Critical Social Work (May 2019)

Anti-Oppression Through a Postmodern Lens

  • Catrina G. Brown

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 13, no. 1


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Anti-oppression discourse has emerged within critical social work in an effort to address issues of diversity, difference, and inclusion. Drawing upon Audre Lorde’s (1984) famous words “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” this paper will argue that modernist aspects of anti-oppressive discourse may unwittingly deploy the masters’ or dominant conceptual tools. A critical reflexive lens identifies unintended, modernist conceptual practices of power which may reify dominant discourse. Specifically I focus on three modernist practices of power which may limit anti-oppression discourse: 1) the essentialism of the subject, 2) subjectivism or writing out the social, and 3) the reproduction of dominant social discourse. Through exploring these three related domains, I argue for a blending of modernist and postmodernist assumptions which holds onto the strengths of both modernism and postmodernism while abandoning their limitations. This blended approach will facilitate a critically reflexive anti-oppressive practice. KEYWORDS: Anti-oppression, postmodernism, social work practice, reflexivity