The Life World of a Helping Profession in the Pandemic:
Rethinking of Symbolic Boundaries
Dr. Sci. (Sociol.), PhD, Full Prof., Director of the International Laboratory for Social Integration Studies, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia firstname.lastname@example.org,
Dr. Sci. (Philos), Prof., Director, Scientific and educational regional center for monitoring research of Yuri Gagarin State Technical University of Saratov, Saratov, Russia. email@example.com
The research was supported by the Russian Science Foundation, project No. 18-18-00321-П.
The article presents the results of a qualitative study of symbolic boundaries in social work during the COVID‑19 pandemic revealed and interpreted in the narrative interviews with practitioners and service users in three Russian cities. The authors consider features of symbolic boundaries in relationships developing in the everyday life of social work under the influence of the pandemic challenges, when contradictions in everyday practice become more complicated, while risks and vulnerability of communication with the clients increase. It is demonstrated that the construction of symbolic boundaries becomes a practical task that social service workers solve in their work routine. The life world of social workers is considered in the triangle of views, experience, and environmental conditions. Social workers’ responses to the main challenges during the pandemic are considered: the growing barriers in contact and remote work; inconsistency of organizational innovations; new risks in the face of growing needs and vulnerability of clients; burnout risks, emotion and stress management. It is shown that changes in symbolic boundaries, leading to a violation of professional identity integrity, require special efforts in boundary work. According to the results of the interview analysis, several types of boundary work are identified: crystallization, closure, suffering, compromise, violation, creativity.
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