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Deep transformation toward decoloniality in social work: themes for change in a social work higher education program.

Harms Smith, Linda; Rasool, Shahana


Linda Harms Smith

Shahana Rasool


This article describes thematic outcomes of a process of engagement around deep transformation toward Decoloniality in a university social work education program. Given the gravity of working toward Decoloniality for social work education in South Africa, it was critical to theorize about this process. Current South African realities evidence ongoing structures of Coloniality and Apartheid which permeate all spheres, not least the domains of knowledge, power, and relationships in higher education. However, a narrow interpretation of Decoloniality relating only to ‘curriculum’ or ‘indigeneity’ as potential for change, is problematic. Ignoring material realities of ongoing Coloniality perpetuates the very oppressive structures it seeks to overcome and so depth transformation which engages with all levels of a social work education program is required. This article engages with thematic areas that emerged and which shaped work toward Decoloniality, among social work educators at one higher education department. These included domains for engagement with Decoloniality (theorists; pedagogy; educators; learners; content; research and discourse; context) and principles for such work (Afrika as the center; attention to power dynamics; race, class, and gender; acknowledgment of structural issues; critical conscientization and voice; Ubuntu). These thematic areas now form the basis of the new social work program at the University.


HARMS SMITH, L. and RASOOL, S. 2020. Deep transformation toward decoloniality in social work: themes for change in a social work higher education program. Journal of progressive human services [online], 31(2), pages 144-164. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 1, 2020
Online Publication Date May 22, 2020
Publication Date May 3, 2020
Deposit Date Jun 22, 2020
Publicly Available Date May 4, 2021
Journal Journal of progressive human services
Print ISSN 1042-8232
Electronic ISSN 1540-7616
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 31
Issue 2
Pages 144-164
Keywords Decoloniality; Deep transformation; Social work higher education; South Africa; Social pedagogy
Public URL


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