Magdalena Baczkowska, University of Ottawa

magda bPosition: Doctoral Candidate in Social Work; community-based Mental Health Counsellor

Educational Background:

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Social Work, University of Ottawa – In Progress
  • Master of Education, Counselling, University of Ottawa
  • Graduate Diploma, Community Economic Development, Concordia University
  • Certificat, Arts Plastiques, Université du Québec à Montréal
  • Baccalaureate of Arts, Psychology, Concordia University

Professional Background and Affiliations:
Over the years, I have worked and volunteered with diverse marginalized and racialized populations, mostly in the community non-profit sector located in Ontario and Quebec. Throughout my doctorate, I was involved in research and teaching assistantships as well as part-time professorship.

Immediately prior to my doctoral journey, I was engaged in mental health individual and group counselling with newcomer populations, largely but not exclusively with young people with various experiences of refugeehood, at a community non-profit organization. I was also awarded external funding to design, implement and coordinate a bilingual visual arts-based mental health service for young ‘refugees’ in partnership with this organization, two local high schools as well as another non-profit organization serving a specific ethno-cultural group that has endured forced migration. I continue to be a member of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. My mental health approaches are influenced by sociological theory as well as collaborative, narrative and experiential therapies. I situate my efforts in the sphere of ‘social justice counselling and advocacy’.

My decision to enter the PhD in Social Work grew out of my professional immersion in the migrant/newcomer-serving sector and ‘helping work’ in general. It was also sustained by my personal and familial experiences of emigration-immigration. Most notably, it was informed by my multidisciplinary social science background which always urges me to consider social and human life through a lens of complexity (structural, material, cultural, relational, temporal, etc. dimensions and their links). More precisely, I became increasingly alarmed by the reductionist tendencies (de-politicization, de-historicization, etc.) through which the everyday lives of service providers and users were conceptualized and addressed in social service provision and beyond.

I began the PhD with an established preoccupation with individual and social transformation for a more just and caring society as well as their intricate intersections. Through an intellectual engagement with sociology (or rather sociologies), I have gradually developed a fascination for the situated interactions between ‘those who deliver’ and ‘those who receive’ services (but also the more distant protagonists – managers, evaluators, funders, etc.) in a ‘service society’. I became particularly interested in what occurs in/through/with this social relationality and how it sculpts the multilayered experiences of interactants (and outsiders). Such a sociological analysis has the potential to unravel conditions and processes of marginalization, oppression, etc.; it can also assist in fine-tuning care to the rhythms of people’s everyday realities.

Contact Information / Personal Website:

What are your main research interests?
Forced migration/refugeehood; young refugee populations; global-national migration industry/regime; public sector-third sector/civil society dynamics; marketization of social services; alternative social care practices; stigmatization, social exclusion and inequalities; sociology of organizations and institutions; sociology of mental health; relational sociology; ethnography; creative research methods

What projects are you currently working on?
My doctoral research project consisted of an ethnographic investigation of the front-line of publicly organized services for newcomer populations, mainly eligible young refugees, delivered during a specific political period at a social formation located in Ontario. While this third sector organization is firmly tied to the public sector, it also carries a distinct social history traceable to a faith-based tradition. More concretely, my work examines the role of social positions (those of service providers and users), their agents and institutional as well as organizational players in the processes of management of young people categorized as refugees. It is especially concerned by the kinds of impact that service relations have on their experiences in Canadian society. I am currently in the thesis writing phase.

Are there other aspects of your work or interests that you would like to share?
In view of my multidisciplinary social science background, I have an attraction for the philosophy of social sciences and a concern for the crossing of conventional boundaries between academic disciplines and schools of thought. I am primarily invested in the relationships between sociology-psychology and social work/care (which can be extended to mental health work/care). The idea of ‘sociological social work/care’ is of particular interest to me.

Furthermore, I am passionate about the use of creative arts in social practice/intervention and research. For example, I used a visual and narrative metaphoric approach in the interviews with young people with an experience of refugeehood which mapped various social relations in their lives across space-time. I borrowed and adapted it from my previous mental health work with the same population.

In broad terms, I am an ongoing seeker of ties, connections, linkages, interdependencies, etc. I am especially curious about the ‘in-betweenness’, that is, by what happens in that mostly hidden zone when two (to simplify) people-already-in-relations establish relatively enduring social relations at a given space-time?

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