each social interaction has for the actors involved in the act and on the occupation itself.

Conclusion/Importance: A conceptual model providing indicators to assess power dynamics in social interactions, embedded within our everyday occupations, is proposed. Justice is a prominent part of discussions in the occupational science literature yet very few conceptual models exist that connect power structures that guide concerns of justice with participation in everyday occupations. Acknowledging this aspect can further our understanding of occupations and occupational justice by explicitly exposing influence of power differentials on participation in occupations. Using participation in occupation as a unit of analysis also provides ways to translate knowledge of occupations in assessing and addressing social concerns through inter-disciplinary research.

Key words: Social interactions, power structures, mental illness