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Empowerment

The Core of Social Quality

Peter Herrmann

Fundamentally, the Social Quality Approach (SQA) takes up a topic that runs like a thread through philosophy and social science, namely the tensions between two fields. The one field stretches between ‘individual and society’, the other stretches between ‘institutions and communities’. What the present approach distinguishes from these two is that it seriously goes beyond delivering a new interpretation of the world, aiming instead on delivering a – theoretically founded – instrument for political action. However, political action here aims on dealing with the fundamental challenge of a society as an integrated system, being based on the objective and subjective dimensions of socially acting individuals. To speak of ‘socially acting individuals’ means to acknowledge the interdependency of acting individuals, their independence and at the same time the dependence of the individuals from a society which they shape through their own action.

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Anne Fairweather, Borut Rončević, Maj Rydbjerg, Marie Valentová and Mojca Zajc

Social quality was first conceptualised and developed in the book ‘The Social Quality of Europe’ (Beck et al, 1997). This book, through a series of articles, develops the background to the concept and then produces a theoretical framework of social quality. Finally it critically assesses the possibilities for and problems with the concept. In the present paper, we first look at the concept of social quality itself. We then go on to examine the four components of social quality: socio-economic security, social inclusion, social cohesion and empowerment. In each section on individual components the general conceptualisation of this component is discussed, and this is followed by a discussion of how it fits into the social quality quadrant. A number of issues are then identified, that will require further research.

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Girltopia

Girl Scouts and the Leadership Development of Girls

Angela High-Pippert

Girl Scouts of the USA is the largest organization for girls in the world, with 2.8 million members and more than 50 million American women as alumnae since the first troop was organized in 1912. Although the organization's mission statement has evolved over the years, Girl Scouts has always been focused on training girls to be responsible and resourceful citizens, and, for the past ten years, there has been a renewed focus on leadership development and the empowerment of girls. Through content analysis of the National Leadership Journey books for each program level of Girl Scouting, I explore three specific themes that are emphasized in this new curriculum. Since National Leadership Journey books are now part of the Girl Scout experience from elementary to high school, these messages concerning leadership development could have an impact on millions of girls across the United States.

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The Corpus Christi Devotion

Gender, Liturgy, and Authority among Dominican Nuns in Castile in the Middle Ages

Mercedes Pérez Vidal

Although well known in the case of Poor Clares or Cistercian nuns, the development of Corpus Christi devotion and liturgy in the Dominican nunneries has not been hitherto studied. This article analyzes these issues in the particular case of Dominican nuns in medieval Castile. The article discusses the role of these women in the development of devotional and liturgical performance, the artistic and architectonic consequences and peculiarities of the devotion of Corpus Christi, the changes in monastic spaces that resulted from it, and, finally, the use of Corpus Christi as a means of empowerment by some aristocratic nuns and foundresses.

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The Making of Modern Afghanistan

Reconstruction, Transnational Governance and Gender Politics in the New Islamic Republic

Julie Billaud

This article seeks to characterise the nature of the post-Taliban 'reconstruction' project in Afghanistan through an analysis of observations and interviews collected in the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MoWA) in 2007. Based on a case study of a 'gender empowerment' training programme administered by the MoWA and funded by an international aid agency, I underline some intricacies in the relationships that are built in development encounters. I argue that the current efforts to include gender issues in politics are part of a broader cultural project aimed at setting up the conditions of possibility for the creation of a modern Afghan state. I show how reconstruction does not simply consist in the formation of a bureaucratic apparatus based on Western models of liberal democracies but primarily involves cultural and symbolic production.

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The Precarious Center

Religious Leadership among African Christians

Thomas G. Kirsch

This article addresses a long-standing conundrum in the anthropology of religion concerning the ambiguous status of religious leaders: they are subjects of power in that they are able to exert power over others, yet they are objects of power in that they rely on empowerment through others. Taking African-initiated Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity in Zambia as my example, I argue that church leaders' strategies to stabilize their authority have unintended consequences since these strategies can contribute to the precariousness of their positions. By drawing fundamental distinctions between themselves and members of the laity as regards their own extraordinariness, church leaders raise high expectations about their own capacities that may turn out to be impossible to fulfill. Yet even the opposite strategy of strengthening one's authority by embedding oneself in socio-religious networks can eventually lead to a destabilization of church leaders' authority because it increases their dependence on factors that are beyond their control.

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Capacity Building as Instrument and Empowerment

Training Health Workers for Community-Based Roles in Ghana

Harriet Boulding

This article examines the concept of health worker capacity building as it is used to facilitate the integration of social and clinical community health services. Focusing on the Community-based Health Planning and Services initiative in Ghana, this article calls into question the efficacy of approaches to capacity building which emphasize technical requirements over empowering health workers to actively engage with their communities on matters of health and wellbeing. Instrumental conceptualizations of health worker capacity building generate blueprints for social mobilization that only partially address community health needs, and produce new relationships of brokerage between health workers. These phenomena facilitate a discussion as to how transformative versions of health worker capacity building might be integrated into health sector bureaucracies.

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Kaoru Miyazawa

In this article I examine how a new immigrant girl from Jamaica participated in Abstinence Only Until Marriage (AOUM) classes at her school in New York City, and how her interpretation of the values taught in the classes shaped her aspirations for her future as well as the meaning of her past pregnancy. AOUM was a site in which the indirect and seductive power of the state motivated her to align her aspirations and method of attaining them with the neoliberal notion of success, and the neoconservative Christian notions related to family and sexuality in which, essentially, she did not believe. The finding shows that teaching sexuality as a personal matter only and separate from economic equality, and sexuality and reproductive rights does not contribute to the empowerment of girls. I conclude by suggesting that teaching sexuality as a public and political issue is an alternative method of empowerment.

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Claire Wallace

Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) open up the possibility of new forms of relationship and engagement, which form part of the sociality of modern society, leading some to characterize this as a transition to an "information society", a "network society", or a "third industrial revolution". This has implications for Social Quality, especially in terms of social cohesion, social inclusion and social empowerment. Drawing upon recent research we find that ICTs have added new dimensions to social life in ways that go beyond the original formulations of the digital divide. Conversely, Social Quality can also add important insights into our understanding of the relationship between society and technology. The article argues that discussions of Social Quality should take these dimensions into account.

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Elizabeth S. Leet

Each tale in the Lanval corpus revolves around fairy women who style their bodies specifically to attract the male gaze. Each fairy uses her body’s visual impact to seduce her lover and resolve the judicial accusations against him. By adapting her body for private audiences, public parades, and even non-noble onlookers, each fairy participates actively in the gaze both to gain her respective lover’s freedom and to win the man of her choosing. The Lanval tales reveal women who submit to be analyzed and objectified in order to satisfy their lover’s wish along with their own goals. Additionally, Sir Landevale and Sir Launfal expand descriptions of the ladies, mirroring the increase in the number of people who assess them at the Arthurian trial. By examining the increasing volume of attire and decreasing interaction with animals across the adaptations, we see these poets problematize the overlap between objectification and empowerment.