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International social work research: transfer of knowledge or promotion of dialogue beyond borders?

Social work has developed unevenly within Europe and globally, with differences in terms of its recognition, training, professionalisation and academisation. This is mirrored in an unbalance in reciprocal influence, particularly vis-a-vis knowledge production, and the origin of tensions between importing/exporting ‘ready-made’ ideas from stronger social work communities and efforts towards indigenisation and locally rooted knowledge production. Structurally embedded in these tensions, we consider the role of international associations and attendant events in promoting internationalisation processes that reflect cultural dominance or, conversely, balance tensions between universalism and localism. To develop a reflection on these issues, this article analysed materials used for launching the European Conference for Social Work Research conferences. Two meaningful aspects emerged: efforts at maintaining an all-embracing profile without privileging specific approaches; and the identification of shared open themes to enable mutual understanding of differences. Social work professional identity, the socio-political dimensions of social work and comparing research methodologies constituted starting points for international conversations. Arguably, nurturing such dialogues can have a significant, if indirect, function in the development of an international language and shared conceptualisations, or, at least, an awareness of different conceptualisations vis-a-vis practices of knowledge co-construction.

Bertotti, T. and Fargion, S.
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Journal article - open access