To know us is to know an ocean: A racialized social worker’s unruly, Mad, decolonial autoethnography




Sharma, Aman K

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This research explores the implications of my life as a racialized social worker with lived experience of psychiatrization, practicing in the mental health field in British Columbia. Situated in the context of BC’s involuntary treatment regimes and relevant conversations about the intersections of race, madness, and social work, I centre subjective experience in a way that intentionally disrupts rationalist notions of objectivity. This method represents part of the activist aims of my thesis, which include joining other efforts by people with lived and living experience to assert our voices into conversations affecting our communities, and confronting and contesting the master narratives about our experiences. To achieve this goal, my thesis illuminates my stories through an autoethnographic methodology, a qualitative ethnographic and/or arts-based research approach that relates personal embodied experience to broader cultural, political, and social contexts. My autoethnographic approach specifically grounds itself in Mad, decolonial perspectives. I employ this approach to examine my intersectional experiences as a racialized social worker who has experienced psychiatrization, and investigate how my embodied experiences challenge, disrupt, and problematize the normative assumptions of social work. Poetry, contextualizing documents, emails, journals, writing, and memories all stimulate the collection of the stories I use. In my analysis of these autoethnographic accounts, I distinguish themes that operate as both a means of accessing insights contained within my stories, as well as acting as Mad, decolonial praxis. My work concludes by imagining and discovering possibilities and opportunities for future social work theory, practice, and education using the unruly, Mad, decolonial ethic that my work articulates.



autoethnography, unruly, decolonial, social work, Mad studies, psychiatrization, mental health, intersectionality, critical race theory, arts-based, race, madness, praxis, subjectivity, subjective experience, neoliberalism, lived experience