Hello again! It was another wonderful day of learning Vancouver. The weather here was beautiful today so it was hard staying indoors, but fortunately for me all the workshops I attended made the lack of sunshine OK. The day started with a First Nation Welcome ceremony that included a song by the appropriately named band "The Externalizer's." Following that Stephen Madigan welcomed everybody to the conference and then gave the morning keynote. Madigan's keynote set the tone for the conference by declaring narrative therapy as a counter to longstanding therapeutic traditions of the privatized problemed self, doing this via an anti-individualist, relational stance. Madigan's keynote was an argument against de-politicized therapy. He also pointed out how quite realistically that anybody with little graduate studies can make claims of knowing on other bodies, and also name others pathologies. Powerful stuff. Madigan in a bit of humor went on to advance the idea that we should actually call ourselves Licensed Declassification Professionals.
Following the morning keynote I attended the workshop titled Insider, Outsider and the Generative Space in Between facilitated by Allison Rice and Dennis Dion (pictured with me in the middle). This was by far my favorite workshop. Allison and Dennis collaborated together for several years at the Peak House where they worked with youth and families struggling with the problem of substance misuse. Allison and Dennis did a wonderful job bringing forth their deep interrogation of the problem of addiction and its tactics and how an understanding of other theoretical frameworks (harm reduction, 12 step, etc.) help bring about a fluidity that resists binary ways of seeing problems or solutions. I understood both Allison and Dennis to have a poststructuralist and realistic understanding of substance misuse. I found them quite creative in the use of queer theory in their idea that it would be un-queer to attach a tag to someone that they don't prefer, but also that it would be un-queer to remove a tag that the person would prefer. I also found them to be quite pragmatic when they asserted that deconstructing modernist approaches to the problem in early abstinence could be quite dangerous. A bold position in this crowd for sure, but in my experience as an insider, their understanding resonated with me quite powerfully. Allison and Dennis' workshop really was an opportunity to see how a social constructionist/narrative lens really contributes meaningfully to those seeking our help.
In the afternoon I had the opportunity to catch the workshop where John Winslade did another outstanding job of making the work of Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze more user friendly. There was much helpful discussion added by the presence of Tom Strong, Joel Shapiro, and Jonny Morris who were all equally adept at making some dense material more understandable. Kudos!
The day ended with the afternoon keynote by Sheila McNamee who is the Vice President of the Taos Institute. McNamee's keynote was titled Pushing the Relational Edge: Constructing Narrative Practice and her project seemed to be one of promoting a promiscuous stance (mixing it up) as opposed to one of practice purity. I'm not sure how this talk went over with the narrative faithful, but it did have me thinking about the morning workshop where both Rice and Dion showed a real practice that was less worried about "getting it right" and more concerned about points of connection, effectiveness, and protecting the people who sought their help from getting caught in the middle of theoretical battles. Lots to think about today. So while I'm considering all that happened today, enjoy another Vancouver sunset: