chapter  21
4 Pages


ByMel Gray, John Coates

Throughout this book authors have highlighted difficulties with technology transfer, colonization and territorialization, that is, with past and ongoing attempts to introduce social work into their diverse cultural contexts. It was precisely the awareness of these diverse influences that led us to write this book. We were aware that people in very different contexts had distinct concerns with what was generally referred to as ‘Indigenization’, and that it meant different things to people in different contexts. Those who wrote about ‘Indigenization’ and Indigenous social work were frequently unfamiliar with the other’s work. As well, many Indigenous Peoples took offence to the appropriation of the terms ‘Indigenous’ and ‘Indigenization’, as they referred to people’s identities as Indigenous Peoples and their struggle to recover from the oppression of colonization. The face to face discussions in our writers’ workshop in Canada was thus an eye opening experience for all involved and we all realized that the issues we were talking about were highly political for various reasons: First because for Indigenous Peoples, reclaiming control over their lives involves railing against a system which forever strives to take it away from them under one pretext or another. Second, because the social work profession has an intense interest in claiming a ‘global’ identity, its desire to be international and to propose international definitions and global standards are yet further attempts at colonization or territorialization. While economic control has replaced the political control of earlier colonial times, we argue that colonization is alive and thriving under the mask of globalization. As we have seen in the case of China, the spread of social work education is big money and proceeds apace even when there are no jobs for the graduates of social work programmes (Chapters 14 and 15). Osei-Hwedie and Rankopo (in Chapter 16) demonstrate how difficult it is to develop culturally appropriate social work education when not only the profession but also universities pressure faculty members into developing internationally recognized education programmes. The profession, through its international organizations, remains remarkably silent on these anomalies and seeks to have a foot in each wampum, at one and the same time seeking to be global and culturally relevant. A great deal more discussion is needed on what is universal in social work and what is good for the profession and for local communities. A repeated theme in the discussions was how difficult it is to develop culturally relevant practice when one always has to deal with outside influences. So much energy is expended in warding off such unwanted intrusions that little is left for what must be done at the front lines of practice.