Theorising Social Transformation in Occupational Therapy: The American Civil Rights Movement and South African struggle against apartheid as 'Occupational Reconstructions'

Gelya Frank, Bernard Austin Kigunda Muriithi



            This article introduces a new way to think about social transformation in occupational science. The theory of occupational reconstructions is presented through examples of collective action by disempowered communities to achieve racial justice.  An ‘occupational reconstruction’ is defined as what people do to remake ordinary life in response to a problematic situation.  Occupational reconstructions are characterised by: (1) problematic situations; (2) meaningful and purposeful action; (3) embodied practices; (4) narrative structure; (5) creative transformations; (6) voluntary engagement; and (7) hopeful experimentalism. We apply the theory of occupational reconstructions here to large-scale situations of political activism in the American Civil Rights movement and the South African struggle against apartheid. The authors suggest that occupational reconstructions offer a distinctive theory of social transformation that can help occupational science and occupational therapy engage in both mass movements and more local situations relating to human rights and social justice.

Key words: Occupational reconstruction, social activism, civil rights, protest music

The South African Journal of Occupational Therapy

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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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