Analyzing an invisible research object : « care »
In the world of French social work today, hard-hit by budget cuts, demonstrating that workers have emotional and relational skills, and thereby facilitating social recognition of those skills, is a major issue at policy, economic and methodological levels. This text focuses on the last of these. Our method for bringing to light social workers’ invisible skills – what we subsume under the term « care » – involves comparing two approaches to dealing with the emotions elicited by welfare recipients. Using the emotional charge we ourselves were exposed to during our observation of interactions between professional social workers and recipients as a kind of compass, we brought to light the invisible practices of social work during co-interpretation interviews. We show that what allows for exploring institutional care – and thereby for developing a sociology of care – is the discrepancy between laypersons’ emotions and professionals’ action.