Anti-oppressive Social Work, public welfare and the crisis of neoliberalism

13 September 2017


UniSA, Magill Campus,
Amy Wheaton Building Level 1

H1-44, Lecture Theatre

4.00pm – 5.30pm

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By Guest Speaker Dr Gurnam Singh,

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Coventry University, UK.

Abstract:  In this lecture I will argue that in response to the ongoing crisis of neoliberalism, ruling elites are reconstructing a new regressive common sense about the nature of welfare state and of welfare recipients. This is built around a three-pronged strategy; first, ongoing and sustained attacks on progressive sociological critiques of power and oppression; second,  a diminishing of focus on poverty and the damaging effects of structural inequalities (Hill and Hart, 2016; Garrett, 2016); and third an uncritical embrace of ‘an increasingly political biology’ in the guise of ‘epigenetics’, which seeks to link environmental factors to gene expression. (White and Wastell, 2016:1). In contrast to the previous crude eugenics of the early 20th century, that social destiny can be simply determined according to genetic make-up, this contemporary manifestation, hides behind ‘a vastly more complex biological cloak.’ (Dorling, 2011: 113).  And so, as well as outlining the history and significance of the struggles against oppression social work, the lecture will uncover some of the worrying trends towards an altogether more sinister model of practice that is deeply implicated by what Katz (2013) terms ‘neo-eugenics'.

The lecture will end  by offering some thoughts about how progressive anti-oppressive social workers can/should respond to confront these new and altogether more sophisticated manifestations of human oppression.


Dr Gurnam SinghDr Gurnam Singh, is currently Principal Lecturer in Social Work and Faculty Lead on Research Degrees in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at Coventry University. He is also Visiting Professor of Social Work at the University of Chester and Visiting Fellow in Race and Education at the University of Arts, London.

His teaching, research and activism centres on critical pedagogy, social inequalities, social justice, human rights and anti-oppression. He has published widely on all these and related issues in leading academic journals and has presented over 150 papers at national and international conferences, many as an invited keynote speaker.  He is recognised as a leading thinker on the issue of ‘racial’ disparities in all aspects of higher education and has a growing media profile.

Prior to entering academia in 1993, he worked as a professional social worker and community activist. He completed his PhD from the University of Warwick in 2004 on anti-racist social work. In 2009 in recognition of his contribution to Higher Education he was awarded a prestigious National Teaching Fellowship from the UK Higher Education Academy. He describes himself as an Academic Activist and believes that committed scholarship has the potential to enable human societies to respond to the challenge of all kinds of inequalities, at the local, national or global level.

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