Teaching about a Sex Work Community in India: Toward a Postcolonial Pedagogy
Ghose, Toorjo, Journal of Social Work Education
RESPONDING TO AN increasingly globalized world, social work scholars have called for an expansion of international content in social work education. Scholars have pointed to the need for such content to improve the ability of social workers to engage globally, to work with diverse populations, and to contribute to solving global problems (Tice & Long, 2009; Healy, 2008; Payne & Askeland, 2008; Midgley, 2001; Nagy & Falk, 2000). However, some scholars have problematized the manner in which international social welfare engagement has been formulated, critiquing the assumptions that drive it. Specifically, scholars have questioned the validity of universal social work values (Sewpaul, 2006; Gray & Fook, 2004) and the motivations behind welfare interventions implemented in the global South by institutions located in the global North, like the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank (WB) (Chatterjee, 2008; Schuller, 2009). This article examines a class on engaging with sex workers in India that was informed by the critiques of normative social welfare interventions in the international arena. I conducted a qualitative study that examined the manner in which the class was shaped by these critiques and sought to respond to them.
International Social Work Curricula
Few schools include international social work courses or training in international settings as part of their Masters of Social Work (MSW) curricula. Caragata & Sanchez (2002), for instance, found that less than a third of U.S. and Canadian schools offer practica training in international settings. Scholars note that accreditation guidelines, competing priorities, lack of student and faculty interest, inflexible curricula, logistical difficulties associated with international field education, financial burdens, and a dearth of resources pose challenges to the offering of international social work material (Nuttman-Schwartz & Berger, 2012; Healy, 1995, 2008; Rai, 2004; Nagy & Falk, 2000; Estes, 1992). However, the call for internationalizing social work curricula is growing. Reasons for the inclusion of international material in curricula fall into two broad categories: that it develops essential social work skills and that social workers have much to contribute in the international arena. Scholars in the first category have argued that developing expertise in international social work improves students' ability to work with diverse and marginalized communities (Razack, 2009; Healy, 2008; Nagy & Falk, 2000; Midgley, 1994), supplements their repertoire of skills by incorporating approaches from other cultures (Gray, Coates, & Yellow Bird, 2008; Healy, 1994, 2008; Lindsey, 2005; Midgley, 1994, 2001), and prepares them to work in an increasingly globalized world (Tice & Long, 2009; Payne & Askeland, 2008; Healy, 2008; Midgley, 2001). Likewise, scholars have also argued that social workers can make unique contributions to solving problems and forwarding the cause of international social justice (Magnus, 2009; Healy, 2007; Estes, 1992).
International Social Work and Globalization
The growing focus on international social work training is in response to the forces of globalization that have pushed the need for international engagement to the fore. Consequently, discussions about the role and contours of international social work education have been informed by the debates over the processes and outcomes of globalization. Midgley (2007), for instance, noted that orientations to social justice in the international arena are informed by different perspectives on globalization. Proponents of a neoliberal economistic viewpoint, for example, argue that globalization is a beneficial project that will ultimately bring about equality through the spread of capital, regulated by institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the WB. Adherents to what Midgley called the cosmopolitan view, on the other hand, hold that globalization is driven by the universality of some basic values common to all cultures, and they argue that the spread of these values through international agencies such as the UN and the International Criminal Court (ICC) is the path to global justice (Midgley, 2007). …