Encountering the Other across the Divides: Re-Grounding Social Justice as a Guiding Principle for Social Work with Refugees and Other Vulnerable Groups.
Grace Bozalek, Vivienne.
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This article is based on an ethnographic study conducted in a South African church following the May 2008 xenophobic violence and subsequent displacement of over 100,000 foreigners. It explores the relationships between a group of established, privileged members of the church and a group of displaced refugees, who had found shelter in the church. Our aim is to contribute to an enriched conceptualisation of social justice for social work with refugees and other vulnerable groups the context of a South Africa's unequal and polarised society. The study's theoretical framework comprises feminist and relational approaches social justice. The data were analysed using a combination of critical discourses analysis and grounded theory. Our findings depict a deepening web of relationships, in which antagonistic ways of relating affirmed pre-existing hierarchies of race, socio-economic status and citizenship, working at cross-purposes with respectful and dignifying forms of mutual engagement between the two groups. We conclude by reasserting the need for social workers to engage continuously and critically with those expressions of injustice as are specific to the particular contexts in which we may find ourselves. This involves a reflexive engagement with our own implication in these structural and relational constellations.