Crafting Gentleness

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Anti-Oppressive Social Work

"This book is aimed at assisting practitioners to achieve the goal of providing more relevant services to clients whose life experiences have been shaped by the forces of oppression. That is, it focuses on those who are excluded from realising their creative potential as a result of the disadvantaging contexts that they contend with daily. It seeks to go beyond the additive approach to oppression whereby each social division, be it class, 'race', gender, age, disability or sexual orientation, is considered separately from the others while the effects of each different form are 'added on' to the one initially under consideration. At the same time, it asks social workers to understand that being oppressed is only one aspect of a reality that both they and their clients are embedded within. In other words, the people that they are working with may be playing key roles in oppressing others. And, moreover, they as social workers may be oppressed themselves whilst both oppressing and attempting to empower people at the same time. In taking this more complex theoretical position, this book attempts to go beyond the formulations of oppression implied by authors such as Thompson (1993) in his well-known PCS (personal, cultural and structural) model, where a focus primarily on discrimination, I would argue, emphasises only one element in the web of oppressive social relations.

"Moreover, the additive approach to the complexities of oppression casts the resolution of conflict, in both intellectual and practical terrains, in competitive terms resulting in a winner and a loser. This approach tends to be unhelpful in that it usually produces an unstable outcome whirling around an ever-extending spiral of conflict in which the losers seek to become the winners while those in the ascendancy attempt to (re)entrench their position. Moreover, additive approaches rank oppressions in a hierarchy that prioritises one form over another. I intend to transcend the problematics of a competitive approach to resolving the contradictions that surround various forms of oppression in social work practice by developing a holistic framework that enables users to play a greater role in the design and delivery of the services they require and professionals to respond more appropriately to the agendas that they set."

Lena Dominelli, Anti-Oppressive Social Work Theory and Practice (2002)


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