Title A Violent History of Benevolence
Subtitle Interlocking Oppression in the Moral Economies of Social Working
Author Chris Chapman, A.J. Withers
ISBN 9781442628861
List price USD 48.95
Price outside India Available on Request
Original price
Binding Paperback
No of pages 536
Book size 153 x 229 mm
Publishing year 2019
Original publisher University of Toronto Press
Published in India by .
Exclusive distributors Viva Books Private Limited
Sales territory India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, .
Status New Arrival
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 “Linking history to the present is very important to social work readers. Discussing rehabilitation, assimilation, and repair, A Violent History of Benevolence acts as a counter-narrative to the more simplistic, history-as-progress narrative often assigned to conversations about social work. This information is vital for students and faculty, and the social work knowledge base.”

Donna Jeffery, School of Social Work, University of Victoria


“The book beautifully and at times devastatingly traces the violent history of benevolence from which much current social work, and psy-expertise, has grown. This is a study of historical violence and atrocity that disrupts and makes unfamiliar continued and contemporary practices, making us look anew at how these practices enact violence, encouraging a deep ethical questioning of people’s imagined rights to intervene in others’ lives.”

China Mills, Lecturer in Critical Educational Psychology, School of Education, University of Sheffield


“Sensitive to how history is written, Chapman and Withers pull out threads that reveal what is not included in usual histories of social work.”

Sheila Neysmith, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto


A Violent History of Benevolence traces how normative histories of liberalism, progress, and social work enact and obscure systemic violences. Chris Chapman and A.J. Withers explore how normative social work history is structured in such a way that contemporary social workers can know many details about social work’s violences, without ever imagining that they may also be complicit in these violences. Framings of social work history actively create present-day political and ethical irresponsibility, even among those who imagine themselves to be anti-oppressive, liberal, or radical.

The authors document many histories usually left out of social work discourse, including communities of Black social workers (who, among other things, never removed children from their homes involuntarily), the role of early social workers in advancing eugenics and mass confinement, and the resonant emergence of colonial education, psychiatry, and the penitentiary in the same decade. Ultimately, A Violent History of Benevolence aims to invite contemporary social workers and others to reflect on the complex nature of contemporary social work, and specifically on the present-day structural violences that social work enacts in the name of benevolence.


List of Illustrations


Introduction • Social Working, Interlocking Oppression, and Moral Economies • A Brief Discussion of Some Indigenous Social Workings on This Land • Organization and Structure of A Violent History of Benevolence

Part One: Deconstructing Social Work and Social Work History

Chapter 1: Troubling the Standard Account of Social Work • The Standard Account • The Pull of the Other Side of the River • Charity Organization Societies: Beyond Friendly Visiting to the Poor • Settlement Houses and Jane Addams • The New “Social Work” • What the Established Riverbanks Obscure • Contemporary Charity Organization and the Continued Polarity of the Riverbanks • “Mingling” as Continued Solution to Structural Violence • Conclusion

Chapter 2: White Supremacy and the Erasure of Racialized Social Workers • Social Work History as White Social Work History • Black Churches: Bestowing Charity and Organizing for Change • “Separate Spheres” and Women’s Clubs • The Great Migration: Migrant Assistance and the Shift towards Black Incarceration • Black Settlement Houses • Woman’s Christian Temperance Union • Anti-Lynching • Ida B. Wells-Barnett • White Social Work and Anti-Lynching • Maggie L. Walker and the Independent Order of St Luke • The Social Work Profession, Social Science, and Education • Black Social Work in Canada • Settlements in Canada • Anti-Slavery Societies and Black Immigrant Assistance • Social Services • Class Stratification and How It Interlocked with Racism and Social Work • Early Women Social Workers and Gender Roles • Subjugated Community-Based Social Workings Beyond Black and White • Conclusion

Chapter 3: Social Work as Displacement, Denigration, Cisheteropatriarchalization • Professional Social Work as the Delegitimization of Local Practices and People • Centring Imperialist Displacement; Decentring Ruling Class White Exceptionality • Cisheteropatriarchalization as an Advancing White Ruling Class Moral Economy • Early Professional Social Work and Cisheteropatriarchy • The Ethic of the Healing Power of Domination and Imagined Moral Superiority • An Initial Shift in the Ethic of Relating Across Difference: The Knights Hospitaller • Claims of Relative Innocence, Part One: Progressive and Secular Dividing Practices • Claims of Relative Innocence, Part Two: Knowing It Was Wrong • Conclusion

Part Two: Interlocking Genealogies of the Ethic of the Healing Power of Domination and Imagined Moral Superiority

Chapter 4: Knowing Better: Liberalism, Instrumental Violence, and Making New Humans • What We Like to Say; What We Actually Do • Claims of Relative Innocence, Part Three: Interpreting Others’ Motivations • Further Standardizing Instrumental Violence: The Theresian Criminal Constitution • Kant’s Enlightened Morality: Rational Self-Assurance and the Birth of the ‘New Man” • Gentle Instrumental Violences, Part One: Rationalizing Colonial Education • Gentle Instrumental Violences, Part Two: Continual Observation and Coerced Penitence • Gentle Instrumental Violences, Part Three: Psychiatry, Unchaining and Moral Treatment • Surveillance, Sorting, and Scientific Stratification • The Validation and Invalidation of the Invalid: Emergent Social Welfare Policy • The Validation and Invalidation of the “Indian”: 1800s White Settler Colonial Policy • Legislated Exclusions: Racialized and Disablist Immigration Policies • Conclusion

Chapter 5: Rehabilitation/Eugenics • The Moral Economy of Rehabilitation • The Origins of Rehabilitation before the First World War • Soldiers, Sailors, and Sameness • Medical, Economic, and Civil Rehabilitation • Overcoming Disability • Nationalizing Rehabilitation • Professional Social Work and Rehabilitation • Rehabilitation and the Enforcement of Cisheteronormativity • Rehabilitation/Eugenics and Whiteness/Nationality/Citizenship • Conclusion

Chapter 6: Assimilation/Genocide • The Moral Economy of Assimilation • Destroying Lives • The Unquestionable Good of Imposing Whiteness onto Others • Destroying Lifeworlds • White Supremacy and Care • Conclusion

Chapter 7: What If It Isn’t Getting Better? What Do We Do Then? • The Significance of Implicating Ourselves in Interlocking Legacies of Violence • Is It Getting Better? • Still “Forcibly Transferring Children of the Group to Another Group” • Towards Addressing the Chronic Gap between What We Say and What We Do • Navigating Inherently Oppressive Systems: The Everyday Life of Many a Social Worker • Moving Forward: Learning from Social Movements and Displaced Practices • Disability Justice and the Democratic Redistribution of Dependence and Care • Conclusion

Conclusion: The Varied Paths That Brought Us Here

Timeline: Selected Events from the Age of Enlightenment through the Progressive Era




About the Authors:

Chris Chapman is an associate professor of Social Work at York University.

A.J Withers is a PhD candidate in the School of Social Work at York University, and an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

Target Audience:

People interested in social work.

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