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Social Work and Social Policy Seminar Series

“Just give up the ball”: Finding a third space in relationships between male youth workers and young men involved in violence

Dr Pete Harris

This paper presents a single psychosocial case study that explores the relationship between a black male youth worker and a young black man who becomes involved in violence and then falls victim to violence to other young men in his neighbourhood. The study focuses on how both men struggle to “give up the ball” – a metaphor the paper adopts for the act of conceding masculine capital in the street field.

I suggest that for the relationship to provide the support the young man needed it required the creation of a third space between the two men – a vantage point from where they could both examine their masculinity. The case highlights the need for the adequate support and supervision for male workers that incorporates the thorough consideration of their personal and professional identity formation, especially the most heavily gendered aspects.

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