Future-forming interdisciplinary research

Haunted Futurities: Rehumanising social work


The ghosts of murdered children – Baby P, Victoria Climbié and Daniel Pelka – haunt child protection social work. To be haunted is ‘to be in a heightened state of awareness; the hairs on our neck stand up: being affected by haunting, our bodies become alert, sensitive’ (Ferreday and Kuntsman, 2011 p.9). The very real possibility of another child death permeates social work practice; thus, haunting is not just a matter of the past or even the present, haunting is also a matter of the future (Ferreday and Kuntsman, 2011). Social workers are hyper vigilant that any decision that they take may lead to a future where another child dies. Following Gordon, the aim of the project is to take an emergent rather than a fatalistic conception of haunting. Gordon (2011) shows that haunting creates conditions that also invite action: there becomes a critical analytic moment where there is a demand for re-narrativization. The project aims to achieve this through an arts-based approach. Capous Desyllas (2014: 478) argued this approach ‘transforms, empowers, and has the potential for creating social change through creativity’.

Ten social workers will take part in a workshop where an experienced artist will introduce methods such as clay modelling; collage assembly; doll making; and photography. Participants will be able to choose an artistic tool that they feel most comfortable working with and use this to create artwork to represent their lived experience of being a social worker. Using a narrative approach, participants will be interviewed so that the story behind their artwork can be explored. The artwork that is produced will be exhibited at a museum and a conference. As Ferreday and Kuntsman (2011 p.9) conclude, ‘when we open ourselves to being haunted, we might find that the present and its possibilities are transformed, with radical consequences’.

For more information on this project please contact Dr Lisa Morriss

Centre for Child and Family Justice Research

Department of Sociology
Bowland North
Lancaster University

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