Living in the Tension: A cross-cultural comparative study of the meaning and management of care, self-care, and wellbeing across two communities of faith-based youth workers.
Wardell, Susan Edith
This ethnographic project explored how faith-based youth workers in two communities – Moment of Truth Evangelistic Ministries (MOTEM) in Kampala, Uganda, and Canterbury Youth Services (CYS) in Canterbury, New Zealand – managed and made sense of their own wellbeing, against an ongoing tension between care and self-care. The comparative approach enabled an examination of two local articulations of a global faith system, as well as two situated examples of the effect of neoliberalism on the faith-based organisations (FBOs). The experience of burnout, as a culturally-grounded idiom of distress with strong ties in existing literature to care labour and the non-profit sector, was the entry point into this study. The analysis of interviews, focus group material, primary texts and ethnographic field notes drew heavily from a narrative discourse approach. This highlighted the significance of language, metaphor, and narrative in their sense-making, but with a performativity focus that examined these not as static texts, but as part of subject formation. This study also applied a post-structuralist perspective to examining the discursive construction of the ‘good’ leader in a specific historical moment. This provided context for the moral and emotional labour observed in each site My findings were that balance, paradox, and re-categorisation were key techniques used to manage discursive tension. Such strategies were both storied and embodied. Distinctive local ‘aesthetics’ which patterned practice were also identified, including self-awareness and balance (in Canterbury), and self-control and empowerment (in Kampala). Through all of these, neoliberal discourses were shown to be contributing to a responsibilisation of the youth leader for their own wellbeing. Ultimately, although numerous institutional and ideological forces are at work in their complex and morally-fraught social fields, faith-based youth workers exercise creativity, agency and resilience in navigating these to maintain their cherished identities and manage their wellbeing whilst conducting the demanding care labour involved.
Advisor: Fitzgerald, Ruth; Bourk, Michael
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Anthropology and Archaeology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: New Zealand; Uganda; Youth work; Christian; Faith-based; religion; spirituality; neoliberalism; work; organisation studies; social work; health; wellbeing; mental health; burnout; comparative; theodicy; discourse; emotion; emotional labour; compassion fatigue; Christchurch; Kampala; self-care
Research Type: Thesis