Potts and Brown (2005) situate their discussion of becoming an anti-oppressive researcher in their professional experiences as social workers. The National Association of Social Workers (2017) describes social justice as one of the six core values of the profession. This ethical principle of challenging social injustice is defined as pursuing social change for vulnerable and oppressed groups and individuals. Moosa-Mitha (2005) discusses a spectrum of social theories.
I have not been exposed to a significant amount of history regarding classical liberalism or Marxism. I feel a slight amount of sheepishness in admitting I have no idea what Karl Marx argued, other than the need for change in the working classes. It is useful to hear scholars’ perspectives and renditions of philosophical arguments not to have an off base understanding of a text. I recently listened to Shelley’s (1818/2018) classic, Frankenstein. I don’t know if I have ever seen any real renditions of it, but it is something that has permeated the culture. I had assumed that Frankenstein was the name of the monster, who was not actually named in the book. The monster should be green, with bolts on his neck and not eloquently talk, but only walk with his arms out like a meme of somnambulating. These cultural touchstones gave me a picture of the wretch but were not a real description.
The real work of going against oppression is not something that is frequently made into similar cultural touchstones. Mainstream discourse does not often seem to discuss social justice. The implementation of social justice must include a description of the presenting problems, the ramifications and implications of those problems, and groundwork for what needs to change. Moosa-Mitha (2005) argues Marxism, and liberalism as both being more normative and anti-oppressive perspective and postmodern research as being more difference centered. Postmodernism is claimed to be more mainstream, and it does not have an inherent push for social change (e.g., it is not critical). Coates (2015) does move into this space of mainstream promotion of social change regarding the mass incarceration of African Americans. He describes:
“Our carceral state banishes American citizens to a gray wasteland far beyond the promises and protections the government grants its other citizens. Banishment continues long after one’s actual time behind bars has ended, making housing and employment hard to secure. And banishment was not simply a well-intended response to rising crime. It was the method by which we chose to address the problems that preoccupied Moynihan, problems resulting from ‘three centuries of sometimes unimaginable mistreatment.’ At a cost of $80 billion a year, American correctional facilities are a social-service program— providing health care, meals, and shelter for a whole class of people” (Section I, para. 21).
Potts and Brown (2005) explain that the research methodology for doing anti-oppressive research is a nonlinear approach in contrast with traditional research methods. To make meaning out of data, they describe it as understanding the relationship and reflecting on data in light of the relationship and connection with that. Coates (2015) argument informs readers about the sinister nature of what is happening within mass incarceration, but also to promote a movement. The story is drawn through discussion of both data and statistics and the lives of individual families. Coates provides a clear description of the problem.
Journalism is a powerful medium to address social problems. Whether it is a sad and yet beautiful way of describing a problem such as the New York Times (2020) recent article An Incalculable Loss which attempts to express the amount of loss that has happened due to COVID-19 through creative presentation and journalism, or as Coates (2015) in the discussion of the plight of African Americans and mass incarceration.
Coates, T.-N. (2015, October). The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/10/the-black-family-in-the-age-of-mass-incarceration/403246/
Moosa-Mitha, M. (2005). 2 - Situating anti-oppressive theories with critical and difference-centered perspectives. In L. Brown & S. Strega (Eds.), Research as resistance: Critical, indigenous, and anti-oppressive approaches (1st ed., pp. 37-71). Toronto, ON: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
National Association of Social Workers. (2017). NASW code of ethics. https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English
Potts, K., & Brown, L. (2005). 10 - Becoming an anti-oppressive researcher. In L. Brown & S. Strega (Eds.), Research as resistance: Critical, indigenous, and anti-oppressive approaches (1st ed., pp. 255-286). Toronto, ON: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
Shelley, M. W. (2018) Frankenstein (A. Mahnke, Narr.) [Audio Book]. Apple. https://books.apple.com/us/audiobook/frankenstein/id1445220900 (Original work published 1818)
The New York Times (2020, May 24) An incalculable loss. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/05/24/us/us-coronavirus-deaths-100000.html
This essay was originally submitted as a part of the coursework for TSD 8215 - Varieties of Scholarly Experience.