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Book: Discourse and Responsibility in Professional Settings

Chapter: Chapter 7: Reflexivity in the institution, and how it entangles with research

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.26843


The chapter focuses on the self-reflexivity of practitioners in social work discourse, and in particular on the ways in which counsellors topicalize the institutional context in their interaction with clients and colleagues. The data come from action research at shelters for battered and homeless women, and discusses especially the counselling given to women with a migration background. Bulcaen argues that reflexivity is intrinsic to social work discourse, but asymmetrically topicalized and distributed according to perspective. The study illustrates the dilemmas that researchers may face when their analyses take on an exonerating role (e.g. by corroborating counsellors’ existing views about institutional ‘realities’), and when the research subjects’ reflexivity acts not only as an ally but as an impediment to the researcher’s ethical aims.

Chapter Contributors

  • Chris Bulcaen ( - cbulcaen) 'Ghent University'