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Anti-Oppressive Practice

"What conventional social workers treat as private problems belonging to isolated individuals, anti-oppressive social workers would treat as public problems belonging to a society characterized by oppression along such lines as classism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism, and racism" (Mullaly, 2010, p. 238).

Anti-oppressive practice “addresses social divisions and structural inequalities…[and is] concerned with reducing the deleterious effects of structural inequalities upon people’s lives” (Dominelli, 1993 cited in Dominelli, 2012, p. 331).

Anti-oppressive practice seeks to mitigate and change cultural and structural forms of oppression (Heinonen, & Spearman, 2010):

  • Cultural Oppression
    Societies acceptance of stereotypes to constrain subordinate groups and to sustain oppressions.
  • Structural Oppression
    Maintenance of economic inequality with micro, meso and macro level policy and practice.

At the structural level, anti-oppressive social workers endeavour "to change the institutional arrangements, social processes, and social practices that work together to benefit the dominant group at the expense of subordinate groups" (Mullaly, 2010, p. 259.)

There is a tension between anti-oppressive practice and working in current welfare systems (Rush, & Keenan, 2014) and two pairs of authors recognized a dearth in literature and practice at public services levels (Rush, & Keenan, 2014; Strier, & Binyamin, 2014). At the structural level, social workers will need additional diligence to develop and enact anti-oppressive practice.

Anti-oppressive practice looks to change oppressive structures and overlaps with structural social work, feminism and queer theory.

References

Dominelli, L. (2012). Anti-Oppressive Practice. In Gray, M., Midgley, & Webb, S. A. (Eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Social Work (pp. 328-340). London, UK: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Heinonen, T., & Spearman, L. (2010). Social Work Practice, Problem Solving and Beyond (3rd ed.). Toronto, ON: Nelson Education Ltd.

Mullaly, B. (2010). Challenging Oppression and Confronting Privilege (2nd ed.). Don Mills, ON:Oxford University Press.

Rush, M., & Keenan, M. (2014). The Social Politics of Social Work: Anti-Oppressive Social Work Dilemmas in Twenty-First-Century Welfare Regimes. British Journal of Social Work, 44. 1436-1453. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bct014

Strier, R., & Binyamin, S. (2014). Introducing Anti-Oppressive Social Work Practices in Public Services: Rhetoric to Practice. British Journal of Social Work, 44(8). 2095-2112. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bct049

Anti-oppressive practice seeks to mitigate and change cultural and structural forms of oppression (Heinonen, & Spearman, 2010).

Anti-oppressive practice “addresses social divisions and structural inequalities…[and is] concerned with reducing the deleterious effects of structural inequalities upon people’s lives” (Dominelli, 1993 cited in Dominelli, 2012, p. 331).