Critical theory, critical race theory, intersectionality, critical feminisms, critical pedagogy, queer theory, social work


As the U.S. continues to grapple with the need for a racial reckoning, and with a growth of progressive voices and movements—especially those lead by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color—now is an important time to re-examine social work’s knowledge base. Students, researchers, and practitioners need the tools to challenge hegemony, inequity, injustice, and White supremacy from a structural position. Critical theory is an important tool for such work, yet it is not well integrated into social work textbooks, and many students still have limited exposure to it. In this paper, we explore critical theory’s roots and evolution and discuss theories and approaches from this lens that have relevance to social work, including critical pedagogy, Foucauldian theory, queer theory, Critical Whiteness/Critical Race Theory, critical feminisms, and intersectionality. We discuss how these approaches can inform social work practice and education.

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