The Vernacular Ethics of Stigmatized Care: Reinterpreting Acceptance and Confidentiality for Social Work in the West Bank, Palestine

Byers, David
Fareed, Anan
hreish khalid
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The University of Chicago Press
Social workers in Palestine routinely navigate issues of stigma with their clients without formal ethical guidance. This constructivist grounded theory study examines how Palestinian social workers in the West Bank organize themselves ethically to provide stigmatized care—where social workers supporting people with socially rejected conditions and experiences can face community scorn by extension. We conducted focus groups and individual interviews with 99 social work supervisors in 12 cities over a 2-year period. Our analysis reveals localized reinterpretations of acceptance and confidentiality as ethically grounded principles for stigmatized care. These practice principles have emerged under strain in cases involving substance use, sex work, sexual variance, sexual violence, and child abuse allegations but reach a limit around accusations of collaboration with the occupation. Our findings reflect a dynamic vernacular ethics: a politicized field of shared concerns and debates that social workers use to guide their practice without a codified ethical system.