"Lost in hospitality": reflections on Italian social services and social workers welcoming immigrant families.
Paola Sacchi (University of Turin)
Carlotta Saletti Salza
Paper short abstract:
We propose to consider a set of meanings shared by a group of Italian social workers and related to the strategies they enact to host and support immigrant families as signs of discomfort and bewilderment in managing cultural differences between xenophilia and xenophobia.
Paper long abstract:
The considerations we intend to propose stem from a research we have carried out along with a group of social workers in the territorial social services of Turin. The goal was to pinpoint their images and representations of the families labelled as "Muslim" and "Rom", which constitute a large part of the people they are expected to host and support in the various quarters and local services, in order to better understand the obstacles to communication and the misunderstandings lurking in the intervention strategies enacted by these social workers. The material we have collected prompts reflections on a set of meanings that appear to be shared by social workers and are not the expression of an openly xenophobic attitude but rather seem to manifest a strong feeling of unease and disorientation vis-à-vis real or alleged cultural diversity. In a context marked by a substantial reduction of available resources and correspondingly substantial staff cuts, their general statements about cultural variability are often xenophile, but are accompanied by a series of mechanisms of inferiorization of the Other that are implicit in the actions they undertake when it comes to specific cases and they resort to the language of cultural difference. This gap between the ideological and deontological dimension and the level of action in social work is a symptom of the social workers' bewilderment and of the loneliness they feel when they have to make delicate decisions within the general framework of a State whose policies are fed with this very ambivalence.
Hospitality and its reverse: migration and xenophobia in Southern Europe and beyond [MedNet Mediterraneanist Network]