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«Tilburg University Narrative poetics of resistance Sanders, Colin Document version: Publisher's PDF, also known as Version of record Publication ...»

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Tilburg University

Narrative poetics of resistance

Sanders, Colin

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Sanders, C. J. (2014). Narrative poetics of resistance: Towards an aesthetics of engagement S.l.: [s.n.]

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Download date: 14. okt. 2016 Narrative Poetics of Resistance: Towards An Aesthetics of Engagement By Colin James Sanders Narrative Poetics of Resistance: Towards An Aesthetics of Engagement Proefschrift ter verkrijging van de graad van doctor aan Tilburg University op gezag van de rector magnificus, prof. dr. Ph. Eijlander, in het openbaar te verdedigen ten overstaan van een door het college voor promoties aangewezen commissie in de Ruth First zaal van de Universiteit op maandag 15 september 2014 om 16.15 uur door Colin James Sanders geboren op 5 mei 1954 te Winnipeg, Canada Promotores: prof. dr. Sheila McNamee prof. dr. John B. Rijsman

Overige leden van de promotiecommissie:

prof. dr. H. Anderson prof. dr. J. Chang dr. J. Goedee dr. O. Ness Abstract My dissertation describes the multiple philosophical, theological and theoretical influences, relationships, and enchantments which ultimately inspired the co-creation of innovative, nontraditional, practices within a residential program for young persons’ struggling with substance use dilemmas in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, known as Peak House. These influences, relationships and enchantments additionally, over the course of about forty-five years, generalize and migrate into all of my therapeutic and pedagogical, collaborative and relational practices.

Over time, I came to refer to my practice as a poetics of resistance (Sanders, 1999, 2007) and have referred to the overall aesthetics of such a practice as being a narrative poetics, largely in recognition of the considerable influence of ideas flowing from Michael White and David Epston, beginning with their first publications (White & Epston, 1989, 1990), and continuing to this day.

Keywords: Harlene Anderson; Gregory Bateson; David Epston; Michel Foucault; Emmanuel Levinas;

Sheila McNamee; Michael White; narrative therapy, collaborative practices; relational practices; youth residential substance use programs; narrative poetics; poetics of resistance; social construction; the sacred; social justice.

Dedication This dissertation is dedicated first of all to Gail Marie Boivin, for love. We have been together almost 25 years, rocking and rolling, dancing to the Grateful Dead, travelling and exploring the world, two beings together. I very much admire and appreciate your intuition and insight, your clarity, patience and commitment. As Neil Young sings, “when you dance, I can really love”!

Now that the dissertation is completed we can go to the beach!

To my mother, Noreen Shirley Farrell, and father, Ronald John, “Rocky”, Sanders, (1931-2002) for immense love and early encourgement to think critically, resist oppression, and revel in Irish music, poetry and literature, and to celebrate and honour family, regardless of differences.

To my siblings, Liam, Fiona, Sheila, Maura, Kieran (d. 2004), Ian, Kevin and Shauna, for all we have come through and continue to overcome, over all the years To my dear children, Maya Medea Sanders and Adrian Jason Sanders, for their outstanding love, committment, consideration, and patience, and to their mother, Lynette Patricia Sanders.

To our grandsons, Declan, Anu and Faelan, for their enchanting ways of being!

A special note of thanks to Susan Heffernan and Rick Pellan for decades of friendship and the use of their cabin at Roberts Creek, on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast, where much of this manuscript first took shape and multiple re-visions were composed.

Acknowledgements Friends, comrades and colleagues: Harlene Anderson, Rob Axsen, Yaya d’Andrade, Barbara Baumgartner, Shelly Bonnah, Noillag Byrne, Jeff Chang, Avraham Cohen, Steve Conway, Christine Dennstedt, Vickey Dickerson, Tracy Drebbit, Heather Elliot, David Epston, Tom Foster, Lorraine Grieves, Arden Henley, Chris Kinman, Hughie Lalonde, Scott Lawrance, Bill Lax, Stephen Patrick Madigan, Imelda McCarthy, Ottar Ness, David Nylund, Steve Olswang, Paul Orlowski, Vikki Reynolds, Charles Scott Jill Taggart, Kiwi Tamasese, Allan Wade, Charles Waldegrave, Jacqueline Walters, Wendy Wittmack, Jaime Wittmack, Brian Williams, Jeff Zimmerman, Gerry Zipursky, Thanks to the following colleagues and friends at City University for their support in multiple administrative ways while this dissertation was composed: Amy, Liana, Dani, Maika, Andjelka and Faye.

Thanks to Arden Henley for offering me meaningful employment requiring being enrolled in a doctoral program, and to David Epston and Stephen Patrick Madigan for being first, after Gail, in celebrating this news with me at The Irish Heather.

A heartfelt “peace” to Stephen Patrick Madigan and to David Epston for over two decades of friendship, conversation, and celebration.

Appreciative and warm thanks to my committee of Harlene Anderson, Jeff Chang, J. Goedee, Ottar Ness, and to my promotores, Sheila McNamee and John Rijsman.

Special thanks to: Christine Dennstedt, David Epston, Bill Lax, and Dan Wulff for very useful focusing comments and valuable feedback regarding initial drafts.

In memory of dear, departed comrades, Bill Hansen, David Moir, Garth Thomson, and my brother, Kieran Gerard Sanders.

To Sheila McNamee, for graciously supporting me along this journey, guiding me through the process, but most especially for encouragement and confidence in the writing and content, it’s been endearing and delightful to come to know you more through this adventure! Warm thanks and deep appreciation to you! Cheers Colin!

