Session: Towards an Emancipatory Science for Social Work: Bringing Social Workers' Resistances Against Injustice into the Light (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

177 Towards an Emancipatory Science for Social Work: Bringing Social Workers' Resistances Against Injustice into the Light

Thursday, January 21, 2021: 5:00 PM-6:00 PM
Cluster: Social Work Practice
Kevin Miller, MA, Loyola University, Chicago, Brianna Sorenson, MSW, Loyola University of Chicago, Nora Wynn, MSW, Loyola University, Chicago, Patiya Freely, Loyola University, Chicago and Sungsim Lee, MSW, Loyola University, Chicago
This roundtable aims to unearth social workers' resistances against injustices, and to stimulate discussion about a social work science that prioritizes emancipation. To resist is defined as being "unwilling to accept"a condition. The concept of resistance has traditionally had ambiguous meanings in social work, often associated with obstreperous clients, uncooperative agency employees, and disruptive students. In this roundtable, unethical actions are not considered resistance; the focus is on social work acts of resistance against structural injustices, acts that benefit clients and are context-specific and risky. Historically, social workers' acts of political resistance have been hailed, but also sometimes discounted as "unscientific." Since resistant actions are not researchable via RCTs and lack a manualized evidence base, social workers' acts of resistance can be defocused, and students can find the flame of their passion for justice has somehow dimmed (Witkin, 2017). Burying resistance works against our profession's mission, since only oppressive forces benefit from invisibility. This presentation engages participants in conversations intended to stimulate a scientific knowledge base about previously hidden acts of courageous resistance.

The roundtable begins by describing an emancipatory social science, based on Critical Race Theory (Delgado & Stefancic, 2017), Anti-oppressive (Parada & Webhi, 2017) and Decolonizing methods (Smith, 2012), Social Constructionism (Witkin, 2017), and Bhaskar's Critical Realism (1980). Key topics include: 1. The value-laden-ness of all scientific theories, methods and facts; 2. The ontological necessity of inclusiveness for scientific truth; 3. The potential of scientific research for unveiling economic, legal, and social structures of oppression and their impacts on persons and knowledge; 4. Defining research participant roles to replace the subjugation of those holding marginalized identities with leadership and human capital development.

Then, the roundtable will focus on resistance, enabling participants to unveil resistance as an example of an emancipatory process at work. Participants will engage in a conversation about: What does social workers' resistance look like in actual practice? Roundtable leaders will present personal acts of resistance in several areas: --Human rights and liberation of children and youth, --LGBTQ activism for civil rights and liberation, --Anti-racism activism, --Promoting body sovereignty of women and girls in a context of "rape culture" and misogyny, --Resistance against unduly restrictive and oppressive approaches to social work practice and research, --Anti-ageism for older adults' well-being and healthy society, --Resistance against discrimination by social work faculty, and --Therapeutic resistance in clinical social work.

Next, after breaking into small groups, each group leader will ask participants to share (verbally or via anonymous writing, as members choose) an example of their resistance that fulfilled ethical obligations to persons, but constituted resistance against an unjust structure. The examples will be categorized, read, and discussed in the small groups and then the large group. Finally, the entire group will identify key shared themes to encourage best practices in strategies of resistance and to promote a social work knowledge base that is emancipatory in its aims and practices. A bibliography of related readings will be provided.

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