Fields of Study

Within the broader scope of a critical theory approach to social work, faculty members offer research and teaching strengths in the following five fields. Each of these fields is supported by a minimum of four faculty members, and as many as six in some fields. These faculty members are actively researching, publishing, and teaching in their designated field(s).

Social Policy

Social policy refers to the political, economic and social goals of a group or society. The field of social policy involves examination of the history, context, formation, contributing values, implications and social and personal impacts of policies. It also involves the critical analysis of social problems and theorizing solutions in support of social justice and equality.

Globalization and International Issues

This field addresses salient global issues and their impact on the Global North and the Global South. Attention is given to human rights and the role of the social work profession in addressing the social, economic, political and cultural consequences of globalization. It explores the history of colonization, the growth and crisis of capitalism and the consequent imbalance in the wealth of nations. International organizations that help to shape international social welfare policies and services are also examined to understand how rich countries shape the processes of economic, cultural, technological and military globalization and the implications for our worldview.

Systemic Oppression

Oppression occurs when one group uses power to dominate and exploit another group. Systemic oppression refers to the ways such power is embedded in cultural, economic, political, interpersonal and psychological structures, and to the interlocking dynamics of oppression. This field includes, for example, class analysis, as developed in Marxist scholarship, which provides a theoretical and material base for understanding oppression based on the economic positions of individuals and groups. Feminist scholars have contributed a rich analysis of the dynamics of oppression based on gender. Relevant issues related to gender include but are not limited to violence and exploitation; aging, paid and unpaid labour; and the effects of economic restructuring on women. The field also includes the power and social relations of oppression as they relate to disability, sexual orientation, religions and age.

Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

This field addresses how race is produced and ethnicity is used as a category of discrimination and how culture, race and ethnicity interact in this production. It interrogates commonsense understandings of race, ethnicity and culture and recognizes the present day legacies of the global history of colonialism and imperialism to uncover how racialization and ethnic superiority are accomplished. This field is particularly relevant to social work in Canada today because ethno–racial communities are increasingly constructed as homogeneous cultural identities and workers and clients/users struggle with the impact of racialized cultural assumptions and systemic racism and oppression in their everyday lives.

Community and Direct Practice

This field recognizes that the experiences of discrimination and oppression are experienced by individuals, groups and communities at the local level. It is here that social work practice is primarily located and that its impacts are manifested. Faculty members of the School of Social Work have considerable experience in direct social work practice across a number of diverse communities and have produced a rich body of scholarship in this area.