In recent decades, decolonizing social work has emerged as an attempt to broaden and critique the agenda of universalizing international Western-oriented social work (Razack, 2009). Important texts, such as Decolonizing Methodologies (Smith, 2012) and Indigenous Social Work around the World (Gray, Coates and Yellow Bird, 2010) have developed new vocabularies, perspectives and approaches to address some of the most significant global trends in contemporary social work relating to global diversity and indigenous peoples. Rooted in indigenous world views and postcolonial theory (Gray, Coates, Yellow Bird & Hetherington, 2013), decolonizing social work explores the tacit world of colonialism that is hidden in many of the assumptions, standards and definitions of social work that promote what James Midgely terms "professional imperialism" by questioning the construction of expertise over others' lives as well as focusing the content of many international social work classes on the deprivation of developing countries (Midgely, 2010; Razack, 2009). Decolonizing social work brings to the fore the significance of culturally appropriate and engaged critical political practice in diverse local settings (Smith, 2012). Decolonizing social work opens the door to a much more holistic understanding of the role and purpose of social work by including underrepresented aspects of social work practice such as diverse values of spirituality, alternative ways of healing, as well as the value of distinct community and family structures and practices.



Gray, M., Coates, J., Yellow Bird, M. & Hetherington T. (2013) (eds.) Decolonizing Social Work. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing.

Gray, M., Coates, J. & Hetherington T. (2012) Environmental Social Work. London: Routledge.

Midgely, J. (2008) "Promoting reciprocal international social work exchanges: professional imperialism revisited." In Indigenous Social Work Around the World:

     Towards Culturally Relevant Education and Practice. Gray, M., Coates, J. & Yellow Bird, M. (eds). Ashgate Publishing.

Razack, N. (2009) Decolonizing the pedagogy and practice of international social work. International Social Work, 52(1), 9-21.

Smith, L. T. (2012) Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Zed Books.


This retreat series I organize is an opportunity to participate in caring, critical discussion of decolonization, social justice issues and activism with community members, students, and professionals in a safe environment of guided self-care and trust. The series is suitable for people interested in learning best practices and how to collaboratively practice community-centered, trusting and transparent advocacy on social justice issues.

Study & Practice Series No. 1: The Paradox of Social Justice Practice and Self-Care

Study & Practice Series No. 2: Integrative Healing through Memory Work and Decolonization

Study & Practice Series No. 3: Tending the Wild: An Eco-psychological / De-colonizing Retreat​

Study & Practice Series No. 4: Assembling futures from collective stories of the Invisibles

Study & Practice Series No. 5: Relationality at the Intersection of Education and Healing (coming soon)

Kris Clarke, Ph.D

Academic and social commentator
Helsinki, Finland

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