Michael White

Michael White

Michael White often cross-pollinated between the field of “social and human inquiry,” and narrative practice, and wished for ongoing developments to continue. How we can each continue these explorations in the spirit of social inquiry without Michael – not coming up with the answers, but being intensely interested in ideas and what they might spark and trigger?  The following audio recordings and transcripts convey how  Maggie Carey, Shona Russell and Rob Hall   (Narrative Practices Adelaide) approach this question.

Explorations as the driving force

Shona Russell

Shona Russell

Rob Hall

Rob Hall

Maggie Carey

Maggie Carey


Maggie: And for this little bit now could we talk briefly about one other continuing initiative? – Michael’s legacy around the development of ideas and thinking in the context of what’s happening in the field of social and human inquiry, how he initiated those opportunities for us to get together and talk about ideas in those years before he passed away.  Always with explorations being the driving force, not to come to any conclusions or to have to do anything with these ideas necessarily but to see what they triggered and sparked. We had lovely conversations around kitchen tables and dining room tables, at every meal. How are we have been able to continue here, meeting regularly every month with some paper somebody’s found somewhere that is interesting or could be interesting to read.

Shona: What are we reading at the moment?

Maggie & Rob: “Corporal generosity “(Corporeal Generosity: On Giving with Nietzsche, Merleau-Ponty, and Levinas) by Rosalyn Diprose

Shona: And before that we were reading?

Maggie:  A lot on Delueze, neuroscience, neuro-psychology and the fit with narrative practice (a few sessions on that), the effect of trauma on the body (how we work with that in our therapeutic conversations), lots of topics…

Shona: One of the things I like about that is how we’ve been able to quite deliberately invite some younger practitioners into those conversations with us. It’s a bit of a wider network of men and women, all working in the field, to share ideas, not having to come to a final point yet, just the enthusiasm of sharing ideas.

Rob: There is that theme again, of being at the point of social inquiry, not coming up with the answers, but being intensely interested in where things are going on, and what they might spark.

Shona: So many people recognize the contribution Michael made in that way –  if we look at many of the authors that have contributed to what narrative practice has become, they are people outside of our field, and I guess in a way that is what we’re trying to do, to stimulate our thoughts by people outside of the field of social work and psychology.

Maggie: And this is giving us even more rich accounts of narrative practices, like this round on “corporal generosity”  and the real focus on those experiences of life, our bodies have experiences of life, these stories are not disembodied. What I enjoy is the ways in which these explorations take us right out into other fields and spark & explore new territory, and how much we seem to enjoy linking it back to narrative practice, what this contributes to practice and what this might give a richer account of practice and ideas.

On the Edge of Our Learning

Minolta DSC Shona:   I was thinking about the intention that Michael had to keep working on recent developments in the field. I think we’ve been intentional in playing a small part into writing some papers over the last couple of years –  contributions to journals that perhaps keep our connection with Michael vibrant about ways about ways we are taking narrative practice forward.

Maggie: yeah, and that is ongoing. We are going to spend even more time on some of these particular  intentions and themes. Rob: One  article or presentation that stood out to me, Maggie was  when you presented at the conference in Canada on the Absent but Implicit. The Feedback that came from people how much they felt Michael’s presence and ideas in the room…how it was a continuation. That links you and us clearly with Michael’s intention of extending that work.

Shona: Was that the beautiful presentation where Maggie had black-and-white photo of Michael and a black & white photo of Deleuze next to each other? There was a remarkable similarity. That was a brainwave!

Maggie: Yeah, I like to imagine them in conversation. They are such lovely inspirations that we as a group have the opportunity to further develop now and, how those inspirations that Michael has given us and continues to give us, thickening the threads and bonds between us and as well as between us and between other people in the field.  It’s very lovely to have the opportunities for the three of us to reflect on these. Shona:  But I would like to acknowledge, the effort you put into that, Maggie,. I think a lot of your work has been continuing to teach in centres outside of Australia. Rob and I know because we know how many days you are not here; how many months of the year that is. It was for Michael too. It demands a lot to do that. I know that it’s linked to an intention that you have, which is to continue to share the work that Michael shared with us, to continue to collaborate with other centres. It’s very inspiring to think about some of the centres we’ve been asked to work with, and continue to be. I’m thinking about the one year course in Mexico now, which is now in its second year.

