Abstract: Against Wounding: Children Homes, and the Power of Healing (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Against Wounding: Children Homes, and the Power of Healing

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Ibtisam Marey-Sarwan, PhD, Doctor, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Walid “We hide inside the home because it has a roof and it covers us from dangerous things

Salem “At home, I play, sleep, and smell my mother’s food

Marah “They demolished the house because they want it for them

Background and Purpose: Critical scholars point out that home for the otherized and the dispossessed is a space that affirms one’s state of mind and psyche, “where we could restore to ourselves the dignity denied us on the outside in the public world’’ (hooks, 1990: 42). The phenomenologist, Bachelard (1969) argues that ‘‘the house is one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories and dreams of mankind’’. He suggests ‘‘The house . . . is a ‘psychic state” (72). But home and land in the settler colonial ideology are targeted spaces for dismembering families, displacing, and dispossessing children (spaces of unchilding) (Shalhoub-Kevorkian, 2019). This paper aims at investigating Palestinian Bedouin children’s perspectives regarding their homes.

Methods: By invoking a context-informed approach (Shalhoub-Kevorkian & Roer Strier, 2016), and using critical decolonial feminist methodology attentive to the use of words, meanings, and framings; the paper will share voices, drawings and discussions with 38 Palestinian children aged 4-5, living in unrecognized villages in south Israel. Children were interviewed in their kindergartens, while we were also conducting participatory observations, to record the way they discuss their homes and drawings with other children. With the help of their educator, we further engaged with them to play, hear, see, and notice their words and understand the meanings of their descriptions.

Results: The data analysis reveals the implications of the socio-political context in which these children live. It uncovers their perceptions of the state’s discriminatory practices, but also their own ways of neutralizing state’s power. The children insisted that their homes are tender spaces for growth, and for attachment to parents, siblings, and extended family. Their narrations not only show their love towards their homes, but also their fear of losing these homes by State demolitions.

Conclusions and Implications: Children’s discussions suggest that their home is a contested space for love, security, social gatherings, and family interactions. On the other hand, it is also perceived as a place threatened by a constant attack from the State. Analyzing children’s drawings and narrations reflect the political powers which label their homes as unrecognizable. Children insisted on the fact that their homes are their shelters, physical and mental spaces, filled with fantasies, toys, dreams, and daydreams. But on the other hand, homes also symbolize their identities as unwanted disposable entities. This paper looks forward to assist social workers to document the wounds inscribed over children’s homes, and to join the children in fighting for justice against the structural violence and state’s unending dispossession, while building on their determination to maintain that their homes are their castles.