Abstract: Steps Towards Decolonizing Social Work Education and Research: Examining Research Schnavia Hatcher (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Steps Towards Decolonizing Social Work Education and Research: Examining Research Schnavia Hatcher

Friday, January 13, 2023
Maryvale A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Schnavia Hatcher, Dean and Professor, University of Alabama, Tuscolusa, AL
Background: Historically, social work began as a profession to address social injustice and inequality. However, it was a profession birthed against the backdrop of America’s settler-colonial ideology and history. Therefore, while being proponents of social change and achieving significant success regarding encouraging society to be more inclusive, the profession has been hamstrung by the need to address social inequality within its ranks. Consequently, social work has continued to struggle with its dual focus on social change and social control. Much of this tension is manifested in its own perpetuation of racial, gender, class and other dimensions of inequality within the profession, and strained relationships with communities of color especially when interacting with predominantly white serving institutions.

Methods: A review of the social work literature continues to illuminate that many of the biases in the research literature that have been used to subjugate and constrain the opportunities for people of color have been inadvertently replicated in many social work research literatures. Many of our existing research frameworks, theories, and concepts have not addressed or dismantled our colonial approaches to social work research. Arguably, many of our existing research paradigms and our ability to meaningfully engage communities of color, especially by predominantly white institutions have been fraught with suspicion, mistrust and performative gestures that have not resulted in social transformation levels both parties have envisioned.

Results: This presentation will present examples of how social work research has too often perpetuated deficit-based narratives of communities of color. Highlight examples of how research questions and methods can be used to focus on the complex narratives of communities of color and the empowerment approaches of these communities. It also highlights what it means to move research from a disparities paradigm to a social justice framework. More importantly, it would present some practical steps toward decolonizing social work research and facilitate lively audience participation.

Conclusion: Moving beyond the existing research language of health and social disparities, we would illuminate how social work research can embrace a decolonizing framework that would enable our profession to move closer to its mission and expressed ideals. This presentation would present and facilitate a lively attendance discussion on steps towards decolonizing social work research methods, questions and addressing bias in research especially regarding addressing the needs and narratives of communities of color.