The Postmodern ‘Turn’ in Social Work: The Challenges of Identity and Equality

Lena Dominelli

Abstract

Diversity and demands for equality have challenged fixed notions of identity amongst the diverse populations of Europe. This development has prompted discourses about the significance of fluidity and multiplicity in identities that have given prominence to postmodern theories in the profession of social work. A number of social work educators have contributed to the ensuing debates. Walter Lorenz’s work has contributed substantially to developments on this front by:highlighting the dangers of essentialising fixed identities in professional practice, referring to the failure of social workers to live up to professional values and ideals in the Nazi attack on Jews and others who were different from the Aryan norms that Hitler’s regime sought to impose; arguing for racial equality in multicultural Europe; and ensuring that social work theories and practice engaged with innovations in the social sciences more generally to improve the profession’s research, theoretical and practice bases. In this article, I engage with crucial debates that have shaped the profession during the post-war period, honouring Walter Lorenz’s contributions to them in the process.

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