Session: Mutual Aid & Solidarity Work: Challenges and Possibilities for Social Work (Society for Social Work and Research 28th Annual Conference - Recentering & Democratizing Knowledge: The Next 30 Years of Social Work Science)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Eastern Standard Time Zone (EST).

SSWR 2024 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 11. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

122 Mutual Aid & Solidarity Work: Challenges and Possibilities for Social Work

Friday, January 12, 2024: 2:00 PM-3:30 PM
Marquis BR Salon 9, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Bethany Jo Murray, MSW, University of California, Los Angeles
Bethany Jo Murray, MSW, University of California, Los Angeles, Colleen Cummings, MSW, University of Denver, Sophia Sarantakos, PhD, University of Denver and Finn Bell, PhD, University of Michigan-Dearborn
The COVID-19 pandemic, mass protest in response to blatant forms of state violence, and economic depression have cumulatively led to the re-ignition and blossoming of mutual aid networks within the United States. Dean Spade (2020) defines mutual aid as “collective coordination to meet each other’s needs, usually from an awareness that the systems we have in place are not going to meet them� (p.17). Mutual aid is situated by scholars and activists as a critique and alternative to capitalist and carceral structures because mutual aid projects are often established despite the disparities that such structures create. Mutual aid is the actualization of the community-centered care envisioned in an abolitionist framework, and actively bridges away from a carceral state, decentralizing reliance on carceral institutions to meet our needs.

Social workers have started to recognize the profession’s research and practice have become increasingly entangled in various carceral attachments. Consequently, social workers have begun to align with abolitionist praxis, demanding the dismantling of the prison-industrial complex and other interlocking carceral systems while reimagining what practice looks like outside of the confines of the carceral state. Mutual aid has been proposed by activists and academics as a potential approach to social service provision that divests from oppressive bureaucracies and carceral systems. This reimagination of providing community care and utilization of mutual aid is one that Black communities, Indigenous communities, and communities of color have long been engaging and iterating on despite the ubiquitous and relentless state violence inflicted on them.

What does it mean for approaches like mutual aid (linked to abolitionist, anti-capitalist and decolonial frameworks which have become popularized terms yet encapsulate deep political commitments) to be entering into the academy? What are the risks? The challenges? The potentials? This roundtable session will open a space of dialogue around the theoretical and practical significance of mutual aid, abolitionist praxis, and social movements in our work. The dialogue will begin to create space to think through the paradoxes and challenges in imagining what a counter-hegemonic anti-carceral future might look like and the role mutual aid can play in carrying this out in social work education, practice, and research. Presenters will focus on the tension between mutual aid and the sustainability provided by the nonprofit industrial complex. Two presenters will discuss how mutual aid efforts are being integrated and interfaced with in graduate social work education, emphasizing the paradoxes and challenges in this dynamic. Two presenters will discuss the role of anti-carceral social work, social movements and mutual aid efforts in social work research and practice. All four presenters will discuss how their various work, research, and experiences have necessitated a movement towards abolition and anti-carceral practices like mutual aid. Our goal is to create a space for discussions about the complex realities and opportunities of mutual aid within social work practice and anti-carceral abolitionist futures as a way to address community needs without utilizing state violence, surveillance, and policing.

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