Deconstructing the Romanticization of Solidarity: Reflections on Social Worker Performativity and Resistance during COVID-19

Alishau Diebold, David Grand, Meredith Berrouard, Sarah Pearson


This article explores how COVID-19 has impacted our understanding of our frontline practice and professional identity as four doctoral social work students. When the pandemic unfolded, we were completing a collaborative autoethnographic research project that revealed how our professional practices were shaped by both performativity and resistance. Because of COVID-19, this project was paused. When we reconvened to draft our research paper, we noted a collective change in our perceptions of performativity and resistance in our practice. In this article we share the insights that arose in the context of our  roles as frontline workers. We consider the “romanticizing” of discourses related to frontline workers during the pandemic. We also reflect on the heightened pressure that the four of us have felt to “perform" these discourses in our work. We argue that while outwardly positive, such discourses have their roots in capitalist neo-liberal ideals, and thus they occlude spaces of resistance in already prescriptive practice environments, and ultimately maintain oppression for service users.


resistance; performativity; doctoral students; frontline workers; COVID-19

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