Social Work and Activism
Within this theme, participants will explore aspects of the existing and potential future relationship between ‘social work’ and ‘activism’, both broadly conceived. Traditions of ‘radical ‘and ‘anti-oppressive’ social work, with the goals of social transformation, justice and empowerment, may become similar to, or overlap with forms of activism, including ‘grassroots’ and ‘community action’ movements. Activism within social work can take many forms, involving working alongside service users and others to articulate and argue for their demands for social change. At the same time, some contemporary forms of activism may challenge some of the social control functions of ‘orthodox’ social work posing questions for social workers as to ‘whose side they are on’. In the face of growing authoritarian populism, xenophobia and racism in many parts of the world, can social workers afford not to be activists? Finally, how can social workers learn from activist movements, whether they are focused on climate change, the commodification of the ‘commons’, or on social injustice? How can both social work and activist movements avoid bureaucratisation and ‘projectisation’? Rather than provide answers to these questions, within this theme we will create a safe space for critical reflection and dialogue. Examples of local varieties of global activism (Occupy, alterglobalisation, Right to the City, etc.) will be discussed alongside examples of activism which originated in South East Europe (autonomous cultural spaces, Maribor protests, etc.). Ideas as to what and how to create this dialogue are more than welcome.