This chapter will examine the role of arts-based approaches for social work research. Art is understood as the human impulse to express ideas, emotions, and experience through various forms such as painting, music, architecture, or poetry. The art seeks to reflect and convey cultural sensibilities, a spiritual zeitgeist, and artistic meaning. Art is important because the dominant discourse in social work research has privileged positivist-framed data to explain human experiences. Seeking to understand why social work education has largely ignored art as a tool of research that motivates his chapter. The art form of photography, in particular, is highlighted as a reliable and valid tool of social work research. Its advantages and disadvantages are examined based on the premise that seeing is critical to what one is trying to ameliorate. A case study based on in vivo field research in China is discussed to demonstrate the value of photographic inquiry. Specifically, China’s floating population – the mass internal migration of Chinese labourers from rural to urban areas – is studied as an unprecedented socio-cultural phenomenon in need of a social work response. A visual study is appropriate to clearly see the floating population for its mitigation.
May 2022 onwards
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