Thanks to John Rijsman for your reading of the manuscript and your reflection to me that, “…it is wonderful and poetic”.

And acknowledgement to all the young persons, families, and communities, whose lives and relationships intersected with my own, as they passed through Peak House. Fight the power!

Table of Contents




Introduction: Narrative Poetics of Reistance










Appendix A


Introduction: Narrative Poetics of Reistance

Je est un autre … (I is another) – Arthur Rimbaud.

Poetry celebrates that the world exists; philosophy asks why the world exists.

Stanislas Breton (1995, p. 257).

Intentions in writing this dissertation A primary thread woven throughout my dissertation involves an engagement with narrative imagination, an idea that, as Bateson (1972) noted, was brought forward by visionary poet William Blake, eventually migrating into the narrative therapy ideas and practices cocreated by Michael White and David Epston (White & Epston, 1990), and others (Sanders, 1995a). As theologian Stanislas Breton remarked in conversation with Irish philosopher Richard Kearney (1995), “…a poetics of imagination is an indispensable dimension of genuine thinking” (p. 248). Breton (1995) continues, drawing attention to the influence of philosopher Emmanuel Levinas in his own thinking, proposing that Levinas brought into play a “…language of relations…” (p. 248), a proposal I return to in Chapter Six of my dissertation.

Another thread woven throughout my dissertation describes ideas and concepts espoused by a community of thinkers and practitioners often associated with collaborative, social constructionist, narrative, and social justice theory within the domain of therapeutic practice (Andersen, 1996; Anderson, 2012; Anderson & Goolishian, 1988; Bateson, 1973, 1979; Bateson & Bateson, 1988; Gergen, 2009; Lock & Strong, 2010; Maturana, 1988; McNamee & Gergen, 1992; Shotter, 2010; Waldegrave, 1990; Waldegrave, Tamasese, Tuhaka, & Campbell, 2003;

White, 2007; White & Epston, 1990).

One intention in composing this particular dissertation is certainly to situate those persons whose thinking, writing, and practice have most influenced me, and whose concepts, ideas, philosophies and practices inform my own praxis, as described especially within Chapter Two and in Chapter Six.

Another intention relating to my dissertation is to underscore the inter-connections and convergences existing between concepts, ideas and practices affiliated with various theoretical perspectives. Especially in academic writing, I often find making these inter-connections is paid less attention than trying to highlight differences and distinctions between perspectives. My interest is with the aesthetics of how we choose to engage with others in the practices of therapy, education, and also in community development work (Sanders, 2010, 2012).

Chapter Seven illustrates a narrative poetics of resistance (Sanders, 1999, 2007) in practice, as exemplified by the work I initiated in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, at a residential program for 13-18 years old who were struggling with substance use, called Peak House.

Praxis My dissertation is not intended to be merely an academic representation of theoretical ideas and concepts, although a considerable amount of literature is described. To reiterate, one practical intention in writing this dissertation is to describe and delineate certain theoretical ideas and concepts, and, using the illustration of Peak House, point out the ways in which a narrative poetics, and a poetics of resistance, can be applied in creative, practical, efficient, and beneficial ways.

I believe that describing the evolution of Peak House in its shift away from what I considered to be pathologizing practices to a more collaborative, non-pathologizing program, may provide hope to others working within normative, prescriptive, institutional structures. Over the years, many people have asked how I was able to transform Peak House from a 12 Step program into a collaborative, narrative informed, and social justice focused program. I generally respond that in order for this transformation to occur, appreciative leadership (Whitney, TrostenBloom & Rader, 2010) was necessary, commitment to the evolving vision, along with patience and compassion. Unfortunately, I have encountered too many practitioners who, at times, have experienced despair at ever co-creating alternatives to pathologizing, normative, prescriptive ways of engaging with others within agencies, programs, and institutions.

Again, most unfortunately, many of these practitioners become captured by cynicism and sarcasm in their work, increasingly disenchanted with their work, and affect qualities that often lead to negativity and restraint amongst relationships with colleagues. The literature on such experiences is often known by the misnomer, “burnout”, though there are alternative ways of understanding these experiences, and alternative ways of contending with systemic and structural intransigence and restraint (cf. McNamee, 1996a; Fruggeri & McNamee, 1991;Reynolds, 2010).

At the outset, I would add the proviso that the program we co-evolved at Peak House does not represent the true or only way to construct a residential program for young person’s struggling with substance use, but stands as an illustration and example of what is possible and representative of an alternative to traditional, normative, and prescriptive residential communities.

Theoretical Promiscuity To reiterate, it remains my hope that others reading this work, especially perhaps graduate level students, may become more informed of the threads of connection across theories, and the shared attention paid to practice, especially between narrative, social constructionist, and collaborative therapy practices1. Here I am appreciative of McNamee’s (2004, 2012) invitation to explore “promiscuity” within and between theoretical perspectives. McNamee (2004) explains what she intends by use of the word promiscuity in this way, In this article I would like to propose what I consider to be a more promiscuous attitude for family therapy in an attempt to generate inclusiveness in our theory and practice. I am For dialogues highlighting convergences amongst theoretical perspectives in the domain of therapy, see the conversations between Tom Andersen, Harlene Anderson and Michael White (in, Malinen, Cooper & Thomas, 2012).

purposively using the term promiscuous here to underscore the ease with which a dominant discourse can eclipse a richly descriptive term and render it one-dimensional.

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