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Special issues call for papers

Critical and Radical Social Work

Call For Papers: Social Work in the End of History

Deadline for initial abstracts and proposals: 7 January 2021   

Guest Editors
Ameil Joseph
, McMaster University, ameilj@mcmaster.ca 
Tina E. Wilson, Glasgow Caledonian University, tina.wilson@gcu.ac.uk

"History is what hurts…"
Jameson, 1981

"History hurts, but not only"
Berlant, 2011

For this special issue of Critical & Radical Social Work (CRSW) we take declarations of ‘the end of history’ as a reminder of the ways in which established ideas and history-making events are linked into narrative chains that structure our sense of progress and loss, and indeed, the temporal-generational and spatial-geographic nature of our disciplinary imaginations. As we use it here, then, ‘the end of history’ signals a recursive need to revisit how social work thinks about history, progress, complicity and freedom.

The term ‘the end of history’ alludes to Hegel who argued for a linear, Eurocentric, modernistic model of historical stages inevitably progressive towards greater human freedom. Achieving human freedom would mean we have reached ‘the end of history.’ This concept of history’s end gained widespread media attention when the American Francis Fukuyama boldly proclaimed that the end of the Cold War in 1988 was in fact ‘the end of history’—liberalism qua capitalism had won out over socialism and communism. Thirty-odd years later, a majority of current social work students and new practitioners have been cultivated into an idea of a world where liberation is defined/confined within notions of Western liberalism, that this is the source of human freedom and the end of history. This Eurocentric view of history via Hegel has itself been interrogated for its foundational erasures of histories of the global South, denials of coevalness, Western supremacies and colonial complicities (Purtschert, 2010; Moellendorf, 1992; Tibebu, 2011; Fabian, 1983). The impacts of this historiography are also being contested within social work education (Razack, 2009; Baskin, 2016; Chapman and Withers, 2019).

Twenty years ago now, Adrienne Chambon (1999) stated that ‘[t]he starting point is not inside the client but inside social work’ (p. 53). Indeed, social work can be taken as an archive of social conflicts as they are perceived, negotiated, and remade over time and place (Maurer, 2007). In this sense, to practice social work is to ‘practice history’ (Lorenz, 2007).  And yet, social work imaginations are increasingly foreshortened. This temporal collapse is structured by a general reorientation away from problems and towards outcomes (Payne, 2014), through both short-term practice interventions and project-based research timelines, and through the priority given to recent scholarly publications. In social work education in our context, the cultivation of an historical sensibility is losing out to applied skills and competencies, to ahistorical theory and canonized best practices.

A newer journal with older allegiances, CRSW is unusual in the care it takes to ensure a recursive re-storying of foundational philosophy and practice (e.g., Marx at 200, the section on ‘Pioneers of the radical tradition’), and to document pivotal historical events that were the air breathed by generations of social workers (e.g., ’68, CaseCon). This special issue will bring together scholarship that considers how we in social work think about history, how we learn from and teach history, and how history can help to sustain us. Histories are not merely that which can be extracted or excavated from people or lands outside of deeply rooted socio-political contexts. How we talk about traditions, coevalness, methods and analyses are all bound to our current and future practice. 

What, we therefore ask, if we took the ‘end of history’ as an argument for the end of universal history and belief in the inevitability of human progress? What might we perceive to be the critical and radical potential of social work if we interpreted social justice to mean accountability to multiple histories differently understood? 

Potential topics include but are not limited to:

    1. Contested histories, lost histories
    2. Additive, corrective, and reparative histories
    3. Case studies of particular people(s), times, events
    4. Questions of generation, and the intergenerational nature of academic disciplines and justice projects
    5. Explorations of how understandings of social problems change over time and place
    6. Structural influences on the kinds of history documented and carried forward, and those that rarely make it into the archive
    7. Histories of parallel social work movements, including those that never professionalized (e.g., youth work, in some contexts; indigenous resistances)
    8. History and social work education
    9. Integrative literature reviews of particular concepts, debates, intellectual traditions, practices or research methods
    10. Philosophical work on the relations among pasts, presents, and futures, or assumptions of progress, or time
    11. Historiographies of Dissent/protest, bio surveillance, carcerality, data/knowledge

Submission types, related to social work in the end of history

    1. Articles – theory, methods, practice, education
    2. Pioneers of the radical tradition – the life and times of folks working in progressive traditions
    3. Voices from the front line – short opinion or reflection pieces
    4. Book reviews

Please see the Journal’s Instructions to Authors for further information (including word limits) about these article types. Submissions and enquiries should be sent to: ameilj@mcmaster.ca and tina.wilson@gcu.ac.uk.
Full papers will undergo the Journal’s usual double blind peer review process prior to a decision being made on publication.

Submission deadlines

    • Initial abstracts and proposals: 7 January 2021
    • Notification of abstract acceptance: 28 February 2021
    • Full papers due for peer review: June 2021

The special issue co-editors are: Ameil Joseph, McMaster University, and Tina E. Wilson, Glasgow Caledonian University.

Provicializing note: Both editors are located in Canada; social work takes different shapes in different national contexts. 


Baskin, C. (2016). Strong helpers' teachings: The value of Indigenous knowledges in the helping professions. Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Berlant, L. G. (2011). Cruel optimism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Chambon, A. S. (1999). Foucault’s approach: Making the familiar visible. In A. S.  Chambon, A. Irving, & L. Epstein (Eds.) Reading Foucault for Social Work (pp. 51-81). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Chapman, C., & Withers, A. J. (2019). A Violent History of Benevolence: Interlocking Oppression in the Moral Economies of Social Working. University of Toronto Press.

Fabian, J. (1983). Time and the other: How anthropology makes its objectNew York (NY), Columbia UP.

Jameson, F. (1981). The political unconsciousness: Narrative as a socially symbolic act. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Lorenz, W. (2007). Practising history: Memory and contemporary professional practice. International Social Work, 50(5), 597-612. doi:10.1177/0020872807079918

Maurer, S. (2007). Thinking governmentality ‘from below’: social work and social movements as (collective) actors in movable/mobile orders. Counterpoints, 292(Why Foucault? New Directions in Educational Research), 125-137.

Moellendorf, D. (1992). Racism and rationality in Hegel's Philosophy of Subjective Spirit. History of political thought13(2), 243-255.

Payne, M. (2014). Modern Social Work Theory (4th ed.). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Purtschert, P. (2010). On the limit of spirit: Hegel’s racism revisited. Philosophy & social criticism36(9), 1039-1051.
Tibebu, T. (2011). Hegel and the third world: The making of eurocentrism in world history. Syracuse University press.