Speaking for the Client: Talk and Silence in Homeless Casework

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Nanna MIK-MEYER, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
David SILVERMAN, Goldsmith, London, United Kingdom
Current welfare organizations prioritize the involvement of citizens as co-producers in their encounters with professionals. Using 24 video recorded meetings between municipality caseworkers, shelter staff and homeless people at three homeless shelters, we investigate how such co-production initiatives affect the encounter between homeless people and staff. In these encounters, we demonstrate that the homeless are not always able to give voice to their situations and their preferred choices. Indeed, one hour of interaction may include only five minutes of talk by the homeless individual. Nonetheless staff often assume that their clients were at the centre of the encounter, even when there is little indication that they understand the Danish language spoken. In order to analyze and explain dilemmas like these, we draw on symbolic interactionism and conversation analysis, placing linguistic and bodily actions, as well as their contexts, at the very centre of the analysis of human interaction.