Tag Archives: theorizing

Theorizing Care: How My New Bestie Helped Me Find a Way Forward

“To sum up, research can be triggered by a problem, by something interesting, and by something surprising. Regardless of what sets off the research, however, it is important to emphasize three things. First, the initial phase of observation should be carried out in a very free-ranging manner. Second, theorizing should be held off for a while. And third, the topic to study is not necessarily what you initially set out to analyze, but what after a while strikes you as being the most promising to pursue.”

– from The Art of Social Theory by Richard Swedberg

“Why are you obsessed with trauma informed care?” I asked myself, trying to get at the heart of this term. 

“Why are you so obsessed with trauma informed care?” I quietly mused, suddenly realizing the weight of THAT word and the way it related to me.

“Why… you are obsessed with trauma informed care!” I discovered, realizing that THIS word – so vague and all encompassing – was at the heart of the matter.

What I discovered was a) Swedberg’s model for understanding the process of “theorizing” and b) that this whole time I have *actually* been chasing that tiny little word “care”:

What IS care supposed to look like?

Why do I even need a model like trauma informed care?

My ‘hypothesis’ is that there is a failure to care that needs to be patched up, but is trauma informed care really the ticket?

Breaking down something like “care” is a tall order, and if I’m not careful I’ll run into the same issue I’m having now of a topic that is way too big. Thankfully, I feel like I already have step one done which is the creation of some terms that get at the heart of the issue of a failure to care (i.e. illusions of care – fantastical, self(ish), and callous) and utilizing the existing term Equity-Centered Trauma Informed Care as my “ideal type” to stack things up against. A digression is warranted to explain the word “ideal type”.

As my new bestie Rich says: 

 “An ideal type has a number of practical functions, and one of these is to provide terminological clarity and precision. Since reality is endlessly rich and contradictory, it is of importance that the ideal type is clear and coherent…[it also functions as] a “heuristic tool,” and this means that it should primarily be used to discover new aspects of a phenomenon… when you begin to study a complex phenomenon, it is very useful to have an ideal type at your disposal. Once you have reached the point where you know in which direction to look… focus on the significant differences (if any) between the ideal type and empirical reality, and to try to account for these. At this stage the initial ideal type has fulfilled its function and can be discarded.”

– from The Art of Social Theory by Richard Swedberg

Trauma Informed Care, and the special restructuring of the term that Alex Shevrin Venet created with her Equity-Centered Trauma Informed Care, is the “ideal type” I’m using to speculate about “care.” The aim of this speculation is to begin pointing towards a theory of understanding care that can meet the needs of our modern, ‘post’-pandemic society. I will be doing this speculating and theorizing through my memoir of care by detailing my experience of working in an institution of care as well as my experience as a human who claims to “care”. This detailing will be done in the ways I have already described, by using fictional case study, personal experience, and probably some form of academic explanation.

Concerns/Questions/Problems I’m left with:

  1. I’m drawing inspiration from a social science approach to theorizing. It takes a more quantitative approach in some ways, but I feel that this fits my background and, actually, Swedberg is a pretty flexible guy in terms of the process of research. He is literally advocating for what he calls “creative theorizing” so… what better term is there then that for what I’m attempting here.
  2. The whole second half of Swedberg’s book has to do with needing to understand social theory to create theory. I am drawing strongly from CRT – would that count I wonder? Do I need to concern myself with that if I’m not really planning on making my thesis theory, but more a process of theorizing?
  3. This idea of “care” probably still seems too big. I don’t know how to address that critique at the moment, but I am hoping through the process of writing my memoir pieces that I will be able to show what I am envisioning in a more concrete way. I have some pieces now that I have written, but nothing that is a definitive way to begin this whole thing. Still looking for my way in.
  4. I am still planning on incorporating The Night of the Iguana and some religious themes. This could turn out to be too tangential; but Swedberg says that books, movies, and literature of all sorts can be used in the observation and learning phase of theorizing. The Night of the Iguana encompasses for me the spirit of care I am trying to get at – I just have to make it make sense. Maybe I should do a blog about that next week or something… possibly a bonus blog if I can make the effort and time?

Works Cited

Swedberg, R. (2015). The art of social theory (3rd ed.). Princeton University Press.