Maggie: Yes, that is a course that Alfonso Diaz is facilitating in Mexico and that Shona and I participate in, to do a couple of units. It’s such a strongly established and exciting course,  to be able to see the level of practice, the degree to which people have the facility in the practice, is very exciting.

Shona: One of the things that is so exciting about that–the practitioners in the course are working in very complex difficult circumstances –politically, in community, in therapeutic work… in every realm of the work. My experience of being in an audience like that, its very exciting, we are almost on the edge of what we know all the time. Therefore, to teach into that context makes narrative practice accountable to those contexts-when that goes well, it’s very exciting! It’s very expansive. To me that’s an example that we are showing that the practices of narrative therapy are accountable in these contexts which are very extending.

Maggie: In the context of the work with Aboriginal workers here in Adelaide, We find ourselves on the edge of our learning. It’s very exciting. Rob: That is something  that was really important to Michael in that work and very important to us as well and in the training course.

Extending the Contexts

Maggie Carey, Rob Hall, and Shona Russell

Maggie Carey, Rob Hall, and Shona Russell

Shona: I’d like to speak a little bit about the counseling work here. That’s been a big focus of mine over the last 2 1/2 years, to establish a place here that focuses on a narrative approach to counseling work in a range of different contexts. I’ve been really pleased to form a connection with an organization for homeless people here, where they find the work really relevant to them. That’s been really important. Also that we are able to offer services to people experiencing complex and long term mental health difficulties, and they are finding relevance here… An initiative that we started this year, 2011, has been for the three of us to work together as a team one afternoon a fortnight, working with people with complex needs. We’re still working that out but our intention is very much to be available to workers and teams. I wonder if you could say a bit more about that.

Rob: This is an interesting development.  In a number of the meetings where Michael talked about setting up the centre was the hope to return to doing direct work with people with complex needs. Through the counseling and therapeutic work we’ve been doing, we’ve been able to offer  to a number of organizations that provide support for people that are homeless or are having mental health difficulties a framework for the workers to understand how they can best be helpful in that scenerio, but also to offer direct counseling to clients as well. We are starting to explore how we can work as a team, to work collectively around those clients/ You might want to comment more on witnessing and so far.

Maggie: To have opportunities for people to experience some audience to develop new stories, the idea of working together, with that possibility.

Shona: And ….when we are working as a team, we are offering a different experience for people who are leaving prison re-integrating back into the community, or  people that are homeless. The work is not being constructed around an individual relationship but it is being constructed around a group of interested practitioners of support. They are conversations of support, which is one of the things we are enthusiastic about in responding differently in wanting to consciously provide something structured differently.

Maggie: Very exciting.

Shona: And it’s going to take a bit of commitment to work it out. There are some practical details.

Staying Relevant & Accountable

Maggie Carey, Rob Hall, and Shona Russell

Maggie Carey, Rob Hall, and Shona Russell

Shona: Speaking about organizations. One of the things I’m really pleased about the directions we’re developing is our ongoing networks in other local organizations in Adelaide through our work , and through the invitations to be external supervisors to their workers, and to  be constantly involved in training their workers. There is quite a growing list of those organizations in Adelaide. That is something I feel really pleased about. It’s about the accountability of how we are working, the ethic of our work and the sentiment and skill of our work.

Rob: It also reflects in the training, doesn’t it? If the work is directly related and accountable, then the training is also relevant and directly related to the therapeutic work and the community work that we do.

Shona: That exciting, isn’t it? At another time, Rob, you might like to share a very exciting time in training here with an ongoing course we were running, at those three days working with men around violence,  around the minucha of the work, question by question by question, And at the end, participants all said, “Can we have more of that?” Maybe we can talk about that another time?” That was exciting wasn’t it?

Rob: Yes it was.

Maggie: YES. We need to go have some lunch right now, But It has been really lovely to think about these connections and links here in Adelaide and all around the world. Thinking about the way Michael’s spirit and ethic of being in the world goes on in lovely ways. We are very fortunate.