Dissertation review, by Charlotte Williams

…this research advances the field considerably in terms of our
understanding of issues of responding to diversity, children’s participation and to understanding how knowledge cultures determine outcomes.” (Williams, 2020: 3)

I was very pleased to see Professor Charlotte Williams’ review of my dissertation in Nordic Social Work Research. Williams is a leading scholar in the field and internationally recognised for her research on ethnic diversity, multiculturalism, racism and social justice issues in the context of welfare regimes and practices.

This post includes a few quotes from the book review but those who have access to the journal’s articles can find and download the review here.

My work expands the issue of gender-based violence – the main issue of the project which my dissertation was part of – to intersecting injustice and racism in childhoods. I am very happy to see that Williams addresses this in the review.

“Through the work, she seeks to place contemporary policy in a certain theoretical, ethical and historical legacy. She challenges the Swedish national sentiment of a ‘fair minded, equal and child friendly welfare state’ (32). She critically interrogates the equal treatment approach and its universalist, contractual and utilitarian aims, illustrating how this powerful national ideology of equality as sameness does an epistemic injustice to childhoods, undermining some children’s welfare. (Williams, 2020: 2)

Knezevic finds clear differences in child welfare responses related to intersectionalities in childhood experience. Where she does find issues of justice mobilized in case reports they are skewed, not applied to all children but confined to the sphere of racialized children and located within the privatized context of their home (…) neglected are these children’s account of wider forms of abuse such as within schools, playgrounds and neighbourhoods as a result of persistent banal racism. These knowers and this knowledge gets no traction in the assessment process.” (Williams, 2020: 3)

I tried to highlight other aspects rather than focusing on the practitioners whom I consider to be the target and the main focus of much knowledge production within the field. Although practitioners are those actors that can listen to children, rethinking the knowledge produced in the field (which practitioners are expected to draw on) and the field’s moral economy is needed for children to be heard. This involves raising critical questions about what was in place before neoliberalism.

“A well-rehearsed section of the thesis takes the reader through the notion of episteme, simply stated as what is understood as knowledge at any one time. For many this is a given but for the critical scholars the questions: who’s knowledge? How? What knowledges are subjugated? Why? become epistemological concerns. From this exploration, Knezevic is able to propose the idea of epistemic injustice: how different subjects and childhood status are afforded different levels of validation and knowledgeability and noting the different moral status afforded to
the discursive positions of some children.” (Williams, 2020: 2)

Knezevic argues for a consideration of how power is deployed within what she calls the moral economy – an arena in which rights are exerted and articulated, moral positions taken, recognition claimed and welfare resources secured or not. This is a novel exploration. Focusing on the moral economy takes us beyond simply looking as notions of justice and rights afforded to certain status of child, towards a much more fine-tuned interrogation of how responses and interventions are formulated, outcomes are achieved and for whom.” (Williams, 2020: 2)

“She acknowledges the complexities of practice and the constraints on the average practitioner in terms of following policy guidance. Her appeal is more towards those who design and draft policy and those responsible for educating social workers towards a critical policy interpretation. There will be those who might call for a deeper consideration of impact of neo-liberal strictures on social work practice and decision-making. There will be those who may point to policy transfer and convergence in neo-liberal economies as critical factors in shaping interventions and knowledge cultures. Nevertheless, this research advances the field considerably in terms of our understanding of issues of responding to diversity, children’s participation and to understanding how knowledge cultures determine outcomes. (Williams, 2020: 3)

A book review is a much welcome knowledge dissemination, for which I am profoundly thankful. There is more to it, though.

It is an excellent and admirable example of how a researcher, who writes about inclusion in her own research, incorporates inclusion as an academic practice by reviewing less-known-and-recognised others.

It gives a sense of recognition to what, after all, has been about five years of work. This is particularly so when the review is written by a professor well known for her work for black and minority ethnic voices and social justices issues.

Source: Charlotte Williams (2020) Book review: Child (bio)welfare and beyond: intersecting injustices in childhoods and Swedish child welfare. Nordic Social Work Research, Ahead of print. 

Examples of Williams works:

Williams, C. & Graham, M. J. (2016) Social Work in a Diverse Society: Transformative Practice with Black and Minority Ethnic Individuals and Communities Bristol: Policy Press.

Nipperess, S. & Williams, C. (2020) Critical Multicultural Practice in Social Work: New perspectives and practices. London/New York: Routledge.