Our Investments in Innocence: Colonial Continuities and Racial Governance in Social Work

Social work imagines itself as a site of goodness and justice. Examining the Canadian context of social work, Dr. Badwall will illustrate the ways in which commitments to the profession's social justice-oriented ideals are ruptured when racialized social workers name the operation of racism within everyday sites of professional practice.

I show how colonial constructions of helping (moral superiority and goodness) continue to shape the hegemonic scripts about the role and practices of social work, reinscribing white dominance in social work knowledge production and practice. Historically, racialized bodies have been constituted as 'Others', subjects to be regulated, controlled and 'saved' within the colonial project (the nation-state), however, Dr. Badwall will examine the dilemmas that emerge when racialized Others become the helpers and attempt to perform a normative professional identity that is constructed through white dominance. Dr. Badwall will trace how the cherished ideals of the profession (helping, compassion, client-centered care) collude with every day racism and reinscribe colonial constructions of innocence.

Dr. Harjeet Badwall is an Associate Professor with the School of Social Work at York University in Toronto, Canada. She was a social worker for close to 20 years in the areas of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, youth work, anti-racism, community organizing and activism. She teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses, specializing in critical theories, Foucauldian perspectives, post-colonialism, anti-racism, feminist and post-structural perspectives. Her research critically examines how racism and white dominance infiltrate social work ideals, theories and practices.

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